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Cooking With Fortified Wines - Port, Sherry, Brandy, Madeira and Marsala

Updated on November 15, 2016
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John applies his scientific & research skills (PhD) to develop recipes, food guides, reviews of healthy whole foods, ingredients & cooking

Fortified wines add an extra dimension to preparing main meals and desserts, sauces, marinades and dressings. The alcohol helps to tenderize meat when used as a marinade for barbecues, grills and roasts.

Fortified wines are fabulous in decadent desserts. They enhance the flavor imparted by wines and add to the color and aroma. The wines are often concentrated in the common fortified wines used for cooking such as Sherry, Port, Brandy, Madeira and Marsala.

This article discusses the best way to use each of these fortified wines and provides some fabulous recipes to try.

The focus here is on main dishes, as decadent alcoholic dessert recipes have been covered in a previous article.

Fortified wine is ideal for marinades and sauces, especially with chicken, pork and mushrooms
Fortified wine is ideal for marinades and sauces, especially with chicken, pork and mushrooms | Source
Marsala has a long tradition as an ingredient for braised meat dishes
Marsala has a long tradition as an ingredient for braised meat dishes | Source
Port is ideal for sweets and desserts where its sweetness and complexity add an extra depth to the dish
Port is ideal for sweets and desserts where its sweetness and complexity add an extra depth to the dish | Source
Brandy is often used in cooking, not just to pour on and set alight, but as an ingredient within the dishes as well
Brandy is often used in cooking, not just to pour on and set alight, but as an ingredient within the dishes as well | Source

Pairings with Fortified Wines

Cooking with Port

Port has a rich sweet taste and is made from red wine, unlike most other fortified wines. It is suitable for meat-based casseroles, baked goods and for desserts. It goes well with prunes, apricots and other dried fruits. Below are some recipe ideas using port:

  • Port-Wine Pot Roast
  • Port-Wine Mushroom Sauce
  • Chicken with Port Wine Sauce
  • Poached Red Pears in Port Wine
  • Rosemary-Fig Chicken with Port
  • Pork with Port Wine and Raisin Sauce
  • Turkey and Cranberry Port Wine Sauce
  • Venison Fillet With Beetroot And Port
  • Seared Scallops with Port-Poached Figs
  • Seared Duck Breast with Ruby Port Sauce
  • Turkey Breast Cutlets in Port Wine Sauce
  • Brined Pork Chops with Blackberry Port Sauce
  • Pepper Steak with Port-Wine and Mushroom Sauce
  • Chiffon Cake with Port Wine and Raspberry Sauce
  • Beef Tenderloin with Port and Blue Cheese Sauce
  • Roasted Beef Steaks with Port Wine Mustard Sauce
  • Grilled Beef Panzanella with Port Wine Vinaigrette
  • Rosemary Pound Cakes with Port-Soaked Dried Fruits
  • Pork Medallions with Port Wine and Dried Cherry Sauce
  • Garlic and Pepper Crusted Tenderloin Steaks with Port Sauce
  • Glazed Rolled Shoulder Of Lamb With Apple And Pine Nut Stuffing

Cooking With Sherry

Sherry has a complex nutty flavor, and can be sweet or dry. It can be used to make sauces and can be added to soups and stews. It is also widely used in Asian stir fry dishes as a substitute for Chinese wine. The complexity and its sweetness make it ideal for rich desserts, trifles and savory meat dishes. The two Sherry styles that are mostly widely used are Oloroso and Amontillado. Some recipe ideas for sherry are:

  • Sherry Trifle Recipe
  • Sherry Poached Turkey
  • Pork cheeks with Sherry
  • Sherry Thyme Vinaigrette
  • Garlic Prawns with Sherry
  • Soy And Sherry Lamb Shanks
  • Sherry Marinated Tuna Steaks
  • Spicy lamb albondigas (meatballs)
  • Braised Chicken with Sherry and Cream
  • Filet Mignon with Sherry-Mushroom Sauce Recipe
  • Slow-roasted shoulder of pork with sherry-roasted parsnips

Cooking With Madeira

Madeira is a rich fortified wine with a toffee-caramel taste. it is widely used in cakes. It is also used for making sauces. It is ideal for adding to braised mushrooms and vegetables. Some examples of Madeira recipes are:

  • Madeira Cake
  • Chicken Madeira
  • Turkey Tettrazini
  • Baked Plums Madeira
  • Pork with Sage and Madeira
  • Mahogany Madeira Roast Turkey
  • Filet of Beef with Madeira Sauce
  • Stir Fried Beef with Madeira Sauce
  • Pork Chops with Mushroom Madeira Sauce
  • Filet Mignon with Mushrooms and Madeira
  • Baked Ham with Mustard, Madeira and Marjoram
  • Grilled Chicken With Wild Mushrooms and Madeira Sauce
  • Chicken Breasts Stuffed with Mushrooms Sautéed in Madeira Sauce

Cooking With Marsala

Marsala has a light caramel and fruity taste and is very popular for Mediterranean sautés. Various types range from dry, semi-dry, to sweet and semi-sweet. It makes a fabulous sauce for chicken breast or thinly sliced veal. The sauces are often made in the pan, reduced with pan drippings and then thickened with a little cornstarch. Some examples of recipes that use marsala are:

  • Lamb Marsala
  • Veal Marsala
  • Filet Marsala
  • Carrots in Marsala
  • Chicken Saltimbocca
  • Chicken Tikka Masala
  • Baked Apples Marsala
  • Marsala Wine Biscotti
  • Chicken Marsala Pasta
  • Chicken Marsala Florentine
  • Mushroom Marsala Pappardelle
  • Mushroom and Marsala Pappardelle
  • Marsala Cheese Tart with Oranges
  • Marsala-Glazed Winter Vegetables
  • Pork Chops with Orange and Marsala
  • Mushroom Marsala Pasta with Artichokes
  • Sweet Mascarpone and Berries with Marsala
  • Double Mushroom and Marsala Cream Fettuccine

