Catavino keeps you current not only with the remarkable wine developments in Spain and Portugal, two of the most dynamic wine producers on the planet, but you'll learn about food trends, new dishes and restaurants and the ancient and modern cultures on the Iberian Peninsula. And you may not notice it, but Catavino also happens to be one of smoothest designed websites you'll have the pleasure of visiting.
Doug Frost MS/MW http://dougfrost.com

Madeira: The Multifunctional Dessert Wine

Madeira WineI’m a huge fan of just about anything that’s multifunctional. Collapsible dining tables – you complete me. Storage stools – you steal my heart. Ovenproof skillets – I have the hots for you. Sarongs you can wear as a skirt, a dress, a shawl – oh, I can hardly contain myself!

When it comes to cooking with wine, Madeira, Port and Moscatel are my multifunctional dessert wine muses. They marinade, macerate, reduce, flambé, poach and so on – not to mention you can simply drink these liquid treats.

Growing up around Portuguese home cooks, I have witnessed these wines doing plenty of double-duty. Grab the ruby Port to marinade gamey meats – pour a tad, sip it – the rest goes into the strawberries with sugar to macerate. Duck in Moscatel; Chicken in Madeira; Pears in Port … there are so many savory and sweet combinations to play with using these wines. Sometimes, after a dinner party I’m left with a few half-empty bottles. I like to let them sit there, waiting for my wheels to turn on how to use them next. One recent bottle, a H.M. Borges, medium-dry Madeira called to me … I put my nose to it and a waft of candied orange peel swirled with nutmeg hit me. That’s when I decided, I needed to make my version of Madeira sauce to go with the boneless pork chops sitting in my freezer. You see, one of my favorite combinations is pork and oranges – common in Portugal’s Bairrada region where the staple dish of roasted suckling pig, “Leitao a Moda da Bairrada” is served with rounds of oranges. The sauce in itself ended up being a contrast of savory and sweet. The semi-sweetness of the wine splashed with citrus juice, cipollini onions for another layer of sweetness and salty capers to finish.

When it comes to making desserts, I admit I’m no winner. But that’s another reason to love these wines. When paired with fruit, the result is magical. Honey, Madeira, strawberries, oranges, cinnamon and nutmeg – all macerated overnight to create a delicious dessert that can be served alone or as a topping. Since orange and chocolate is a favorite sweet combo of mine – I would suggest serving our boozy fruit atop chocolate sponge cake.

To take a stab at the savory and sweet life of Madeira, try these recipes or test out your very own. We would love to hear what you come up with!

Savory: Pork Chops

Ingredients: serves 2

2 boneless pork chops
½ cup Madeira
White pepper (to taste)
Coarse salt (to taste)
½ lemon or orange
Light olive oil
2 Tablespoons balsamic white vinegar
4 Bay leaves
Cipollini onions (peeling is a pain, so dump them with skin in boiling water then quickly dump in cold water. Skin will come right off.)
Capers

Preparation: * Best if marinated overnight or for a couple of hours
Sprinkle both sides of the pork chops with salt (remember that the capers are also salty) and white pepper. Add to either a deep dish or into a zip lock bag, cover with the Madeira wine. Throw in the bay leaves and squeeze in the lemon/orange. Drizzle with a light olive oil and the balsamic vinegar. Let marinade in the fridge until ready to cook. Remove the pork chops and pat dry; reserve the marinade. Coat the bottom of a deep, ovenproof skillet with light olive oil. Turn the heat on medium/high until hot enough to create a char on each side of the pork chops – about 4 minutes each side. Once each side is charred, lower heat and throw in the cipollini onions and bay leaves. Once onions are caramelized, add the Madeira wine marinade. Note: Pre-heat oven at 450 degrees (oven temperatures vary). Once the marinade comes to a boil, remove from heat and add to the oven and bake for about 40 minutes. Remove a few times to turn the pork chops. Last 10 minutes lower to about 425 and add the capers. Serve with your choice of side dish; buttery rice recommended.

Sweet: Strawberries & Oranges

Ingredients: serves up to 4

1lb (4 cups) of strawberries
¼ honey
8 – 10 tablespoons of Madeira wine
1 large orange
4 cinnamon sticks
Nutmeg (to taste)

Preparation: *Best if macerated overnight or for at least 2 hours at room temperature
Remove the stems and quarter strawberries; reserve. In a deep bowl big enough to fit all the fruit, dissolve the honey in the wine. Peel and slice the orange and set aside; reserve the peel if you would like to grate some zest into the fruit mixture. Add the berries to the honey/wine mixture, fold gently and add the oranges; fold again gently. Grate some fresh nutmeg (to taste) and plant the 4 cinnamon sticks into the liquid. Cover and let macerate, preferably overnight in fridge. Serve when ready.

Happy experimenting!

Sonia Andresson-Nolasco