The French Périgord is the truffle heart of France. The region is also known for its culinary products, such as Confit de Canard, wines from Bergerac and Monbazillac, Foie Gras and Sauce Périgueux. This sauce is a classic in the French kitchen. Its basis is a white sauce made with shallot, a reduction of white wine, (goose) fat, stock and lots of truffle. The ‘original’ recipe of this truffle sauce can be found in La Bonne Cuisine du Périgord written in 1929 by La Mazille. The sauce works beautifully with Tournedos and Magret de Canard. And since white asparagus love truffles, why not combine them with Sauce Périgueux?
We don’t think a roux-based sauce will go very well with asparagus, so we combined two recipes: the flavors of Sauce Périgueux with the lightness and consistency of Japanese Kimizu.
We enjoyed our asparagus with a glass of Riesling, produced by Bott Geyl in the French Alsace. This fresh, aromatic, dry white wine with a hint of sweetness and high acidity combines very well with the sweetness of the asparagus and the intense, rich flavor of the sauce. The wine supports the dish perfectly.
What You Need
6 White Asparagus
1 Small Truffle
For the Sauce
1 Glass of Dry White Wine
3 Black Peppercorns
½ tablespoon Simple White Vinegar
Two Cubes of Jus de Truffe*
2 egg yolks
What You Do
Chop the shallot, crush the peppercorns coarsely, add to a pan and add a glass of white wine. Leave to simmer for 20 minutes. Add a splash of white vinegar. Leave to simmer for 10 minutes. Add the two cubes of jus de truffe and leave to simmer for another 10 minutes. Pass through a sieve. If all is well you should have 4 tablespoons of liquid. If necessary reduce. Set aside and leave to cool. Peel the asparagus and steam for 20 minutes, depending on the size. When there is still 10 minutes on the clock, start working on the sauce. Whisk the two egg yolks well, add the 4 tablespoons of liquid, mix and heat in the microwave on 30% power. Start with one interval of 10 seconds, stir, followed by an interval of 5 seconds, stir and continue with intervals of 5 seconds until you have the right consistency. Total time in the microwave will be approximately 60 seconds. Allow to cool for a minute or two. In the meantime grate the truffle. Serve the sauce over the asparagus, add some white pepper and sprinkle the truffle over the sauce and the asparagus.
* Best to buy a can of jus de truffe and freeze the content in an ice cube bag.
Preparing guineafowl can be a bit of a challenge because it’s easily overcooked. Guineafowl requires some liquid (oil, butter, wine, stock) when cooking it, but not too much. It’s actually not at all like chicken; just compare the meat and notice the difference. Guineafowl is structured, meaty, dense. Cooking guineafowl as coq au vin doesn’t work. Grilled guineafowl? Not a good idea either.
In The River Cafe Classic Italian Cookbook (written by Rose Gray and Ruth Rogers) you will find a great recipe of guineafowl with grappa, junipers, sage, white wine and pancetta. The combination of grappa and junipers is amazing and the idea to have these two support the guineafowl is simply stunning. The combination emphasises the wild and nutty taste of the guinegowl. Buy the book and start cooking!
Spring is the best season to prepare this dish, because morels are a spring mushroom. You could use dried morels; they can be as tasty as fresh ones. Other dried mushrooms are expensive, not very tasty and not even close to the real thing. Dried morels are the exception to the rule.
We enjoyed our guineafowl with a glass of an elegant, medium-bodied red wine, with aromas and flavours of red fruit. A wine made from gamay grapes will be a good choice, for instance Domaine La Tour Beaumont Val de Loire.
What You Need
2 legs of Guineafowl
50 gram of fresh Morels or 10 gram of dried Morels
Pre-heat the oven to 180˚Celsius or 355˚ Fahrenheit. Add the two legs of guineafowl to a shallow dish with butter and olive oil. Cook for 10 minutes. If using dried morels: soak in hot water for 15 minutes. Otherwise clean the morels with some kitchen paper. Turn the legs upside down after 10 minutes. Cook for another 10 minutes. Turn them a second time, skin up. Add the morels to the dish, leaving the skin free. The legs should be ready after in total 30 minutes. Transfer the guineafowl and the morels to a plate and keep warm. Add chicken stock to the cooking liquid. Add crème fraîche, mustard and pepper to the sauce, stir well and allow to warm through and through for 5 minutes. Taste the sauce and if necessary add more mustard. Serve with gnocchi. (Yes of course, we will be happy to explain how to make gnocchi in the near future.)
