A classic choucroute is a tribute to winter food. You could go for a rich version with confit de canard or pheasant (Choucrouted’Alsace) or for an unexpected combination with fish (Choucroute de la Mer). We decided to make a simple but very tasty version with pork sausages, bacon and pork meat. The choucroute is moist and soft, the meat comes with some nice fat and a light smoky aroma, the juniper berries are full of flavours. Ah, it makes you love winter. Preparing choucroute can be done in various ways, including cooking in water. We prefer the slow approach in an oven at 80° Celsius or 175° Fahrenheit during four to six hours.
Some add goose fat to the choucroute to enhance the taste, but that’s too much for us. We actually prefer a light version of the vegetable, allowing the meat to bring fat to the dish and a velvety mouthfeel.
The obvious choice is probably a white wine from the Alsace region in France. Which is exactly what we did. We were looking for a refreshing, round white wine and decided to drink a glass of Pinot Gris as produced by Cave de Beblenheim. Perfect with the present flavours of the choucroute.
What You Need
400 grams of Sauerkraut
4 strips of Bacon or Pancetta
Dry White Wine
Two Bay Leaves
Various Sausages and Pork Meat (all organic)
Optional: a mash made with Parsnip and Parsley Root
What You Do
Taste the sauerkraut. If too much acidity, then squeeze and remove some of the liquid. Peel and slice the shallot. Crush the juniper berries and the caraway seed lightly. Slice the strips of bacon or pancetta in 6 or 8. Combine the sauerkraut with the shallot, the caraway seed, the berries and the bacon. Add some white wine, a splash of olive oil and two bay leaves. Transfer the mix to a heavy (iron) oven dish. Put some aluminium foil on top of it, making sure you press it on the sauerkraut (as if it’s a cartouche). Leave for 4 – 6 hours in the oven on 80° Celsius or 175° Fahrenheit. Check the choucroute every hour to make sure it’s sufficiently moist. Also move the slightly browned choucroute at the edge to the centre of the dish. One or two hours before serving add the meat to the dish. Serve with some Dijon mustard.
We love to eat this very tasty, juicy, rich combination during winter. We use meat from the leg of the turkey (the thigh) because it has lots of flavours and a great texture. You could of course make your own chestnut butter, crème or spread; we prefer using Clément Faugier’s Chestnut Spread. It’s nutty, sweet (but not too sweet) and earthy.
A medium bodied, red wine will be a great accompaniment of the roulade. In general you’re looking for a red wine with aromas of black fruit, floral notes and delicate wood. The tannins should be soft or well-integrated. We enjoyed a glass of Spätburgunder (Pinot Noir) as produced by Von der Mark-Walter. The winery is located in Baden, Germany, at the foothills of the Black Forest.
What You Need (Filling)
150 grams of Mushrooms
Chop the shallot and glaze in a pan with olive oil for 5 minutes. Clean the mushrooms and cut into smaller chunks. Add the mushrooms and allow to simmer for 10 minutes. Add a generous amount of thyme. Transfer from the pan and allow to cool. Once lukewarm, use a kitchen knife to create a lovely duxelles. Add a teaspoon of chestnut spread. Taste and adjust by adding more chestnut spread and black pepper.
What You Need (Roulade)
One Turkey Thigh
Pancetta or Bacon
Kitchen twine and needle
Remove the bone (if any) and ‘unfold’ the meat by slicing the thicker part, making it longer. Make a strip of pancetta from left to right, without covering the lower and upper part of the meat. Put the filling on top of the strip and then spread it out, making sure the top and bottom remain not covered. Put 4 or 6 strings of kitchen twine underneath the roulade and start rolling. Not too tight. Use one longer string of kitchen twine to close the sides (so the two strings are at right angles to each other). You may need a needle to close the roulade. Wrap the roulade in plastic foil and keep in the refrigerator. Ready to cook? Fry the roulade in lots of butter and olive oil to give it a nice colour and then transfer it to the oven at 160 ˚C or 320 ˚F. It’s ready when the centre has reached a temperature of 70 ˚C or 160 ˚F. Transfer from the oven and wrap in aluminium foil. Leave to rest for 15 minutes. Add some chicken stock to the pan and deglaze. Transfer to the blender and create a smooth, thick sauce. Transfer back to the pan and leave on low heat. Add some cream, taste and leave for 10 minutes or so. In the mean time steam the Brussels sprouts. When ready coat with some olive oil. Serve two or three slices of turkey roulade per person with the sauce and some Brussels sprouts. A touch of black pepper on the turkey and some fresh nutmeg on the sprouts.
The traditional Japanese way of preparing Kabocha (Japanese Pumpkin) requires a bit of work but is not overly complex. The result is a combination of delicate, fresh pumpkin flavours with clear umami as a result of simmering the pumpkin in a dashi-based stock. You could replace the Japanese Pumpkin with a more common winter squash or with a red Hokkaido pumpkin.
Combining shrimps and pumpkin seems a bit odd, but it’s actually very nice. The combination is colourful and the various flavours come together nicely, also thanks to the dashi. The first time we enjoyed this combination was when we prepared Takiawase, following the recipe from author and Michelin Award winning chef Akira Oshima. The recipe is included in his book Yamazato, Kaiseki Recipes: Secrets of the Japanese Cuisine. It’s a mouth-watering dish but unfortunately fairly difficult to prepare. Typically, Takiawase is a combination of vegetables and fish. Every ingredient requires its own preparation and is simmered in its own dashi-based stock. Indeed: four different kinds of homemade stock. The recipe of Akira Oshima combines kabocha, eggplant, okra and shrimp.
