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Wine pairing from SOMM Wines: Garlic goes Galician with Albarino wine

Wine pairing from SOMM Wines: Garlic goes Galician with Albarino wine
Krista Matthes is owner of SOMM Wines, located just off the square in Fairfield, Iowa. (Submitted)

Krista Matthes is owner of SOMM Wines, located just off the square in Fairfield, Iowa. Find the recipes she mentions at the bottom of this article.

Garlic is such a fragrant, alluring ingredient. Its aroma invades my senses like a warm embrace, rushing childhood memories to the surface. I think of my mother’s kitchen on a Sunday afternoon, or my grandmother’s homemade spaghetti sauce. Its flavors enhance so many different types of cuisine, it can feel overwhelming to pair wines — too many to choose! Look to a robust secondary flavor in a recipe to help narrow down the wine selection. Today, the addition of dry sherry adds further relevance and points me in the right direction, or location: Spain.

Like Champagne, sherry is named for and exclusively produced in one region — Jerez, Spain. During the Moorish period, the city was called Sherish and produced the first brandy and fortified wine, made by adding wine spirit to fermented grape juice. By the 16th century, Magellan, Shakespeare and Columbus all hailed sherry as the finest wine in the world. It ranges in flavor from dry to sweet and in nuttiness from green almond to walnut.

Now, you might be wondering: “Does she want me to cook with the dry sherry or drink it?” When wine is used as an ingredient, you can pair the dish with the wine used, like a Chardonnay and beurre blanc sauce. Other times, the recipe may benefit from the addition of “high notes,” specifically acidity or bitterness. For this recipe, there’s only one winning wine for this sommelier, and it continues our Spanish connection: Albariño.

The Albariño grape grows so vigorously in the autonomous region of Galicia, in Northwestern Spain, that 90 percent of the vines there are dedicated to it. This is out of love for the grape, not ease of production. Because this thick-skinned white grape easily develops rot and mildew, it requires a unique vineyard design. Vintners erect giant pergolas to elevate the vines from the damp vineyard floor.

Although the clusters thrive in sunshine, the coastal winds keep the grapes cool, allowing sugars to remain low and acidity high. Albariño’s smaller individual grape size produces a pith full of slightly bitter notes: green almond and lemon rind, both classic characteristics of the wine. This is where the wine pairing and our memories come into focus.

When asked to describe an Albariño wine, I tell my guests to remember that first, fresh-squeezed lemonade from childhood. It’s tart, refreshing and a bit of a punch to the taste buds. This is the Albariño grape in a nutshell. Lemon pulp, minerality, salinity, with a kiss of green apple and fresh almond. A sommelier couldn’t ask for a better match.

Here at my wine store and lounge, SOMM Wines in Fairfield, the Pedralonga, “Serea,” Albariño, Rias Baixas 2019 ($25.99) highlights the dry sherry’s almond component while elevating the intense garlic flavors in the recipe below. Garlic and lemon are natural partners in the culinary world. The ample blast of lemon fruit leads with bright acidity, begging the palate for another taste. This Spanish duo should provide new culinary memories for years to come.

SOMM Wines

Address: 102 E Briggs Ave., Fairfield, Iowa

Phone: 702-528-8101

Online: sommwines.net

Chicken with 40 Cloves of Garlic

Yield: 4 servings

40 cloves garlic, peeled

2 teaspoons vegetable oil, divided

1/2 teaspoon sugar

8 (5- to 7-ounce) bone-in, skin-on chicken thighs or 4 bone-in, skin-on chicken breasts halved crosswise

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon pepper

1/2 cup dry sherry

3/4 cup chicken broth

1/2 cup heavy cream

2 teaspoons cornstarch dissolved in 1 tablespoon water

2 sprigs fresh thyme

1 bay leaf

Note: To peel many cloves of garlic at once, break garlic heads into cloves and place in a zipper-lock bag. Squeeze out air, seal bag and gently pound garlic with a rolling pin. Remove peeled cloves from bag.

Adjust oven rack to upper-middle position and preheat to 450 degrees. Toss garlic in a microwaveable bowl with 1 teaspoon oil and sugar. Microwave garlic until slightly softened with light brown spotting, about 4 minutes, stirring halfway through.

Pat chicken dry with paper towels and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Heat remaining 1 teaspoon oil in 12-inch oven-safe skillet over medium-high heat until just smoking. Cook chicken skin-side down until browned, 7 to 10 minutes. Transfer to plate, skin-side up. Pour off all but 1 tablespoon of fat from skillet. Reduce heat to medium low, add garlic, and cook until evenly browned, about 1 minute.

Off heat, add sherry to skillet. Return skillet to medium heat and bring sherry to simmer, scraping up any browned bits. Cook until sherry coats garlic and pan is nearly dry, about 4 minutes. Stir in broth, cream, the cornstarch mixture, thyme sprigs and bay leaf, and simmer until slightly thickened, about 3 minutes. Return chicken skin-side up to skillet along with any accumulated juices. Transfer skillet to oven and roast until chicken registers 175 degrees, 18 to 22 minutes (15 to 20 minutes if cooking breasts).

Using pot holder (skillet handle will be hot), remove skillet from oven. Transfer chicken and half of garlic to serving platter. Discard thyme and bay leaf. Using potato masher, mash remaining garlic into sauce and season with salt and pepper to taste. Pour half of sauce around chicken. Serve, passing remaining sauce separately.

Per serving: 580 calories; 40 g fat; 14 g saturated fat; 207 mg cholesterol; 35 g protein; 17 g carbohydrate; 4 g sugar; 1 g fiber; 820 mg sodium; 83 mg calcium

Source: “The Chicken Bible” by America’s Test Kitchen