Thyme, Oregano, Basil, Rosemary, Saffron, Sage: all powerful Mediterranean herbs. Oregano, or Wild Marjoram, is an interesting one. Probably best known as the herbal ingredient of pizza. A dried herb, one to store in a jar, forget about and then use beyond its ‘use-by date’ and be disappointed. Such a pity because fresh oregano is aromatic, slightly bitter, pungent and perhaps chemical, depending on the variety, of course. Great to combine with lamb, a tomato salad, grilled fish and of course chicken. It’s also great to flavour olive oil with oregano. So ask your supermarket or local greengrocer for fresh oregano!
We enjoyed our chicken and oregano with a glass of Rioja Paternina Reserva 2015 produced by Marques de la Concordia. Reserva means that the wine ages for a minimum of 3 years, with at least 1 year in oak barrels. The grapes are tempranillo, mazuelo and garnacha; very typical for Rioja. It’s a powerful, full-bodied red wine with aromas of black cherries and touch of vanilla and various spices. The wine goes very well with the velvety chicken and the very present flavours of the oregano.
Halve the thighs, heat a heavy iron skillet, add olive oil and quickly fry the meat on all sides. Reduce the heat and add two third of the chopped oregano. Keep on low to medium heat for 10 minutes or so. Add some chicken stock, just to deglaze the pan. You will notice that the juices becomes green thanks to the oregano, so please coat the meat with the cooking liquid. Just before serving add the remaining oregano, some freshly ground black pepper and mix. Serve with green beans, cooked in water with fresh garlic, wrapped in pancetta (after having grated some nutmeg over the beans) and then fried for 5 minutes in some olive oil.
A salad can be an excellent starter of your lunch or dinner, provided it’s one with lots of flavour and gentle acidity. For instance a Salade Niçoise, a Salade Caprese or a salad of White Asparagus and Chervil.
Chervil is a very delicate herb. It tastes like anise, but it is much more refined. Chervil looses its taste almost immediately when heated. The salad needs to be prepared well in advance, allowing for the flavours to be well integrated.
Honey can easily ruin a salad (and sugar will always ruin a salad). In this case we use only a touch of honey to create an environment for the sweetness of the white asparagus. The honey should act as a trigger.
The salad is a great example of the complexity of white asparagus: you will taste the sweetness and the freshness of the asparagus. The mouth feel of the salad is very nice, because the asparagus will be both juicy and crispy, with the chervil, honey and vinegar in a supporting role.
After having mixed the salad you will notice that the asparagus and chervil absorb the dressing. During the time in the refrigerator the asparagus will loose some juices, which is actually the beginning of a great dressing.
Combining salad and wine is not straightforward. Especially the acidity of the dressing creates a challenge. One solution is to use verjuice and not vinegar. Verjuice is made by pressing unripe grapes. The idea is that verjuice links to wine, whereas classic vinegar or lemon juice would compete with wine. In this case we choose a wine that reflects the flavours of the salad: a hint of anise, a touch of sweetness and florality. Typical notes you will find in a wine from the Alsace region, for instance a Pinot Blanc or a Pinot Gris.
What You Need
2 White Asparagus per person
Excellent Olive Oil
White Wine Vinegar or Verjuice
Lots of Chervil
Touch of Honey
What You Do
Steam the asparagus for 10 minutes. Let cool. Dry with kitchen paper if needed. Prepare a dressing with the olive oil and vinegar. Chop the chervil and add to the dressing. Add a touch of honey and stir well. Add some white pepper. Taste the dressing: it should be a balance, meaning that none of the ingredients is overly present. Now slice the asparagus in nice chunks, let’s say 3 centimetres long. Mix, cover and transfer to the refrigerator for 6 hours. Mix the salad every two hours. Check the taste after 4 hours, you may want to adjust. Mix the dressing just before serving.
Bleu d’Auvergne is amongst our favourite cheeses. It’s creamy, semi-hard, moist, powerful, pungent and not too salty. It was created around 1850 in France when a farmer combined cow milk curd with the mould of rye bread. He also noticed that the cheese benefits from increased aeration using needles (similar to the process used when making Stilton cheese). Nowadays Bleu d’Auvergne is a Protected Designation of Origin (PDO), just like the other excellent cheeses from that region (for example Saint-Nectaire and Cantal). For some reason Bleu d’Auvergne combines extremely well with cod. We tried other combinations, experimented with adding butter, cream or crème fraîche but we always return to this one. It’s a tribute to both the fish and the cheese.