Cooking With Brandy

Brandy is spirit distilled from wine and common varieties are Cognac and Armagnac. Brandy has a sweet aromatic taste and is widely used in desserts and baked goods. Typical recipes are:

  • Caipirinha
  • Steak Diane
  • Flambed Pears
  • Chicken Diane
  • Apple Matzo Cake
  • Beef bourguignon
  • Whipped Brandy Sauce
  • Black Forest Pancakes
  • Brandied Peach Shortcakes
  • Brandied Apples and Pears
  • Caramelized Pears and Apples
  • Slow Cooker Brandy Spiced Peaches
  • Gingered Pear and Brandy Cocktail
  • Chicken Liver Mousse with Truffles
  • Brandied Curry Chicken with Grapes
  • Duck Breast with Double-Cherry Sauce
  • Braised Pork Roast With Apple-Brandy Sauce
  • Filet Mignon with Peppercorn Mustard Sauce
  • Brandy and Mustard-Glazed Tenderloin Steaks
  • Browned Butter Bananas with Orange-Brandy Sauce
  • Grilled Chicken with Blackberry Sweet and Sour Sauce


Braised Chicken Marsala Recipe


  • 6 sprigs thyme
  • 3/4 cup Marsala
  • 4 chicken drumsticks
  • 2 tomatoes, cut into quarters
  • 4 bone-in, skin-on chicken thighs
  • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 red onions, peeled and sliced vertically into quarters
  • 1 1/4 cups chicken stock, homemade or good quality prepared stock


Preheat oven to 400 degrees F (200 degrees C). Rinse the chicken pieces and pat dry with paper towels. Season all sides of the pieces well with salt and pepper. Heat oil in a large, oven-proof heavy pan over medium-high heat. Working in batches of 2-3 pieces at a time, brown the chicken pieces on all sides, turning once, This generally takes about 10-12 minutes. Set the pieces aside on a rack in the oven to drain.

Return the cooked chicken pieces to the pan and add the tomatoes, onions and thyme. Cook, stirring frequently for about 3-4 minutes until the onions have softened. Add the marsala and cook until the liquid reduces to about half the volume (about 5 minutes). Pour in stock and bring the liquid to a simmer. Transfer the pan to oven and cook for about 35 minutes, or until the chicken is cooked in the center and tender. Transfer chicken to a platter. Simmer liquid over medium-high to make a sauce. Serve with sage polenta or couscous, pouring the sauce over the chicken.

Strip Roast with Madeira Pan Sauce Recipe


  • 1 tablespoon canola oil
  • 1 teaspoon coarse salt
  • 2 medium shallots, minced
  • 2/3 cup good-quality Madeira
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground allspice mix
  • 1 teaspoon black pepper, freshly ground
  • 2 cups low-salt chicken broth (homemade preferred)
  • 1 strip roast (3-4 lb; 1-2kg), fat trimmed
  • 1/4 cup unsalted butter, slicked into 1/2-inch (1cm) cubes and frozen


Mix the pepper, salt and allspice in bowl and rub all over the roast. Set aside at room temperature for 60-75 minutes. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F (190 degrees C). Heat oil in large wide oven-proof pan over medium heat until very hot. Add roast with the fat side down and fry until well browned (about 3 to 4 minutes). Turn the roast and transfer the pan to the oven. Roast until an oven thermometer inserted into center of meat reaches 130 degrees F (54 degrees C) (generally about 50 minutes). Transfer to platter and let the roast rest while preparing sauce.

Using the same pan, re-heat over medium-high heat and pour off most of the drippings. Add the shallots and sauté until soft. Pour in the Madeira and simmer briskly for about 1-3 minutes. Add the broth and boil the mixture until the volume of the liquid is reduced by about one third. Switch off the heat and add the frozen butter cubes and swirl the pan to blend the butter into the sauce. Season sauce with pepper and salt.

Cut the meat into thick slices. Arrange on platter and pour over the sauce.

Braised Duck Breast with Cherries and Port Sauce


  • 2 large duck breasts, halved
  • 2 tablespoons chilled butter
  • 1/2 cup good quality chicken broth
  • 1 tablespoon strong flavored honey
  • 2 tablespoons good quality Tawny Port
  • 1/4 cup finely chopped shallots or spring onions
  • 8-12 sweet red cherries, pitted (fresh or thawed frozen, cherries)


Pound the duck breast to flatten them. Score the skin in a diamond pattern, without cutting into the flesh. Sprinkle duck with salt and pepper.

Melt one tablespoon butter in heavy large skillet using moderate heat. Add the duck breasts, skin side down. Fry until the skin is well browned and crisp (generally about 5-7 minutes). Flip the duck breasts over and fry the other side for about 4 minutes until the duck is cooked in the center. Remove the duck pieces and keep warm.

Pour off most of the oil from skillet. Add the shallots and fry for about one minute. Add the chicken broth, cherries, honey and Port. Bring the mixture to the boil and simmer until most of the liquid has evaporated to a glaze. Whisk in one tablespoon cold butter and season to taste with salt and pepper.

To serve, slice the duck thinly and spoon over the sauce.

© 2014 Dr. John Anderson


Submit a Comment

  • choosetolive profile image

    Ravi and Swastha 3 years ago from London, Canada

    I see this page as 1 page with lot of information on different recipes. Good information. Thanks for sharing.