In the 1971 James Bond movie “Diamonds are Forever,” “007” is being served sherry, the blended dessert wine, high in alcohol and sweet. He says to his section leader M, “Pity about your liver sir, it’s an unusually fine Solera. ’51 I believe.” M replies, “There is no year for sherry, 007.” Not to be topped, James says, “I was referring to the original vintage on which the sherry is based. 1851. Unless I’m mistaken?” The host responds, “precisely”.
Sherry is a fortified wine made from white grapes that are grown near the city of Jerez de la Frontera in the south of Spain. In Europe, sherry has protected designation status and, under Spanish law, all wine labeled as “Sherry” must legally come from a specific area around Jerez in the Cadiz region of Andalusia.
Sherry is produced by adding a neutral grape spirit (brandy) at the end of fermentation to increase the alcohol level substantially and stabilize the wine so it could travel over rough seas. Christopher Columbus brought sherry on his 1492 voyage to the New Word. When Magellan was preparing to sail around the world in 1519, he spent more on sherry than on weapons. In 1587, Sir Francis Drake destroyed the Spanish armada that was on its way to invade England. Part of spoils he returned to England with was 2,900 barrels of the soon-to-be English favorite, sherry. By the end of the 16th century, sherry had a reputation in Europe as the world’s greatest wine.
Sherry’s a lot older than the 15th century, though. When the Moors conquered the region in AD 711, they introduced distillation to the vintners in Jerez and fortified wine and brandy was soon born. So, when you add the sherry to Pollo en Pepitoria, be sure to give a nod to the Moors, Spaniards, English and, of course, James Bond.
Pollo en Pepitoria (Chicken in Almond-Egg Sauce)
- Food Processor or blender
- Ovenproof casserole with lid
- 4 tbsp Olive oil
- 3½ lb Chicken, cut-up
- ¼ lb Cured ham, slab julienned
- 1 large Onion, chunked
- 2 clove Garlic, peeled
- 3 tbsp Parsley, minced
- ¼ cup Dry (fino) sherry
- ¾ cup Chicken broth
- 1 pinch Nutmeg
- ¼ tsp Saffron
- 1 Bay leaf
- 15 Blanched almonds
- 1 large Hard-boiled egg, finely chopped
- Prep-Chop the almonds in a food processor until finely ground. Transfer to a small bowl. Chop onion, garlic and parsley in processor. Julienne ham and add to onion mixture. Cut chicken breasts halves in half and separate thighs from drumsticks.
- Sear-In a large casserole, heat olive oil over high heat and add chicken pieces. Sear to golden brown on both sides.
- Cook Sauce – Lower heat to medium and drain off all but 1 tbsp oil . Scrape onion mixture into pan with chicken. Cook until onion is wilted. Stir in sherry, broth, nutmeg, saffron, bay leaf, salt and pepper. Simmer 10 minutes uncovered. Discard bay leaf and transfer chicken and hamto a warm serving platter. Preheat oven to 350°F (177°C).
- Puree Sauce – Pour remaining contents of casserole into food processor bowl, add crushed almonds and blend until smooth.
- Bake & Serve – Return sauce to casserole along with chicken, ham, and bay leaf. Cover and cook in the oven for 20 minutes. Sprinkle hard boiled egg over chicken and cook, uncovered, 5 minutes more. Serve hot.