The combination may be very specific; wine pairing is not too difficult. In general a fairly present, white wine will be great choice. Could be a Verdejo from Spain, a mildly oaked Chardonnay or a glass of your favourite white wine. No reason to open a bottle of Chablis; the flavours are too bold for a really elegant wine.
What You Need
Skinless Cod Loin
Bleu d’Auvergne (preferable mature)
What You Do
Heat a heavy cast iron skillet through and through, add olive oil, dry the cod with kitchen paper and fry on the firm side (where the skin used to be) until it’s nice and golden. Flip the fish, reduce the heat and start adding chunks of cheese. It will melt, but make sure you still have these blue bits in there. Baste the fish with the melting cheese. Check the cuisson of the cod (the fish must be opaque and flaky) and serve on a warm plate.
One of the most delicious aspects of spring: fresh morels. They combine really well with asparagus, calves’ kidneys and chicken. Jane Grigson offers two recipes for morels and chicken in her classic The Mushroom Feast, but her recipe for Flan with Morels à la Crème genuinely inspired us. It combines pastry with Mornay sauce and morels. Mornay sauce is a béchamel sauce with grated, hard cheese (preferably Gruyère). Very old fashioned of course and a modern chef will not touch it. Which is a pity, because béchamel sauce is worth exploring. One of the more intriguing stories is that the sauce was created by Marquis Louis de Béchameil who served at the court of Louis XIV at Versailles. It’s probably more realistic to think that chef François Pierre de la Varenne created it in the 17th century. He would have made a white stock (veal or chicken and lots of herbs) and used egg yolks and flower to get the right consistency. Many years later Antonin Carême described the use of a roux and added not only egg yolks but also cream. It was Auguste Escoffier who changed the recipe and created the béchamel sauce as we know it today. The béchamel sauce as it was made by Antonin Carême is rich, velvety and full of flavours. Let’s pay tribute to the great Carême and cook his version of this sauce!
The wine needs to accompany the subtle sweetness in the sauce and the nuttiness, umami, pancake-like taste of the morels. We suggest a fruity, well balanced, red wine, for instance a French Merlot, a Spanish Bobal, a Zinfandel or a Gamay.
Chop 5 centimetre of carrot, one small shallot and the stems of the morels. Melt butter in a pan and let the ingredients become tender. Add flour (same quantity as the butter), combine and warm well, without colouring the mixture; let’s say 5 minutes. Add the chicken stock, bit by bit and create the interim sauce (the velouté). Keep it warm for at least 15 minutes because this will improve the taste and the consistency. Half an hour is better. In parallel clean the morels and slice lengthwise in 2 or 4. Add to a pan with butter and warm for 10 minutes or more. Also in parallel fry the chicken in olive oil. This may take 15-20 minutes. When the chicken is nearly ready, put the morels on a sheet of kitchen paper and keep warm in the oven. Feel free to add some of the cooking liquid to the sauce. Pass the interim sauce through a sieve. In a glass bowl whisk together a tablespoon of cream and the egg yolk until smooth. Slowly add the warm sauce into the mixture of egg and cream, whisking constantly. When this is done, transfer the sauce back to a clean pan and warm the sauce until it starts to thicken. Be careful because otherwise the sauce will curdle. Taste the sauce and add white pepper. Warm it through and through. Slice the chicken. Serve the chicken with the sauce and the morels on a hot plate.
Lentils are healthy, easy to work with, not expensive, nutritious and high in fiber, protein and iron. Lentils have been around for a long time, so you would expect lentils to be popular, but for some reason they are not. Lentils can be used to prepare soups, salads, dahl, burgers, curry, biscuits (sablés) and so much more. The three basic types are Green or Brown lentils, Red lentils and Black or Beluga lentils. Red lentils are often dehusked and then split, making them perfect for cooking soup.
In most cases we prefer Du Puy lentil from Sabarot because of their great taste and the fact that they hold their beautiful shape, even when cooked. Sabarot also produces lentil flour; ideal for biscuits, pancakes and waffles.
