October 23, 2013 by caitlinvaclark
I happened to come from a family that loves Port. Okay, we love all wines but there’s something special about the deep wine flavor swirled with syrupy sweetness and finished with a hint of nutty oak. When Chris and I got engaged, rather than champagne, we actually shared a bottle of Vintage Warre’s Port from my dad’s cellar. There’s just something about a small glass of this subtly sweet liquid that is such a wonderful way to finish off an evening. A wedge of Stilton, some chocolate truffles, and glasses of Port is a great simple (no bake, no prep) ending to an elegant dinner party.
Clearly we are fans. So Porto, Portugal was the perfect destination to take my dad on a mini-vacation while he was visiting us here in London. I didn’t have too many expectations about Porto and for some reason kept thinking it would be like Spain, even though everyone told me it wasn’t. We had spoken to a few different friends about what to do and what it was like. Everyone told us that you would cross the river and there would be Port house after Port house and that there was. We were also warned that the hills up from the river are very steep. Also true. And actually a good thing as it helped us work off a bit of the overindulgences that were to come.
We arrived a bit late in the afternoon on a Thursday, and by the time we made it across the rive some of the tasting rooms were closing up. Luckily we stumbled across Quevedo where we heard live music coming from this window. A perfect spot for a father-in-law interrogation session. Just kidding, my dad and Chris get along just fine. And who couldn’t bond over a glass of Port, a lounge-y serenade, and the late afternoon sun.
Most of the hotels, along with a few beautiful cathedrals and other non-alcoholic tourist attractions are on the right side of the river and all of the Port caves and shipping houses are on this left side. The boats, while no longer used for shipping, were once used to sail all the bottles of Port to England.
The next day we saved plenty of time after lunch and after some sober activities to tour Taylors, do a tasting flight at Offley, and visit Kopke.
Doesn’t this massive barrel make you just want to swim around in the luscious ruby fruity sweet wine? When we weren’t Port tasting, we also ate some incredible meals. On our first night, Chris tried a tripe stew while my dad and I stuck to steaks. But for our last night we did the tasting menu at Restaurante Palco which was truly incredible.
My dad and Chris after the meal. It was a lot of a lot in the best possible way. The standout course for me was the crispy skinned rare duck with root vegetables, paired with a glass of Colheita Red from Herdade do Peso. The Portuguese wines we had with the meal made me excited for a return trip to explore the wine regions.
Since Port pairs so well with Stilton, I was inspired to make this spin on a classic beef pie. This Port and Stilton Pot Pie is a perfect marriage of flavors and you can see why the English shipped so many bottles of Port here to enjoy.
Brown the beef first, followed by mushrooms and onions. After adding a splash of port and some beef broth, you will slow cook the beef until it is incredibly tender. Don’t rush this step. Low and slow is the way to go.
Once the beef is tender and your broth thickened, top with some crumbled stilton and a pie crust. (You could certainly do this in a separate baking dish, but I’m all about a one pot meal for less clean up.)
After baking until the crust is toasty brown, serve with your favorite glass of rich red wine or, yes, even a glass of Port if you really can’t get enough.
Port and Stilton Pot Pie
1 lb. beef, cubed
¼ cup flour
3 Tbs olive oil
1 onion, diced
10 oz. mushrooms, halved
1 Tbs fresh thyme
½ cup tawny Port
1 cup beef broth
3 oz. crumbled Stilton blue cheese
1 premade piecrust sheet
Season the beef cubes with salt and pepper and sprinkle with 2 tablespoons of flour.
Preheat oven to 225˚F.
In a medium (4 quart) Dutch oven, heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil over medium heat. In two batches, brown the beef cubes, cooking for 1-2 minutes per side. Remove and reserve.
Add the remaining olive oil and onions to the pot. Brown for 3 minutes, then add the mushrooms and brown for 5 minutes. Add the thyme, ½ tsp salt, ¼ tsp pepper, and the remaining flour. Toast for 2 minutes.
Deglaze the pan by pouring in the Port and scrapping up all the brown bits. Add the beef to the pot and pour in enough beef broth to just cover the ingredients. Bring pot to a low simmer. Cover and place in the oven. Bake for 2 ½ hours, stirring occasionally, until the beef is fork tender.
Remove pot from the oven and increase the heat to 375˚F. Sprinkle the blue cheese evenly over the top of the beef mixture. Roll the pie dough out to a round disk slightly larger than the circumference of the pot. Place on top of the beef and cheese, pressing to the edge of the pot. Cut a few slits into the crust and bake for 30 minutes, until the crust is golden brown. Let rest for 5 minutes before serving.