We prefer a glass of sake with our Kabocha with Shrimps, for instance a Junmai sake with fresh aromas and good acidity. The sake must be dry and well-balanced with a clean finish. You could enjoy a glass of white wine with the dish, provided it’s dry and mineral. Or a more adventurous choice: a glass of Manzanilla or Fino sherry. Manzanilla is a dry sherry with a flowery bouquet, a delicate palate and subtle acidity. It works beautifully with the dashi and the sweetness of both the kabocha and the shrimps.
Start by preparing 500 ml of dashi. Peel and devein the six shrimps. We prefer to leave the tail on. Transfer the shrimps to a bowl, add some sake and transfer to the refrigerator for a few hours. Peel the Kabocha, remove the seeds. Halve and then slice in 6 equal parts. Combine 400 ml of dashi with 25 ml of mirin, 25 ml of light soy sauce and a tablespoon of sake. Add the slices of kabocha and let is simmer for some 10 minutes or until nearly done. In parallel heat a heavy iron skillet, add oil, dry the shrimps with kitchen paper and then fry them quickly, let’s say 4 minutes. Transfer to a warm oven. Remove the oil from the pan with kitchen paper. Reduce the heat to low. Mix 50 ml of dashi with 25 ml of mirin and a small spoon of light soy sauce. Deglaze the pan and let the mixture reduce. Transfer the shrimps back the pan and coat them quickly with the mixture. Serve the slices of kabocha with the fried, coated shrimps and the pickled cucumber.
Black truffles are harvested from November to March, so be extravagant and buy one before the season ends. When buying a truffle, please ask if it’s okay to smell them, because the aroma will tell you everything you need to know about the quality. Black truffles combine really well with a warm purée of potatoes, with scallops, risotto and everything eggs. We used our truffle to make one of the simplest and tastiest truffle dishes ever: an omelet with truffle and Parmesan cheese. If you store a black truffle for a day or so, then please store it in a small box with some rice and an egg. The rice will prevent the truffle of becoming wet and the egg will embrace the aromas of the truffle and become a treat in its own right.
A not too complex white wine goes very well with this omelet, best would be a classic Pinot Blanc or Riesling from the Alsace region (for instance produced by Kuentz-Bas). Think fruity aromas, floral characteristics, minerality and a touch of acidity and sweetness.
What You Need
10 grams or (budget permitting) more Black Truffle
What You Do
Clean the truffle if necessary. Take a fairly small iron skillet and make sure the pan is warm through and through but not hot. Using a fork (a spoon is even better) whisk the two eggs together. Add butter to the pan and wait until it is melted. It should not change colour or sizzle. An omelet should not be fried; the bottom must remain yellow. Add the whisked egg to the pan and wait until the egg is beginning to set. Check the consistency with your fingers. There is no alternative to baveuse! Take your time. Serve the omelet on a warm dish with some freshly grated Parmesan cheese, white pepper and grated black truffle.
Scallops, or Coquilles Saint Jacques, can be delicate, special and tasty. But very often they are basic, chewy and tasteless. The reason is very simple: the ready-to-cook scallops were frozen, shipped from Canada or China and quickly defrosted, maybe days before you bought them as ‘fresh’. The result is on your plate. The solution is also simple: buy fresh scallops. Then the flavours and aromas will overwhelm you. The structure of the meat (either raw or cooked) will be exactly as it should be. Agreed, fresh scallops are much more expensive. But the advantage is that one per person is all you need, so yes, just one per person.
Combining fresh and thinly sliced raw scallops with thinly sliced black winter truffle is a marriage made in heaven. Just a few drops of olive oil and black pepper and your starter is ready. We go for a slightly more complex preparation, bringing various flavours together: earthiness and umami from the truffle with sweetness, light acidity and bitterness of the Noilly Prat, with the sweetness and sharpness of the leek, the crispiness of the leek and the truffle with the soft structure of the scallops. And of course: the colours are amazing as well.
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And in case you’re not sure how to open and clean a scallop: this is an excellent video that will show you how.
We enjoyed our scallops with a glass of Chablis, Antonin Rodet, Premier Cru, Montmains, 2016. It has a clear and pale golden colour. It comes with mineral notes and a touch of lemon. The taste is delicate and persistent with aromas of fresh citrus. It goes very well with the ‘long’ taste of the dish and the citrus is ideal with the scallop and the Noilly Prat. Combining the scallops with a Pinot Blanc or Pinot Gris will also work, as long as the wines are delicate, fresh and not sweet.
What You Need
White of Leek
Black Winter Truffle
What You Do
Begin by opening and cleaning the scallops. Clean the two bottom shells because we will use them to serve the scallop. Now thinly slice the leek. Warm the Noilly Prat, allowing for the alcohol to evaporate. Add the leek and allow to cook very gently for 5 minutes. Use a non-sticky skillet with a dash of olive oil and a little butter to fry the scallops. The trick is to fry them until 1/3 has changed colour, then turn them and fry the other 1/3. Add some leek to the shell, a bit of sauce, then the scallop, a touch of white pepper and the thinly sliced black winter truffle on top.