Saturday, April 5, 2014

Port and Chocolate Salami

With the big wine tasting event just one week away, I am now going into high gear with finalizing the 6 appetizer dishes being created to pair with 6 specific wines - none of which I have tried except for the Warre's Warrior Port. I did this same thing last year, going in essentially blind, except for my knowledge of what the different varietals are like, and my trusty Wine and Food Pairing sheets. I knew I wanted to use chocolate, and walnuts help tone down sweetness as well as tart dried fruit like cherries. While port is a sweet wine, no wine can pair with anything too sweet. Nuts are a great accompaniment, as are many cheeses.

Fonseca Bin 27 Port and Warre's Otima Tawny
Fonseca Bin 27 Port and Warre's Otima Tawny
Port is a confusing wine, to those who do not know too much about wines. And if you are unfamiliar with port, though you love other wines, this will apply here also. Port is a fortified, sweet wine that originally came only from in and around Oporto (a port - as in, on the water, for shipping - town), in Portugal. Now, "port " wines are being made in Australia, South Africa, the US and many other places, and often from many grapes never used in Oporto. A fortified wine has had brandy added to the partially fermented wine to stop the fermentation process before it ferments out all the grapes' sugar. This makes port a dessert wine, which can be one of exceptional sweetness and depth. The very best port wines are vintage wines. A "Vintage" is only declared in years that the port growers (in Portugal) decide that the grape crop is worthy of making the greatest wine. Many factors come into play, but weather is the most overriding factor in wine-making everywhere. If the weather doesn't cooperate, the wines may come out just so-so; not the result vintners look for!

Fonseca Guimaraens Vintage Port
To make recognizing a true Vintage Port even more confusing, and I speak from my experience while still learning, is that some ports are labeled "Late-Bottled Vintage", for example. The word Vintage in there is confusing; is it a vintage or not? Not. Or a label that states "20-year old" - does that mean it is a vintage that was aged? Nope. Or another is having a year on the bottle that gives you the year the company was founded - but it is a year, right? No, not vintage. Then again, even among vintage ports, there are some few that are "declared vintage", but from a year that is not a declared vintage! What?! Well, these are found on occasion when a particular port grower has a certain small plot of land with a particular name all its own. Possibly that year was not the overall best for port growers all around Oporto, but that one little vineyard had optimal growing weather. There are little micro-climates possible in many vineyards. So for example, the very first Vintage Port I bought, before I was as familiar with this phenomenon, was a Fonseca "Guimaraens", 1967. Fonseca, along with many other wonderful Port wine growers, have certain little vineyards such as this. For these small vineyard selections, they may declare a vintage year, even though the rest of the Port growers do not see the crop as good enough. It turned out that my first purchase was a truly wonderful vintage. Beginner's luck. 

Then, aside from these red vintage ports, there are ports known as Ruby or Tawny. When you have the great vintage ports that need to be cellared for 20 years before they become palatable, Ruby Port is a nice change, meant to be drunk young. It can be pure plonk. Or it can be really very good. It has a lovely color, giving it the name Ruby. Tawny port is red port which has been left in a barrel over very long periods of time. Red wine, as it oxidizes with age, becomes lighter, more brick colored, and if very old, a lighter tawny color. In a barrel, with the amount of air that is available, the wine oxidizes more rapidly. Tawny ports can also be really lovely wines, slightly less sweet than some of the great vintage wines.

Warre's Otima Tawny Port left; Fonseca Bin 27 Port right
And then there are the red port wines that are called port, that don't fit into any of these categories, such as two of my most favorites, Fonseca Bin 27 or Warre's Warrior. These two are about the closest to what a vintage style will be like, but at a far more reasonable price. They are great to have on hand, because they are always good. I will be serving the Warre's Warrior for the wine tasting event. All this info, and there are so many other styles of Port to choose from!

In the past, I have made a recipe I found in an ad in the Food and Wine Magazine, to pair with port. Essentially, a chocolate candy with walnuts and dried cherries, it is a very good pairing, and easy to make. It is what I had planned to serve with the port wine tasting. And then I was online, looking for something else entirely, as usual, and came across a recipe for Chocolate Salami. I now see there are so many variations out there, but I went forging ahead on my own.

Chocolate Salami served with Port
Chocolate Salami served with Port

First off, it is the cutest idea ever. I used the recipe I found as a baseline concept, but changed the ingredients to fit my need. I wanted to have a dessert that was not too sweet, so the sheer amount of condensed milk and dulce de leche seemed excessive. I decided to use only dulce de leche and skip the condensed milk. The cookies called for were "biscuit cookies". Vanilla Wafers can be a little more sweet than I wanted, so I found some called Leibniz Wafers and they are perfect in this recipe. Vanilla Wafers could be used. I wanted dried fruits in it, and used dried cherries and blueberries, along with walnuts, for their bitterness factor. I used a whole teaspoon of Kosher salt per recipe I made, balancing out the sweet with enough salt to give it character. When I finished making it, I tasted a little bit with a Fonseca Port I had opened on the counter and OMG! What a most heavenly-perfect match. 
Chocolate "Salami"
Chocolate "Salami"

So, after finishing the recipes for the event, here is what I did:

Chocolate Salami

3 slices per serving = about 24 slices depending on thickness of slices

1 3/4 sticks unsalted butter, room temperature
1/4 cup + 1 tablespoon unsweetened cocoa powder
1/3 cup dulce de leche
7 ounces wafer cookies, such as Leibniz 
1 teaspoon Kosher Salt
2/3 cup walnuts, broken
1/3 cup dried cherries
1/3 cup dried blueberries
confectioners' sugar for dusting

With a mixer, first beat together the butter and cocoa until very creamy. Add the dulce de leche to combine.

in a large bowl, crush the wafer cookies to medium-small bits. They do not need to be completely pulverized. Add the salt, walnuts and dried fruits. Make a well and scrape in the cocoa mixture. First using a spoon or spatula, begin to combine the ingredients, then switch to hands when the mixture gets too stiff to stir. Squeeze the ingredients together until the cocoa mixture is completely combined. Turn out onto a surface and divide into two equal parts. Begin rolling one section into a log. This will take a bit of patience, as with all the nuts and fruits, the mixture wants to break apart. Eventually it will come together, making a very dense log. Make the log as smooth as possible, rolling it out to about the size of a paper towel center roll. (If you have a couple of empty paper towel rolls handy, they are great for storing the logs until they get solid enough on their own.) Repeat this with the second part of the mixture, making two logs. Wrap the logs in plastic wrap or waxed paper, twisting the ends. Slide the logs into paper towel rolls if available. Another alternative is using a baguette pan. The rounded forms help the logs to stay round while chilling. Set the logs into the refrigerator to chill completely before serving.

To serve, slice the logs with a very sharp knife in about 1/4 inch thick slices. The amount of slices per log will depend on the thickness of the log and the length, and how thick the slice. 

My passion is to teach people how to create a harmony of flavors with their cooking, and help pass along my love and joy of food, both simple and exotic, plain or fancy. I continue my journey in ethnic and domestic cuisines, trying new things weekly. Join me at A Harmony of Flavors Website and Marketplace, Tumblr, Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest. I am also on a spiritual journey and hope you will join me at my new blog, An Eagle Flies.