Category Archives: European

The Dregs: Rosé Wine Apricot Clafoutis

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Inspired by my favorite celebrity chef Mark Bittman’s recent New York Time’s video on clafoutis. I decided to create my own version of this easy French dessert. I had a lot of left over dried apricots thanks to a Costco impulse buy and decided to reconstitute these super sweet fruits with a little rosé wine to bring back the tartness that seems to go so well with a clafloutis. Most claflouti recipes are made with either plums, berries, apples, pears, or cherries, nice fresh tart summer fruits. But I REALLY had a hankering for some after watching this video and being short of clementines at the moment, decided fruit soaked in wine is never a bad option. I chose a rosé since I have had the combination of rose and apricots before and its delicious. Plus I like the added color it gives to the dried apricots. I bet this would taste equally good if made with a fruity floral white, like chenin blanc or viognier, or even a rich dessert wine like sauternes or icewein. Sometimes I am reluctant to cook with the latter though since those bottles tend to get more pricey.

Biltmore Estate Cabernet Sauvignon Blanc de Noir 2006- $11
I bought this bottle on the estate a little over a year ago. They have a surprisingly good array of wines. This particular buy is a really nice fruity refreshing rosé, and went well with the sweet tart apricots. Very floral on the nose, I would not hesitate to drink this with any dessert.

Other suggestions for this recipe that are more widely available are: Sutter Home’s White Zinfandel and Barefoot Winery’s White Zinfandel. Both are very fruity, the latter having a nice burnt sugar caramel finish. The best part is that they are both cheap so “sacrificing” a cup or two for baking is not such a loss.

Rosé Wine Apricot Clafoutis
Adapted from Mark Bittman’s Clementine Clafoutis recipe

Butter for greasing
1/2 cup flour, more for dusting pan
3 eggs
1/2 cup granulated sugar
Pinch salt
3/4 cup heavy cream
3/4 cup milk
1 cup dried apricots
1 1/2 cup of rosé wine
Powdered sugar (optional)

1. Soak apricots in wine, just covering most of them, for 24 hours in a container with plastic wrap or a lid. They will plump up a little and become soft. A lot of liquid should be absorbed and most of the apricots will not be submerged.

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2. Heat oven to 350 degrees. Prepare a gratin dish, about 9 by 5 by 2 inches, or a 10-inch round deep pie plate or porcelain dish, by smearing it with butter, just a teaspoon or so. Dust it with flour, rotating pan so flour sticks to all the butter; invert dish to get rid of excess.

3. In a large bowl, whisk eggs until frothy. Add granulated sugar and salt and whisk until combined. Add cream and milk and whisk until smooth. Add 1/2 cup flour and stir just to combine.

4. Place apricots (without remaining liquids) in dish. Pour batter over fruit. Bake for about 40 minutes, or until clafoutis is nicely browned on top and center is not too jiggly when you shake the dish. Mark Bittman suggests to test to see if a knife comes clean, but I found this works just as well and doesn’t ruin the nice perfect finish. 😉 Sift some powdered sugar over it and serve warm or at room temperature. Best eaten right away, but can be microwaved next day.

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Les Trois Petits Cochons’ Mousse Truffee

“Les Trois Petits Cochons’ signature mousse. This luxurious mousse features the gem of French cuisine – black truffle. Flavored with Pineau des Charentes and sherry, this mousse has an unbelievably silky texture and is perfect for the most elegant occasions. A real crowd-pleaser.

With this much French in the title it’s gotta be good. I stumbled on this pate from Les Trois Petits Cochons’ in Trader Joe’s. Savory with a great nuttiness to it, this is one of my new favorite treats. True to the description provided above, the mousse is silky smooth with nice speckles of black truffles. Mmmmm….I loves me some truffles. I snacked on it with cracked pepper water crackers and some brioche. There is a hint of sweetness to it that would make it go well with some apples or pears. I wouldn’t hesitate to throw in some mellow cheese, but nothing too overpowering like a blue cheese.

Available at Trader Joe’s, Zabars, and online at igourmet.

Chateau Bellegrave Pauillac 2003 – $30

 

I just recently had this bottle at a Cabernet Sauvignon wine tasting and thought it would have gone well with this pate. Savory and subtle with a great smoothness to it and less tannin than you would expect for its year, this is definitely something to drink with an equally subtle and smooth treat.

