Oyster and Brie Soup and Wine Pairings for Celebrity Chef #SundaySupper

This week’s Favorite Celebrity Chef #SundaySupper theme was a blast from the past for me.  While I count Alton Brown, Paula Deen, Tyler Florence and Emeril Lagasse, among my favorite celebrity chefs, it wasn’t one of their dishes that was top of mind for me.

You know how there are dishes you will always remember because they just blow you mind for one reason or another?  Well, I’ll never forget the first time I had Blackened Redfish.  That was probably 30 years ago, yet I can still recall it like it was yesterday. Those layers of sassy Cajun spice and flavors took my taste buds to a place they’d never been before!

The man who put Blackened Redfish on our culinary maps was Chef Paul Prudhomme. Chef Paul’s claim to fame is the legendary K-Paul’s Louisiana Kitchen in the French Quarter of New Orleans, which he and his wife Kay opened in 1979.  Prior to opening K-Paul’s Prudhomme was the executive chef at the another iconic New Orleans restaurant, the Commander’s Palace, where he was succeeded by Emeril Lagasse. According to Wikipedia…

Prudhomme has been credited with popularising cajun cuisine and in particular blackened redfish during the 1980s, and has been credited with introducing the turducken.

His cookbook Paul Prudhomme’s Louisiana Kitchen, published in 1984, was awarded the Culinary Classic Book Award in 2012 by the International Association of Culinary Professionals.  That’s were I got the recipe for his Oyster and Brie soup.  It’s a recipe I’ve had my eye on for years and finally decided to make for this week’s Favorite Celebrity #SundaySupper theme.

The soup is creamy but not too heavy ( I think of it as a Cajun Oyster and Brie bisque) with a slightly peppery kick that reminds me of an Etouffe. It was a fabulous pairing with the sparkling wine (Crémant) I used in the soup.

Oyster and Brie Soup and Wine Pairings for Celebrity Chef #SundaySupper
Author: 
Recipe type: Entree
Cuisine: Cajun
Serves: 8
 
Ingredients
  • 3 dozen small to medium oysters in their liquor, about 18 ounces
  • 4 cups cold water
  • ½ pound (2 stick) unsalted butter
  • ½ cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup coarsely chopped onions
  • ½ cup coarsely chopped celery
  • ½ tsp. white pepper
  • ½ tsp. ground red pepper
  • 1 lb fresh brie cheese, cut in small wedges, with rind on
  • 2 c. heavy cream
  • ½ champagne, optional
Instructions
  1. Combine oysters and water; stir and refrigerate at least 1 hours. Strain and reserved the oysters and oyster water; refrigerate until ready to use.
  2. In a large skillet melt the butter over low heat. Add the flour and beat with a metal whisk until smooth. Add the onions and celery; sauté about 3 minutes, stirring occasionally. Stir in peppers and sauté about 2 minutes more. Set aside.
  3. In a 4-qt saucepan, bring oyster water to a boil. Stir in the sautéed vegetable mixture until well mixed. Turn up heat to high. Add cheese; coo until cheese starts to melt, about 2 minutes, stirring constantly. (Be careful not to let the cheese scorch.)
  4. Lower heat to simmer and contue cooking for about 4 minutes, stirring constantly. Remove from heat, strain soup and return to pot. Turn the heat to high and cook about 1 minute, stirring constantly. Stir in cream; cook until close to a boil about 2 minutes. Stir in champagne, if desired.
  5. Turn off heat and add oysters. Let pan sit for about 3 minutes to plump oysters. Serve immediately.
Notes
The recipe calls for Champagne, but opted for a sparkling wine from the Burgundy region of France instead. While Champagne sill has that "je ne sais quoi" (something special), a Crémant (a sparkling wines made outside of the Champagne region using the same production method are known)

 

Speaking of wine pairings, I’m also offering wine pairings for this week’s fabulous Favorite Celebrity Chef #SundaySupper menu.  My recommended wine pairing are italicized.  Click on the name of the wine to find out where to purchase.

Pair these Starters, Snacks and Sides with NV Blason de Bourgogne Crémant de Bourgogne Brut Réserve from Trader Joe’s.  It’s a tasty blend of Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, Gamay and Aligoté with a toasty pear, fuji apple, citrus and hint of baking spice character. This is our new everyday sparkling wine! At $10/bottle it’s a very good value!

Pair these main dishes with the 2010 Bodega Colomé Amalaya - a silky smooth blend of Malbec, Cabernet Sauvignon,Syrah and Tannat from Argentina with a mixed black and red berry, oaky spice and sweet tobacco character.

Pair the following main dishes with a crisp refreshing white blend, in this case the 2010 d’Arenberg Stump Jump White - a blend of 28% Riesling, 27% Sauvignon Blanc, 25% Marsanne and 20% Roussanne from McLaren Vale, Australia.  It’s very food friendly with juicy citrus and tropical fruit aromas balanced nicely with good acidity.

