One of the cornerstones of French cuisine, of course, is wine — paired with food as well as used in cooking. Wine can create flavor in your food in a number of different ways, in anything from delicate butter sauces to hearty braised meats. If you have your own homemade wine on hand, don’t look at it as just something for the wine glass — think of it as something for your plate as well. A good rule of thumb is to use wines, or the style of wines, that match the ingredients or recipe of the dish you are cooking. If you’re not making a dish from any particular place, you can also cook your food with the wine you plan to serve (or something similar to what you’re serving if the table wine is rare or expensive). Just as when choosing grapes or juice to make wine, don’t use flawed wine for cooking — if you don’t want to drink it, you won’t want to eat it either. Madeline Puckette, the author of Wine Folly, has an easy to follow guide on her website for choosing a cooking wine that can help you make a decision: http://winefolly.com/review/choose-cooking-wine/.
As the Chef-Lecturer of Northern Arizona University’s School of Hotel and Restaurant Management, I work with an award-winning faculty and modern facilities to train thoughtful and passionate students. I was recently asked by the university president, to push our teaching methods into engaging, meaningful experiences, so I had an idea to take students on a food and beverage journey through France. After returning, I came up with three recipes using wine that are inspired by my trip, which I am sharing with you.
Wood Fire Grilled Loup de Mer with Beurre Blanc (serves 6)
This dish was inspired by my visit to the famed Coco-Beach restaurant in Nice, France (http://www.cocobeach.fr). For this recipe it would be traditional to use a white Bellet wine, which is a dry style made from the appellation of Bellet. This appellation encompases the hills around Nice, which is in the Provence region of France. The principle white grape of this region is Vermentino, which is traditionally called Rolle in France. When choosing a wine for cooking and pairing for this dish in your home winery, choose a dry white wine. An unoaked Chardonnay would work well, as would a crisp Sauvignon Blanc or a white Rhône blend.
For the fish: Six fresh, whole, skin-on fish. For this dish do your best to source or match whole European Seabass. Your local fishmonger may also list this fish under its Italian moniker, “branzino” or “branzini.” This recipe works well, however, with most white flesh fish that are properly sized to serve whole (one fish per serving). A great website based out of Monterey, California that can help in choosing fish is http://www.seafoodwatch.org/. Seafood Watch even has an app you can install on your phone that’s handy at the seafood counter.
For the Buerre Blanc:
1⁄2 ounce shallot or onion, minced
2 whole black peppercorns
2 ounces dry white wine
2 ounces white wine vinegar
6 ounces cubed, unsalted butter
Salt and lemon juice to taste
Step by Step:
For the fish:
1. Prepare a hard-pressed wood charcoal grill using the indirect cooking method (coals on both sides). Completely dry the fish skin and place the fish on the center of grill when coals are white hot.
2. Char the fish for 6 to 8 minutes on each side until the internal cooking temperature is 145 °F (63 °C) for at least 15 seconds. Remove from heat and allow to rest for 2-3 minutes.
3. Gently peel back skin and remove the filets from each side. There is potential for pin bones to remain in the meat so make sure to let your guests know they might be there.
For the Beurre Blanc: Good quality wine and good butter will naturally up the quality of your buerre blanc. The sauce should not necessarily taste good by itself — that is not the point of a sauce. Sauces are meant to complement, enhance, contrast, and bridge the item that is being sauced.
Step by Step
1. Combine shallot, peppercorns, wine, and vinegar in a nonreactive saucepan such as stainless steel (using aluminum will cause the acids to lift toxic metals and give off flavors and discolor your sauce). Reduce over medium heat until almost dry — think light maple syrup.
2. Over low heat, add a few pieces of the butter into the pan while whisking constantly. Before the cubes are melted add a few more.
The trick is to keep the butter emulsified but not allow it to melt so much so that the sauce breaks (looks curdled and separated). Remove the pan from the heat when adding the last cubes and strain sauce into a small bowl just before the last cubes become liquid.
3. Adjust seasoning with salt and fresh lemon juice to your taste.
Jarret de Veau (serves 6)
This dish is made using a cut of meat taken from the shin or shank of veal — one that many people will recognize from its Italian name, osso bucco. It is slowly cooked with wine and beef or veal stock — a technique called “braising,” which when done properly, can transform quality, inexpensive cuts of meat into heavenly deliciousness. The moist environment and 180–200 °F (82–
93 °C) temperature over time breaks down the connective tissue in the meat. Braising (slow cooking with heat and moisture) will transform the fibers into decadent meatiness. The searing/browning process within the technique develops aroma, taste, texture, and color to enhance the experience.
At home you can’t go wrong with pairing and cooking with your own Bordeaux-style (Meritage) blend, or any other big, dry, tannic red wine — like an Italian “super Tuscan” style blend, or even a hearty red hybrid varietal.
6 cross cut veal shank pieces
For each shank piece, all large dice:
4 ounces onion
2 ounces carrot
2 ounces celery
3 sprig fresh thyme
1⁄2 bay leaf
12 ounces dry red wine (divided into 4 ounces and 8 ounces)
10 ounces beef stock
Step by Step:
1. Sear the meat on all sides in a hot, heavy-bottomed, lidded pot with a small amount of fat. The pot should be large enough to hold all the meat, vegetables, and stock with a little room to spare. This is a great job for a “dutch oven” roasting pan, which is a piece of cookware that can go from the stovetop to the oven. Remove the meat when you’ve finished searing all sides.
2. Add mirepoix (carrots, onion and celery) to the pan and brown the vegetables without blackening.
3. With mirepoix still in the pot, deglaze the pan with 4 oz. red wine.
4. Place the browned meat on top of the deglazed vegetables in the pan and add enough beef stock to cover bottom third of meat. Bring the pot to a simmer, cover, and let cook until the desired tenderness is achieved.
5. What I do that’s a little different from a generic braising recipe is to add a generous amount of wine (the extra 8 ounces) 30 minutes prior to the braise being complete and even a little more about 5 minutes before completion. I transferred this technique over from my studies of homebrewing where hops are added at different stages so different aromas and tastes would emerge. The result is a more jammy/berry note and taste.
Strawberries and sabayon (serves 6)
Sabayon is the French version of an Italian dessert (zabaglione) made with egg yolks, sugar, and wine, beaten over heat until thickened. This Sabayon can be chilled or served warm spooned over top of fresh strawberries and enjoyed with a nice dessert wine or even a glass of sparkling wine. For cooking this recipe, I chose to use a Marsala wine as sometimes I use dessert wine as a treat when making desserts with wine. At home you can use a commercially-made Marsala, or try Port or dry Sherry. If you don’t make any of these wines yourself, and you want to use homemade wine, try using a sweet dessert wine or a white table wine that is on the sweeter side like a late-harvest Viognier or Riesling.
For the Strawberries:
Choose 1–2 pounds (0.45–0.9 kg) fresh, ripe, hulled, washed strawberries.
For the Sabayon:
7 egg yolks
1 cup quality Marsala wine
1⁄3 cup sugar
1⁄2 fresh lemon juice (use to taste)
Step by step
1. Whisk the yolks, wine, and sugar in a stainless or copper bowl over simmering water for 5 minutes until the mixture looks like loose whipped cream. Be extra careful to move the mixture continuously clearing the sides and bottom continuously as you whisk (if not, you risk over cooking the yolks which creates a “scrambled egg” effect).
2. The final product will have three indicators when it is done: 1) pale yellow color, 2) double or even triple in volume, and 3) “ribbons” will form on the surface for a few moments as you pick some up and drizzle it back into the bowl.
3. Serve the sabayon over the fresh strawberries.