Saint-Jacques Poêlées & Sancerre #winophiles
French #Winophiles – a Monthly Exploration of French Culture, Wine and Food
Inspired by our #ItalianFWT group, Christy Majors, one of our members decided to launch a similar monthly exercise with French wines and food. So here we go! #Winophiles Episode 1: the Loire. Look farther down in this post for information on our twitter chat, and for lots of other ideas from our French Winophiles group!
Seared Scallops on a bed of pureed cauliflower, so appropriate!
The Loire River Valley
South and west of Paris, the Loire river flows through its valley to the Atlantic Ocean. The Loire is the home of castles, a wide variety of wines and foods. Close to the Atlantic, seafood rules.
When it comes to wines, the Loire valley has so many good choices, it’s difficult to pick just one to highlight today. As usual with Europe, wines are named after the appellation, often with the name of the nearest town. Confusing at first, you’ll soon learn the geography of the area of your favorite wines. Interested in learning more about the region, especially the wines? Loirevalleywine.com is a great resource!
Delicate, mineral driven white, perfect for seafood
- Melon de Bourgogne -Hardly anyone has heard of this grape, so it’s not so bad that the wine isn’t named after the grape. Muscadet Sevre et Maine is almost at the mouth of the Loire, very near the Atlantic Ocean. As you might imagine, the wine is a crisp, light mineral wine, perfect with oysters and other light preparations of seafood.
Sancerre: another winner with fish in parchment
Sauvignon Blanc – The towns of Sancerre and Pouilly-Fume produce beautifully crisp, very chalky/mineral driven fresh white wines.
Dry, off-dry or sparkling. Vouvray and Montlouis are home to beautiful Chenin Blanc based wines.
- Chenin Blanc – Vouvray and Montlouis are the home of Chenin Blanc. To add to the confusion, they make sparkling, and still wines from Chenin Blanc, and they range all the way from bone-dry to off-dry, all the way to sweet dessert wines. The dry and off-dry wines only carry the name “Vouvray”, so you’ll need to dig a bit further to discern dry or sweet.
Cab Franc from the Loire – a medium weight red with lots of earthy tones.
- Cabernet Franc – If you have had domestic Cabernet Franc, you may be surprised the first time you try one from the Loire. Chinon and Bourgeuil make very nice red wines from Cabernet Franc. In France (and at my house), a bit of green pepper aroma is viewed as a good thing in Cab Franc. Also, the wines will often have a fun, earthy element you don’t often get in an American version.
- Pinot Noir – To add to the novice’s confusion, Sancerre can also be a red wine, really! Sancerre Rouge is 100% Pinot Noir, highly recommended and often less expensive than their neighbors in Burgundy.
Julie loves Sauvignon Blanc, and I don’t feature it much on the blog. For our Loire event, I thought I should highlight my favorite incarnation of the grape in a wine from Sancerre. Many people love New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc, but it’s just too much grapefruit and grass for me. Most California versions are so ripe, also not my fave. However, I love Sauvignon Blanc from the Loire. Sancerre, Pouilly-Fume, and several of the lesser appellations all produce lovely, crisp, bone dry mineral driven white wines. Now we’re talking!
Sancerre = 100% Sauvignon Blanc from the town of Sancerre
Domaine du Pre Semele Sancerre 2013 ($25 at South Lyndale Liquors)
Eye: Bright, clear. Barely yellow with a hint of green.
Nose: More herbal and grassy than mineral. Almost like a NZ SB but dialed back to 10%. Fresh, very nice.
Mouth: Tart, fresh, quite tart, bone dry. Long finish of tart flavor.
This Sancerre was less mineral driven than many, but they didn’t let the herbal/grassy elements take over. Nicely done.
Goat cheese and Sancerre is perfect. We like ours with a schmear of honeycomb on top. Yum!
In France, cheese would come after the meal. We do it in reverse, but so be it. Try your Sancerre with a soft goat cheese on a baguette, hopefully with a bit of honey. This is truly an example of the food and wine together being better than either alone.
What to Cook?
When visiting our cousins in Lyon, I saw this tome of a cookbook in Kay’s kitchen. Of course, it was in French. I took note, wondering if it had been translated into English. Jackpot!
A very fun French cookbook full of authentic recipes and wine pairings
Available on Amazon, Stephane Reynaud’s “French Feasts” is a treat. Excellent food photography and lots of humorously presented cartoons and information make this a book equally at home on the coffee table or in the kitchen. You’ll know it’s authentic because it features so many recipes with organ meats, offal, and other things we don’t see much in a typical American grocery store. Extra credit for including a suggested wine pairing with every recipe!
Lots of flavors, you may want to lighten up on the garlic chips (Oops!)
Seared Scallops on Puréed Cauliflower with Arugula Coulis
We enjoyed the wine very much with the scallop dish. The tart acidity balanced the rich scallops. An oaky wine of any sort would have been too much for the delicacy of the puréed cauliflower.
Or: Seared Scallops on Pureed Cauliflower with Arugula Coulis
A couple of items to note from the recipe:
- I used a bit too much garlic, or just had some large, pungent cloves. Don’t use as much garlic as you see in the photo!
- The arugula Coulis is very peppery and a bit bitter. I love bitter flavors, but Julie is very sensitive to them and thought it was too much. If you’re sensitive to bitter flavors, you might want to trade out the arugula for milder greens.
- 12 dry scallops (ask for dry, “normal” scallops have a chemical added to help them retain water)
- 6 cloves of garlic, peeled and thinly sliced
- 1 head of cauliflower
- 3 cups Arugula leaves
- juice from 1 lemon
- 1/3 cup + 2 Tbsp (separated) extra virgin olive oil
- salt & freshly ground pepper to taste
- Puree the arugula leaves with the lemon juice and 2 Tbsp of olive oil. Add a dash of water if the coulis is too thick. Salt & pepper to taste
- Chop the cauliflower and boil in well salted water for 20 minutes
- Sauté the garlic in a skillet on low heat with just a bit of olive oil
- When the cauliflower is done, drain, and return to the stove on a low heat for a few minutes to evaporate excess moisture.
- Pre-heat a non-stick or cast iron (preferred) skillet to medium high.
- Roughly puree the cauliflower in a food processor, add salt & pepper to taste.
- Sear the scallops in the skillet, no more than 3 minutes per side. Avoid over-cooking the scallops!
- Place the cauliflower puree on the plate, top with scallops, coulis and garlic chips.
- Serve with Sancerre!