Wine Pairings from a Novice


I hosted October’s Dead Grapes Society Meeting and decided to concentrate on pairings. It was definitely a challenge deciding what recipes would bring out the flavors of each type of wine not to mention could be prepared in a reasonable time frame. So I decided to go with a wide variety of flavors to try and cover all our bases.

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Here is our menu with pictures, recipes, and tasting notes to follow

SAVORY

Cheeses
Blue Cheese
Port Salut
Brie (Double Cream)
Polder Blanc Goat Gouda
Raspberry Jam to complement

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Mains
Polenta Fritters seasoned with red pepper flakes, oregano, and parmesan
Mini Beef Wellingtons
Bacon Wrapped Dates with Parmesan Cheese
Chicken Kebabs with Red Peppers, Onions, Crimini Mushrooms, and Bacon Wrapped Prunes

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SWEET

Chocolates
Dark Lindt Thins 85% Cocoa
Bittersweet with Nouguat 72% Cocoa
Milka Milk Chocolate 50% Cocoa
Milka White Chocolate 0% Cocoa

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Fruit and Nuts
Fresh Fruit- Pears, Bananas, Honey Crisp Apples, Cantalope, Strawberries
Dried Fruit- Dates, Prunes, Apricots, Cranberries
Honey Roasted Almonds

Dessert
Cream puffs with Bittersweet Chocolate Whisky and Cherry Liquor Sauce and Homemade Caramel Sauce

RECIPES

I gathered most of these off the net with some minor adjustments.

Mini Beef Wellingtons
1 Steak cut into rough 3/4 inch cubes
Chilled Refridgerator Crescent Dough (makes four per crescent, wraps 48 cubes per tube)
Boursin Cheese

1. Quarter a piece of crescent dough
2. Place a 1/4 teaspoon dollop of boursin cheese in center
3. Place a cube of steak into the center a wrap dough around it, try to fuse all the seams
4. Bake at 400 degrees until golden brown
Can be made ahead and frozen, bake straight from the freezer, no need to thaw.

Bacon Wrapped Dates
Seeded Dried Dates
Parmesan (not grated)
Bacon Strips
toothpicks

1. Cut parmesian into match stick pieces
2. Place cheese into date
3. Wrap with bacon (1/3 of a strip will do it)
4. Secure with toothpick and bake at 400 degrees, turn after 10 minutes, bake until bacon is browned

Chicken Skewers
Red Peppers
Chicken thighs cubed
Mushrooms
White Onions
Italian Seasoning
Prunes
Bacon
Bamboo Skewers

1. Chop onions, red peppers, chicken and mushrooms into bite size pieces
2. Wrap prunes with bacon (1/3 strip)
3. Skewer each alternating
4. Dust with italian seasoning
5. Place on baking tray
6. Bake at 350 degrees for 20 minutes, until bacon is browned and chicken well done

TASTING NOTES

Chateau de Beauregard-Ducourt 2005 (80% Merlot/ 20% Cab)-$13– beef wellington, bacon dates, dark and bittersweet chocolate, port salut, brie, chocolate covered fruit
Despite being decanted for 1+ hour, the majority of us felt that this was a harsh minerally bordeaux that definitely needed food to take away from its chalky finish. It was noted that it brought out the meatiness of the beef wellington and paired particularly well with the bacon dates. The tannins in this pour definitely calls for a rich dish to cut through.

Domaine des Chazelles Vire-Clesse 2005 White Burgundy-$17– chicken, polenta, goat cheese, port salut, brie,
This was one of the favorites of the night. It had a savoriness to it that was described as cheesy and rich flavor. The polenta and goat cheese went particularly well with it as well as the chicken kabobs. Mellow and deep, this white burgundy paired easily with a wide variety of foods.

Domaine des Gatilles Chiroubles Cru du Beaujolais 2004-$13– bacon dates, strawberries, raspberries, port salut, brie, dark, bittersweet chocolate
This wine paired beautifully with strawberries and on the savory end the beef wellingtons. It was very fruity and light, a very drinkable wine although not very distinctive.