Pair the following dishes with the 2011 Burgáns Albariño Rias Baixas a crisp, fresh food-friendly white wine from Spain with a crisp apple, apricot and peach character. 

Pair these dishes with a Chenin Blanc from the Loire Valley in France. I recommend the 2011 Pascal Janvier Jasnières.  It shows a core of tangy apple, citrus fruit complemented by a mineral undertone. 

Pair these desserts with a Sauternes,  a sweet wine from the Sauternais region of the Graves section of Bordeaux. They are made from  SémillonSauvignon Blanc, and Muscadelle grapes affected by noble rot.  Look for the 2005 Guiraud Sauternes.  It has a full-bodied, honeyed, lemon tart, baked apple, baking spice, and  vanilla cream character

Pair with these desserts with the Yalumba Muscat Museum Reserve, a dessert wine from Australia with rose petal, ginger and orange peel aromas, and rich raisined fruit, and spice flavors.
Please join on us via Twitter for #SundaySupper on December 2, 2012, throughout the day. In the evening, we will meet at 7 PM EST for our weekly #SundaySupper live chatAll you have to do is follow the #SundaySupper hashtag or you can follow us through TweetChat.

Dessert Wine Primer – Part 2; Late Harvest Dessert Wines

Late harvest is a term applied to wines that are made from grapes left on the vine longer than usual.  Allowing the grapes to “hang” longer (to the point where the grapes may be similar to raisins) increases their sugar levels, making a sweeter wine.  How long the grapes are left on the vine determines the type of late harvest wine produced.  To my mind, there are three types of late harvest wines; 1) Late Harvest, 2) Noble Rot, and 3) Ice Wines.

Producing any type of late harvest wine involves more risk (i.e. animals eating the sweet grapes, adverse weather, etc.) and expense, because picking the grapes later than usual is a more labor-intensive process.  Thus sweet wines, like their fortified cousins, tend to be made in smaller quantities and are more expensive.

Late Harvest

The most basic type of late harvest wines are made from grapes picked after the regular harvest when their sugar content, referred to as brix is very high.   Once the sweet juice is rendered, as with all wines the fermentation process is started, and yeast does its thing converting the sugars to alcohol.  However once the alcohol level reaches 16% , the yeast can no longer survive, and whatever natural sugar is left remains resulting in a sweet dessert wine.  The most popular grape types for making late harvest wines are Riesling and Gewürztraminer and believe it or not, Zinfandel and Cabernet Franc.

Noble Rot

If the grapes are left on the vine long enough, they become infected with the benevolent fungus Botrytis cinerea, roughly translated as “noble rot”.  The noble rot fungus eats its way below the skin, attacking the fruit inside, turning it into horrible looking, moldy clusters, but also concentrating the sugars, acids, and flavors by dehydrating the grapes.  The noble rotted grapes are picked and pressed.  The mold isn’t washed off, or otherwise removed.  Since molded grapes are pressed one might ask, “Can you taste the botrytis in the wine?”  An experienced taster may be able to.  Besides, the mold contributes both flavor (reputed to be a bit like sweet corn), and complexity to the wine.

For the botrytis fungus to take hold of healthy, ripe grapes a singular set of climatic conditions, with just the right amount of humidity, and warmth must be present.

The most famous botrytised dessert wines are Sauternes, and Tokaji.

Sauternesthese wines hail from Bordeaux, France and are one of the most famous dessert wines in the world.  The most legendary of these wines is produced by Château d’Yquem (a 200 year old bottle recently sold $117k!).  Sauternes are made from SémillonSauvignon Blanc, and Muscadelle grapes.   The region is located near a river, thus providing the requisite humidity to insure the onset of noble rot frequently.  Nevertheless, there can be production can be a hit-or-miss proposition from vintage to vintage.  For that reason vintage matters with Sauternes more than other types of wines.

Château d'Yquem - 1973. With age the wine gets darker and darker...

The balance of sweetness, and acidity characterizes Sauternes.  Typical flavors include apricots, honey, and peaches.   Sauternes are some of longest-lived wines because the residual sugar and acids in the wine act as natural preservatives.  The wines typically start out with a golden, yellow color that becomes progressively darker as it ages.  Sauternes should be served chilled between 50-55°F.  Because of their acidity, they can be served with a variety of food.  A classic pairings for Sauternes are foie gras, and blue-veined cheeses because it provides a counter balance to the richness and saltiness of these foods.

I’ve not tried Sauternes yet, but it’s definitely on my Wines To-Do list!

Tokaji (for pronunciation click here) has been a legendary wine for 400 years.  In fact, Tokaji wine became the world’s first appellation control region in 1730.   It was established several decades before Port wine, and over 120 years before the classification of Bordeaux, which includes the aforementioned legendary Château d’Yquem Sauternes.  Since all the wine from the region, dry and sweet, are referred to as Tokaji, it should be noted that I’m focused on Tokaji Aszú, which are made from noble rotted grapes.

