Q: I am planning to make Susan Spicer's goat cheese croutons with wild mushrooms and Madeira cream from her "Crescent City Cooking." I don't have any Madeira. Is Marsala an acceptable substitute?
--Andrew Maselli, Chicago
A: "Yes," says Spicer, owner of Bayona Restaurant in New Orleans. "I think Marsala would be an excellent substitute. Both are fortified wines with a rich nutty flavor that is delicious with mushrooms."
A richer style of sherry could also work if neither Madeira or Marsala were available, she says.
The true Madeira is made on the eponymous island, which is held by Portugal. Spicer's recipe calls for either a "Sercial" (pronounced "SER-shul"), which is light, dry, and has a flavor profile akin to dry sherry, or "Rainwater" Madeira, which "The New Wine Lover's Companion" describes as "medium dry." True Marsala is made near the city of that name in Sicily, the "Companion" notes, and is made with varying ranges of sweetness.
Both Madeira and Marsala are fortified – as is sherry – so that means the wine gets a shot of brandy or some other alcohol to bolster its overall alcohol content.
Spicer's recipe from her cookbook may be found below.
Goat cheese croutons with wild mushrooms and Madeira cream
Prep: 30 minutes
Makes: Four servings
A recipe from "Crescent City Cooking" by Susan Spicer with Paula Disbrowe.
For the goat cheese croutons:
1/4 cup fresh goat cheese, softened to room temperature
1 tablespoon butter, softened
4 slices 7-grain (or any whole-grain) bread
For the Madeira cream:
2 tablespoons shallots, finely chopped
1 cup Madeira (such as Rainwater or Sercial)
1 cup heavy cream
For the mushrooms: