I love Rue de Seine in the 6e arrondissement of Paris. It is a lively street with lots of shops and restaurants. One of my favorite spots on that street is Bellota-Bellota, where they sell a variety of gourmet products, ranging from caviar, to smoked salmon, to foie gras. But the specialty is jamón ibérico, the finest of which is the bellota variety. Bellota hams are made from free-range pigs that eat acorns found in the oak forests in the border areas between Portugal and Spain (bellota actually means acorn in Spanish). They have a few types of bellota ham that you can choose from:
And you can either eat it there (they have a nice outdoor seating area) or take it to go. I got the Jabugo and the Guijeilo to take home with me for apéro (short for apéritif) hour.
These hams are absolutely delicious and worth the hefty price tag. They’re naturally sweet, nutty, rich and they just melt in your mouth. Just add some roasted almonds to highlight the nuttiness of the ham and you’re all set.
As with other types of charcuterie, you can pair this with a crisp white wine, a sparkling wine, or a light and fruity red. The acidity in the wines will work wonders with the ham’s saltiness as well as to cut down on the fattiness. While these wines will work, the best pairing for jamón ibérico is fino sherry.
Fino sherry is a fortified wine made from the palomino grape in the Jerez region of Spain and is characteristically bone dry. One of the biggest names in fino Sherry (and also easiest to find) is Tio Pepe and this is what I’m opening up to go with the ham.
It is high in alcohol (15%) compared to regular wine but is actually on the lower end of the scale when it comes to sherry. It is very crisp and refreshing – perfect with the ham! The sherry is also nutty in aroma, which highlights the nuttiness of the ham. The nuttiness of the fino sherry also works perfectly with the almonds.
Fino sherry also goes well with a wide variety of seafood and for my next dish, I decided combine both charcuterie and seafood: mussels cooked in tomato sauce and topped with crispy pan-fried chorizo and fresh thyme. The tomato sauce also has some of the sherry in it.
There is a lovely combination of flavors in this dish and it’s a great match to the fino sherry.
If pairing seafood with the fino sherry, it need not be prepared in a Mediterranean style. Fino sherry actually pairs exceptionally well with Japanese food – not only sushi and sashimi but also tempura. When I was at the farmer’s market, I came across some fior di zucca – or zucchini blossoms, which inspired my next dish: tempura.
I stuffed the blossoms with a goat cheese, crème fraiche, and herb mixture, dipped them in the tempura batter and deep-fried them.
It was my first time making tempura and it was so much easier than I thought. I loved how it turned out and I loved how it paired with the fino sherry. Crisp wines always work great with fried foods.
If like me, you’re not a big fan of sake, next time you’re out for Japanese food, try a glass of fino sherry.