Friday, February 24, 2006

Beaujolais lunch "at" Chateau des Ravatys: IMBB23


I can't begin to lay claim to the title oenophile. Until recently, I've never even had a bottle of wine in my own home that was good enough to "save for a special occasion." I do, however, have one bottle of wine saved from a special occasion. My college roommate was married last summer in the south of France. In an inspired choice, her gift to the coterie of bridesmaids was a bottle of Brouilly from the Chateau des Ravatys garden vineyard where the wedding took place. And what better place to find inspiration for French regional cooking than in a bottle?

In my research (read: googling), I found this menu online for a "Beaujolais lunch at Chateau des Ravatys," (for a hilariously bad English translation, go here). Another search found this recipe for a similar salad. Further googling revealed that a cheese option compatible with the wine was Epoisses. Alas, my favorite cheese shop, Cheesetique, sold their last one that morning. They helpfully suggested an alternative that was similar and fantastically delicious--an oozy Vacherin du Jura. Coincidentally, all proceeds from the Ravatys vineyard go to benefit the Institut Pasteur. And where was M. Pasteur (inventor of pasteurization) born? Jura.

So, my menu fully regionally synthesized, I began to cook.

***
Beaujolais Lunch
Salad with Lardons, Croutons, and Poached egg and Vacherin du Jura cheese

NOTE: As instructed, we let the cheese sit at room temperature all day, and when I cut off the top rind it was spoonably liquid and fragrant.

Start with the bacon:
Heat a large skillet, and cook until crisp over moderate heat:
6 slices thick-cut bacon, cut into 1/2 inch pieces
Remove the bacon with a slotted spoon and drain on paper towels.

For the croutons:
Pour off and reserve most of the bacon fat for later use, leaving 1 Tablespoon in the skillet. Toss in:
2 handfuls of bread, cut into 1 inch dice (I used some day-old raisin nut bread that the folks at the cheese shop kindly handed me on my way out the door. The resulting croutons were delicious, but baguette would be more traditional.) Cook until bread is crisp, about 4 minutes. Remove from skillet and set aside.

Put on a large pot of water to boil for the poached eggs. While the water boils, wash and tear into bite-sized pieces:
1 small head lettuce (I used soft Boston Butter lettuce, but frisee would be more authentic.)

For the dressing:
Pour the remaining bacon fat back into the skillet. If you don't have very much, add:
1 Tablespoon peanut oil (optional)

When the oil is warm, add and cook until soft (about 3 minutes):
1 large shallot, thinly sliced

Then add:
1 clove garlic, minced

Cook for one more minute, then season heavily with salt and pepper and whisk in:
2-3 Tablespoons red wine vinegar

Arrange the greens on two plates. Sprinkle bacon on top. Add croutons. Pour still-warm dressing over the whole arrangement. Then get on with the eggs.

For the poached eggs:
I'd never poached an egg before, but it wasn't that hard. When the water boils, reduce the heat to a simmer and add:
1 Tablespoon white vinegar

Into teacups, mugs, or ramekins, gently crack:
4 large eggs

Slip the eggs into the simmering water, trying to keep them as compact as possible, and pray that the whites don't get too wispy and float away. After 4 minutes, fish each egg out with a slotted spoon, and deposit two on top of each salad.

Eat right away, so that the runny yolk of the egg oozes all over the salad when poked with a fork. Follow with thinly sliced, toasted raisin bread covered with runny, rich Vacerin du Jura. (Never ones to let bacon fat go to waste, we also dipped extra croutons into the cheese to finish it off.) Enjoy both with a lovely glass or two of 2003 Brouilly from Les Jardins des Ravatys.


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