Tokaji Aszú is made from a blend of FurmintHárslevelű, and Yellow Muscat.  While both Sauternes and Tokaji Aszú are made from noble rotted grapes, the process is a little different in Tokaji.  Rather than pressing the juice from the grapes, as in Sauternes, shriveled aszú grapes are picked one by one from botrytis affected bunches. The grapes are then brought to the winery where they are lightly crushed into a paste. Concurrent with that process, non-botrytised grapes are picked separately and made into a base wine.  The aszú paste is added in various proportions to the base wine.  The proportion of aszú added is measured in puttonyos (see below).  The ratio of puttonyos to the base wine determines how sweet the wine will be.  The paste will then steep in the based wine for as little as 8 hours, or as many as 2, or 3 days.  At this point the sweetened wine is drawn off the aszú paste and allowed to ferment again in large wooden casks or barrels.  The second fermentation can take months, or even years because of both the high sugar content of the wine, and the cold temperature in cellars dug centuries ago.   By law Tokaji Aszú must be aged at least 2 years in oak barrels and one year in the bottle before it can be sold.

Additionally, a little headspace may be left in the barrel, and yeast and bacteria present in the cold, damp, dark tunnels feed on the oxygen in the wine, much as flor does in certain types of Sherry.  This process also adds to the unique character of Tokaji Aszú.

Tokaji wine cellars

The sweetness level of Tokaji is measured in Puttonyos as follows (1):

  • 3 Puttonyos – Sweet: 6-9% residual sugar
  • 4 Puttonyos – Quite sweet: 9-12% residual sugar
  • 5 Puttonyos – Very pronounced sweetness: 12-15% residual sugar
  • 6 Puttonyos – Dramatically sweet: 15-18% residual sugar
  • Tokay Aszú Eszencia – Outrageously sweet: more than 18% residual sugar
  • Tokay Eszencia – Off the charts: 40-70% residual sugar

Tokaji Aszú should be served chilled between 50-55°F.  Like Sauternes, it can be paired with foie gras, and blue-veined cheeses. They also pair well with custard style desserts such as creme brulee, as well as combined fruit and caramel desserts.

Other “Old World” rivals to Sauternes, and Tokaji are  Beerenauslese or Trockenbeerenauslese wines from Germany and Austria.

Ice Wines

Grapes for ice wine, still frozen on the vine

In cold climates, grapes can be left on the vine until the temperature falls below 19º.  At that temperature, much of the water freezes out of the grapes, leaving the sugar and other solids behind.  The grapes are then picked one by one, and then gently pressed to yield tiny amounts of super sweet juice concentrated in flavors, acidity and sugars.  The most famous ice wines are German Eiswein and Canadian ice wine, but ice wines are also made in the United States, Australia, France and other countries.  Sometimes, winemakers use a less effective short-cut, and simply freeze grapes in huge industrial freezers.

Ice wines are generally made with Vidal and Riesling grapes.  But they may be made from other grape varietals, such as Gruner Vetliner, Cab Franc, or Chardonnay grapes.

One of my favorite dessert and late harvest dessert wine pairing so far has been Tres Leches Cake with a late harvest German Riesling.

(1) K. MacNeil The Wine Bible

How To Spend $270,000 On Wine For Dinner Without Really Trying…

After reading about the  latest record price fetched for a dessert wine,  an 1811 Chateau d’Yquem,  I allowed myself a flight of fancy about having such a rare and impossibly expensive wine to top off a meal.  Since it’s my dream, I decided to go big and figured I’d have a bottle of the Champagne with the the first course of my meal, followed by a bottle of Pinot Noir with the entree.  Garçon, drum roll please!

For my first course I’d choose the 1907 Heidsieck, the “Shipwrecked” Champagne  cost approximately $35,000 (although rumored to be as much as $275,000/bottle! – let’s try to keep real OK?)

To enjoy with my entree course, The Most Expensive Bottle of Pinot Noir Ever Sold (in 2011 by the way): Cost – $124,000

And for dessert course, the 1811  Chateau d’Yquem: Cost - $111,000

There you have it! Three mighty fine bottles of wine for $270,000 (Note: All wines mentioned are in standard 750ml bottles, are drinkable, and available for sale)

Ah to dream!  It’s utterly amazing bottles of wine with this much age are drinkable!  What enables these wines to age so well for so long?  In a word -acidity!  And in the case of the Sauternes, the balance of acidity and residual sugars present in the wine.

By the way, I want you to know my fiscal prudence knows no limits.  I chose the 1907 Heidsieck over the World’s Oldest Champagne to save $4k;-) It sold last month for about $39k/bottle!!

 Any suggestions on what to pair with the wines?  If money were no object, which wine(s) would you have with your dream meal?  Leave me a comment and let me know!