Beware of fake Du Puy lentils! They have names like ‘Le Puy lentils’ or ‘Dupuis lentils’. All nasty marketing. The real Du Puy lentils come with an Appellation d’Origine Controlee (Protected Designation of Origin).
We very much enjoyed a glass of Spanish Verdejo. In our case a bottle of Monteabellón Rueda 2019. In general wines made from the Verdejo grape combine very well with fish. The wine comes with the right acidity, giving freshness to the wine. It has floral aromas typical for the Verdejo grape. You may also recognize the aromas of banana and exotic fruit.
What You Need
Green, Du Puy or Beluga Lentils
Mild Fish Stock
What You Do
Chop the shallot (seize lentil) and glaze gently in olive oil. In the mean time check the lentils for small pebbles; wash them. Once the shallot is glazed, add the lentils and the crushed cilantro seeds. Heat for a few minutes, as you would do with risotto rice. Add the mild fish stock and leave to simmer on low heat for approximately 20 minutes, depending on the size (and your preference of course). In parallel fry the cod in butter in a non-stick pan. Just before the lentils are ready, add half of the finely cut cilantro to the lentils and mix. Timing is all. The lentils should be cooked, all liquid evaporated and absorbed and the cod just done. Meaning the cod is opaque and the flakes can be separated easily. And overcooked meaning you can see those nasty small white bits of egg white and the fish becomes dry. Serve the cod on top of the lentils and sprinkle some cilantro over the lentils and cod. Maybe add a touch of white pepper.
PS In case you think cilantro tastes like soap, feel free to replace the fresh cilantro with parsley. Cilantro seeds do not trigger the soap-like taste.
Preparing Duck is always a pleasure, whether with green peppers or with Szechuan, the result is tasty and your guests will be happy. So let’s revisit another classic from the 1960’s: Canard A l’Orange is a delicious combination of duck with a multi-layered orange sauce.
So what did we change compared to the 1960’s-recipe? We don’t use a whole duck, due to the lack of availability but also because cooking a whole duck is far more challenging than cooking a whole chicken or turkey. We also don’t use (caramelized) sugar and we use butter instead of flower or corn starch to create a nice, velvety sauce.
A classic wine from the Bordeaux region will be wonderful with your duck. We enjoyed a glass of Château Cap Saint-Martin Blaye Côtes de Bordeaux Le Cabernet d’en face 2017. This wine is made from 100% Cabernet-Sauvignon grapes, which is to be expected for Bordeaux wines from the left bank of the Gironde. Hence the d’en face (opposite or other side) in the name, because Blaye is situated on the right bank of the Gironde (where Merlot is the dominant grape for red wine). In general you’re looking for a wine with soft aromas of dark berries, vanilla and spices. On the palette it should be round with present tannins. A wine that will combine with the sweetness and depth of the sauce in combination with the rich, juicy and slightly sweet duck meat and its crispy skin.
Check the breast of duck for remainders of feathers. Remove the vein on the meat side of the breast (and the odd membrane you don’t like). Put on a dish, cover and transfer to the fridge. Leave in the fridge for a few hours, making sure it’s nice, firm and cold. Fry the duck (straight from the refrigerator!) in a hot, non-sticky skillet for 10-12 minutes on the skin side. Reduce the heat after a few minutes. You don’t need oil or butter, the duck fat will do the trick. Now fry for 2-3 minute on the meat side and remove. Cover with aluminium foil in such a way that the crispy skin is not covered. The foil should only cover the meat. The skin must remain crispy. Clean the orange, make thin zest and press the orange. Remove some of the fat and add stock, a generous amount of zest, orange juice, garlic, thyme and Mandarin Napoleon. Stir and make sure the garlic becomes integrated in the sauce. Allow to reduce by half. Add liquid from the duck. Taste and adjust. Later on butter will be added softening the taste so at this stage the flavours need to be clearly present. You may want to add some mustard to push the flavours and help the sauce emulgate. Add more of the duck’s liquid. Reduce the heat and add cubes of cold butter. Keep stirring, taste, add black pepper, perhaps extra thyme and plate up. We served the duck with green beans (olive oil, freshly grated nutmeg) and fried potatoes.