Les Tours d’ Amelie Viognier 2005-$12– chicken, polenta, bittersweet, milk chocolate, blue cheese, goat cheese, dried apricots, dates
Crisp and tart, this viognier went well with fruit, particularly cantalope, pears, and dried apricots. The blue cheese and chicken went well with it too. Most felt that it was high in acidity and was complex. More on the mineral side of the spectrum and less floral, this pour showed good depth of flavor. On the nose it was surprisingly savory reminiscent of aged cheese, but on tasting had the characteristic crispness of viognier. This was definitely another favorite of the night.

d’Arenberg Vintage Fortified Shiraz Port 2002-$30– milk chocolate, caramel, white chocolate, fruit, brie, cream puffs, almonds, dried fruit, chocolate covered fruit
Although described as being part of the tawny spectrum of ports by the wine sellars, we felt that this definitely hovered towards the ruby style of ports. There wasn’t the sense of caramel or raisin notes that you would find in tawnies. However, the more caramel toasted nature came out with honey roasted almonds, and it paired wonderfully with chocolate. Notes of chocolate were found by most everyone in our group. Things to avoid were lighter sweet fruits like strawberries that brought out the berry quality of this port and made it border on cough syrup.

Chateau Huradin Ceron Sauternes 1999-$20– white chocolate, blue cheese, cream puffs, almonds, dried fruit, caramel, pears
Golden yellow in the bottle, this Sauternes was rich and sweet, some felt however that it lacked much depth or flavor. Although for the price and for the concentrated sweetness, its not bad for a Sauternes. This particular year is supposedly one of the better ones for the vineyard in terms of forming the nobel rot. However, most of the group felt it fell flat on its own. However, it paired well with blue cheese, cream puffs, caramel, and fruit. The food brought out interesting notes of apricots and burnt sugar.

Wine burning

Knowing my love for wine, a friend sent me a fascinating wine article today: <a href=”http://www.nature.com/news/2007/070625/full/070625-12.html”>Europe Burns its Wine Lake</a>

<blockquote>The European Commission is putting out to tender the opportunity to turn its excess wine into bioethanol. But if the commission gets its way, this will be the last time the European Union subsidizes such a move.

In a world where everything from Britain’s left-over cooking fat to Florida’s orange peels are being used to make energy, it seems a logical step to do the same for Europe’s excess wine. But, says Michael Mann, commission spokesman for agriculture and rural development, it would be better to stop the excess wine from being made.

The European Union currently spends 1.3 billion euros (US$1.75 billion) a year supporting the wine industry. Up to 7% of this, or 90 million euros, goes towards ‘crisis distillation’, where as much as 45 million litres of EU wine, often of undrinkably poor quality, is bought and distilled into ethanol for use as fuel.

Crisis distillation has occurred in four of the past six years.

Next Wednesday — the same day as the deadline for the tendering process — the commissioner for agriculture and rural development, Mariann Fischer Boel, will propose to the 27 member states that crisis distillation should be stopped, as part of a wider shake-up of the European wine industry.

“People make poor-quality wine because we have this safety net for them — it’s just a disposal mechanism,” says Mann. “It’s not our intention that wine should be a basic raw material for biofuels.”

Sour grapes

If Boel’s proposal passes, producers would be encouraged to grow fewer grapes and stick to making high-quality wine. “Over a five-year period uncompetitive producers would step out,” says Mann. The move is expected to meet resistance, however; wine-making is a major economic and emotional issue in Europe.

In the meantime, there are still 200 million litres of wine and alcohol from wine by-products to be disposed of this year alone.

“Wine is ethanol already,” points out Y.-H. Percival Zhang, a biochemical engineer from Virginia Tech, Blacksburg. Ten litres of wine yields one litre of pure alcohol; the biggest problem, says Zhang, is removing the water that forms up to 90% of wine. Water in ethanol drastically reduces its quality as a fuel.

The EU supports biofuels in general, says Mann — just not from leftover wine. In the short-term the plan is to invest in first-generation biofuels, such as ethanol from cereal crops. Long-term, the strategy is to move away from having fuel and food crops compete, says Mann, and instead use the woodier, often wasted, parts of food crops for second-generation biofuels such as cellulosic ethanol.
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To be honest, my first thought was, “What! How can they burn wine! What sacrilege!” Haha, but that quickly turned into, “Hmm, I guess if the wine is unpalatable, at least they’re putting it to some use. But what a waste of resources, not to mention completely inefficent way to obtain energy.” Intriguing, I never knew that there was such a policy, crisis distillation, in place.