Did you know that sweet sherry is a total pain to clean up? Some years ago, a bottle broke with less than half a cup of sherry left. It might not sound so much, but it was a tremendous disaster. Sweet syrupy drops rolling down in slow motion, sticking to everything in their way and running into every little groove. Photo albums, books, shelves, parquet floor, the TV set and various video game consoles got their share. Up to this day, the reset button of the Nintendo N64 still needs a bit of extra persuasion. Not to mention that some weeks ago, when I disassembled book shelves to replace them with new ones, I found various remnants of the sherry fiasco on those hard-to-reach places.
Sherry is a key ingredient in this dish, though I – ahem – stick to the medium-dry variety nowadays. You can leave the mushrooms out if you want to, even the green pepper corns if you must. And binding the sauce with cream cheese is such a clever trick: it brings a certain discreet acidity and as it is thick and often contains a little amount of starch, that saves you from stirring up a slurry. In my hands, corn starch always makes a mess. Luckily, no comparison with sherry.
1 package cream cheese (200 g / 7 oz)
1/4 cup / 60 ml medium-dry sherry
500 g / 1 pound chicken, turkey or pork, cut into strips
2-3 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 jar / tin of mushrooms – or 250 g / 1/2 pound fresh mushrooms, sliced
1 onion, diced
2-3 tablespoons paprika powder
1-2 teaspoons green or red pepper corns in brine
Put the cream cheese into a bowl and stir it with the sherry so that there are no lumps left and it has the consistency of a good mayonnaise.
Drain the mushrooms if you’re using a glass or can. And peel and slice them if you’re using fresh ones.
Dice the onion. And cut the meat into finger-thick strips.
Heat up a non-stick pan on high, then add the oil and just before it starts to smoke, add the meat and let it brown on all sides. Be patient, the meat will come loose as soon as it is brown enough. When the meat is done, get it out of the pan and onto a plate.
You may be wondering why I always heat up pans and pots empty. I don’t know how and why this works, but if you’re using non-stick pots, this is the way to have a quasi non-sticking surface: heat up empty and once in while, drop in half a teaspoon of water. If it just boils, the pot is still too cold. If if looks like a bubble and hovers of the surface, then you have the perfect temperature – pour in the oil, let it heat up and add the things you want to cook. And if the water splits up into dozens of hovering little balls, the pan is too hot. Remove from the heat and let it cool down for a minute.
In go the mushrooms and onions – let them also get a bit of color.
Now, the meat goes back in, then add the paprika powder and let the paprika get a tiny bit of color until you can smell the paprika. Be careful not to burn it though, or the whole dish will taste terrible.
Add enough water to just cover everything in the pan, season with salt, peppercorns, nutmeg and let it simmer for 15-20 minutes.
Reduce the heat and stir in the cream cheese.Then let it cook for another minute or so. It should thicken up nicely.
Give it another taste and season it. And then you’re ready!
Serve with your favorite carbs – there’s a never-ending discussion between my husband and me: pasta or potatoes? My very nice mother-in-law settles it by cooking the favorite side for each of us.