So much to tell about this plant! It originates from North America (so nothing to do with Jerusalem), its flowers are beautiful and resemble sunflowers, its tuber contains inuline (hence the sweetness) and the taste does make you think of artichokes. Other names include earth apple, topinambour (such a mysterious name!) and sunroot. Once a popular, cheap, nutritious vegetable, now nearly forgotten. Most people cook or steam the tuber and turn it into a mash. Works well, especially when you add some excellent olive oil or some crème fraiche. Jerusalem Artichokes only contain a very limited amount of starch, so you could use a blender, but we prefer using a fork and passing it through a sieve because the mash becomes glue easily. A better idea is to quarter the Jerusalem Artichokes and cook them gently in olive oil with nutmeg, onion and garlic. When nearly ready add a glass of white wine and some stock, reduce the liquid and serve as a stew. Jerusalem Artichokes can be used in many ways, you can eat them raw, use them as a basis for a soup, combine them with other seasonal vegetables in the oven, et cetera. We treated them as potatoes and served them with excellent beef and Brussels sprouts.
Your choice of wine is of course much influenced by the way you prepare the tubers and what you serve with them. In our case we suggest a Valpolicella Ripasso: red fruit, cherries, not too much tannins, fresh and zesty. Works very well with the sweetness of the Jerusalem Artichokes and the slightly nutty taste of the Brussels sprouts. Or should we say the slightly nutty taste of the Jerusalem Artichokes and the sweetness of the Brussels sprouts?
What You Need
What You do
Wash the tubers and steam them for 20 minutes or so, depending on the size. You could also cook them, but be careful since they overcook easily. Another option is to put them in the oven for an hour or so on 80° Celsius or 175° Fahrenheit (for instance when you are preparing Choucroute). Let cool. Peel and slice the tubers. Warm a non-stick pan, add olive oil and perhaps some butter. Fry the slices gently. Take your time and watch carefully, the fructose in the Jerusalem artichokes burns easily.
We are all familiar with the white (button) mushroom, also known as Champignon de Paris. The Chestnut Mushroom is the same mushroom, just with a light brown, chestnut coloured cap. Its taste and texture are more intense compared to the classic white mushroom. A Chestnut Bolete is a different kind of mushroom. It is small, chestnut coloured when young and beige when older. The German name of the Chestnut Bolete refers to rabbits, the Dutch name to cinnamon and the French name to chestnuts. The overall colour of a Bay Bolete is brown and its cap is bay. Or is it chestnut? In German and Dutch the name of the Bay Bolete refers to chestnuts. The official name of the Bay Bolete is Imleria badia, but also Boletus Badius because it’s related to Boletus Edulis, also known as cèpes or Porcini.
Let’s talk about flavours and aromas, that’s probably more interesting. Bay Boletes are as tasty as cèpes. The texture is a bit softer and the mushroom itself more moist. It’s actually a very common mushroom in Europe, China, Mexico and North America. Sadly, this very tasty, not expensive bolete is hard to find in shops and on markets. So if you see them, buy them immediately. Following the recipe for Cèpes à la Bordelaise is a good idea.
Enjoy with a glass of medium bodied red wine with aromas like berries and plums, for instance a Beaujolais Côte de Brouilly. It’s such a pity that the appreciation of Beaujolais wine is dominated by the (faded) popularity of Beaujolais Primeur and the idea that Beaujolais is a simple and light wine. It’s not. When you have the opportunity, taste a glass of Régnié, Morgon or one of the other 10 crus of the Beaujolais. Welcome to the divers and exciting world of Beaujolais wines!
What You Need
200 gram of Bay Boletes
Red Meat (Deer in our case)
White and Black Pepper
Excellent Olive Oil
What You Do
Clean the Jerusalem artichokes and cook them for 10 minutes or so until tender. Mash with a fork or spoon and pass through a sieve. Don’t use a blender, unless you enjoy eating starch. Cool and set aside. Clean the bay boletes with kitchen paper and slice them (not too thin). Chop the shallot. Add olive oil to a relatively hot heavy iron skillet. Reduce the heat and fry the boletes for 10 minutes. Add the chopped shallot. Cook on medium heat for 5 minutes. Stir and add fresh black pepper. In parallel fry the meat very quickly in a hot skillet and let rest for 10 minutes. Warm the purée of Jerusalem artichoke, add fresh a tablespoon of chicken stock, some white pepper and a drizzle of excellent olive oil. Mix with a spoon. Serve on a hot plate.