Pâté de campagne

On the occasions that I can get out to the local wineries, there is nothing better than bringing along a light lunch of a few cheese, some olives, pickles, and your own pâté. It is surprisingly simple to make and is well suited for a quick bite on the go. I am fortunate to have a local friend who raises hogs on the side. When it is slaughter time, I ask that she please save me the liver especially for this delicious dish.

For a more professional outcome, try to locate some “Morton’s Tender Quick” to use with this recipe. Alternatively, Kosher salt will work.

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House Vinaigrette

This is by far the most common vinaigrette we use around here, and we use it a lot. Simple to throw together at a moment’s notice and everyone always enjoys it. Fantastic with mixed greens, tomatoes, and croutons.


Boeuf à la Bourguignonne

Boeuf à la Bourguignonne, Beef Bourguignon, beef burgundy, or just beef in wine sauce. For me, few dishes invoke thoughts of cool weather, friends and hearty meals like beef Bourguignon. Many credit Julia Child with bringing this dish to the forefront. As a result, Americans often envision this dish when they think of French cuisine. Several years ago, Jill and I had the opportunity to travel to France. Beginning in Paris, then on to Champagne, we further travelled South to Burgundy. We visited several chateaus and wineries in the famous region. Burgundy wines are highly regarded in the world of wine. With well known regions such as Chablis, Nuits-Saint-Georges, Côte de Beaune, Côte Chalonnaise, Mâconnais, and Beaujolais, the wines are very high quality and can be quite expensive. It is not unusual for some Burgundies to sell for hundreds of dollars per bottle. The primary red grape of Burgundy is the very well respected and not very forgiving Pinot Noir. One night, after a tough day of site seeing and winery hopping, we went to a Burgundian restaurant which was well known for their Boeuf à la Bourguignonne. It didn’t disappoint! Rich wine sauce, well seasoned, tender beef, and tasty vegetables. They served it in it’s own crock with a lid, very old school and very awesome.

This is an image of Jill and I in a cellar in Chambolle-Musigny:

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While I have made Beef Bourguignon using Pinot Noir (usually from California), I also like to experiment and use other red wines as well. The only basic rule of thumb is to use a wine which you would enjoy drinking. Northern California has tons of good wines, but one of my favorites is Zinfandel. In my opinion, it lends itself well to this dish. I also like to try and pair the same wine I use in making the meal to go along with it.

Below is my version of this classic stew. There are a multitude of ways to put this together and I have seen several and I enjoy them all. For mine, I do not use any stock, water or demi-glace, as I like to rely solely on the wine in combination with the beef for the rich sauce.


Crêpe Suzette

Crêpe Suzette

Well, the story goes that in 1895 in the Cafe de Paris in Monte Carlo a classic was born.. by mistake, or so the legend has it. According to Henri Charpentier, he was serving nobility at the restaurant table side with crepes which were pre-prepared in the back. While preparing an orange sauce, he added the liquor over the open flame and voila! We had orange crepe flambe  and everyone raved.

The dish was appropriately named after one of the dining guests “Suzette”.

I made a quick and easy version here at the beach house at The Sea Ranch which came out quite nice.


Cassoulet

Cassoulet

Cassoulet, that famous dish from the south of France. Not from the more familiar Provence, Marseille, Nimes part of the country, but more toward the Western portions of Southern France such as Carcassonne, Toulouse, and Narbonne. I am referring to the Languedoc area of France where once lived a peaceful religious order named the Cathars. The Cathars were all killed and they were ran out of their castles during the crusades of the 1200’s. All that remains are mountain top ruins, a few sad stories, and a delicious beany casserole dish.

Nobody knows when or where the Cassoulet tradition began, but the national bean dish of France is not considered fancy or “Haute” cuisine. No… it most certainly has more humble beginnings. Certainly, it existed prior to refrigeration, otherwise, I would have to say that it was born of bits of this and that which were becoming questionable in the ol’ ice box.

Of course, i wouldn’t bother with the long intro if it weren’t a dish worthy of a long and delicious pedigree. Jill and I were fortunate enough to travel to France and visit Carcassonne several years ago. At the time, I had heard of Cassoulet, but had never tried it. I found that in Carcassonne, it was available on every street corner and mobile stand as if it were fried twinkies at the state fair. Since I wanted to be sure to have the real thing, I asked around until someone recommended a respectable establishment with a good reputation for local, Carcassonne Cassoulet. I can’t recall the name of the small bistro we visited that evening, but the Cassoulet lived up to the hype.

It was rich, creamy, and extremely savory. Truly a dish deserving of it’s legendary status.

If you ever page through the French standard of cook books, “LaRousse Gastronomique”, you’ll learn that there are basically three types of regional Cassoulets in Southwest France, each is a slight variation on the other, but they all share some basic ingredients. There is tradition involved in making cassoulet as well. For example, it is well documented that you crack the cassoulet crust of a Carcassonne Cassoulet a specific number of times during the cooking of the Cassoulet and there are various other ‘cracking’ intervals dependent upon the region upon which the Cassoulet is being cooked.

Since I am hereby creating a new regional Cassoulet here in El Dorado County, I decree that while cooking a Cassoulet anywhere in El Dorado County, you shall crack the crust exactly 3 times during the cooking process if you wish to obtain optimal results (actually, just one time will do).

If you are to embark on this Cassoulet adventure, you should be in good health and free from any ailments which may prevent you from persevering through the lengthy process inherent in Cassoulet cookery. Cassoulet is typically at least a 3 day project. However, being that we live in America where fast food rules and convenience prevails, I have come up with a recipe which requires a mere two days to complete but still delivers authentic results.

Traditionally, Cassoulet is made in a cassole dish. The cassole dish is usually made of stoneware and it has a conical shape tapering from small at the bottom to large at the top, this way you have more surface area for the coveted crust on top of the cassoulet. A nice dutch oven will work well for our purposes.