This month the French Winophiles group is pondering what French style is all about. For me, French style has a lot to do with how the French approach food, wine, and eating. The French prefer quality over quantity, no food is “off limits,” but moderation is key, they eat with the seasons and savor what each season offers, cooking is a pleasure, and dinner is eaten at the table usually with family or friends and leisurely….slowly. The French like to have multiple courses for dinner with smaller portions for each course. Because they eat slowly, they are tasting the food and appreciating the flavors. Eating is not just a necessity, but a way of joyful living.
Disclosure: All the wine except Chateau Doisy-Védrines Sauternes was provided to me as media samples, all opinions are my own.
The first course to arouse the appetite is Rye Toasts with Smoked Salmon, Crème Fraîche, and Dill.
Wine Pairing: Domaine Paul Blanck Rosenbourg Riesling, Alsace 2017
12.5% abv | $24.00 (sample) | 100% Riesling
The wine is fresh with crisp acidity and notes of green apple, herbs, and minerality. The acidity is a nice balance to the smoky, rich salmon and creamy crème fraîche.
The second course is traditional French Steamed Mussels with White Wine and Saffron.
Wine Pairing: Domaine Cauhapé Chant des Vignes, Jurancon Sec 2017
14% abv | $16.00 (sample) | 60% Gros Manseng, 40% Camaralet
The crisp citrusy acidity makes for a nice accent with the mussels. The wine’s medium body is in harmony with the overall dish.
The main course is Slow-Roasted Leg of Lamb with Mint and Cumin, Mashed Potatoes with Carrots, and Celery Root, and a Simple Salad.
Wine Pairing: L’Hortus de Bergerie, AOC Pic Saint Loup, Languedoc 2017
13.5% abv | $15.00 (sample) | 60% Syrah, 20% Mourvèdre, 20% Grenache
Notes of boysenberry, spice, licorice, and dried herbs in the wine are in affinity with the cumin and mint in the lamb. The body and weight of the wine are perfect for the slow-roasted lamb.
The cheese course, a must in France, appears after the main course and before dessert. The ideal opportunity to revisit wine from a previous course.
The Riesling with the refreshing acidity was perfect with the triple-cream cheese and as a palate cleanser.
The dessert course is an Apple Tart from a favorite local bakery. Even the French know you can’t do it all and are known to supplement part of a meal with purchased elements.
Wine Pairing: Chateau Doisy-Védrines, Sauternes 2013
13.5% abv | $25.00 | Sémillon and Sauvignon Blanc
The sweet, medium bodied Sauternes is a lovely pairing with the apple tart that is not overly sweet. (the wine is sweeter than the tart). Notes of honey, ginger, apricot, and a hint of almond plays well with the apples and almond flavored custard in the tart.
Celebrate the holiday season with family and friends and a French-inspired winter dinner. Check out my fellow French winophiles and their visions of French style at the end of this post. Cheers to living life with good food, wine, and friends, the French way!
Steamed Mussels with White Wine and Saffron
- 3 lbs. black mussels, scrubbed and debearded
- 1 teaspoon saffron threads
- 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- 3 shallots, sliced
- 2 cloves garlic, chopped
- 2 sprigs fresh thyme
- 1 cup dry white wine
- salt and pepper
- 2 tablespoons parsley, chopped
- Discard any mussels whose shells are not tightly closed. Soak the saffron threads in 1/4 cup hot water for 15 minutes.
- In a 5 qt. non-aluminum dutch oven, heat butter and olive oil over medium heat. Add the shallots and sauté for 4-5 minutes; add the garlic and continue to cook for about 3 minutes. Add the saffron and soaking water, thyme, wine, salt and pepper. Bring to a boil.
- Add the mussels, stir to combine. Cover the pot and cook over medium heat for 8 minutes, until all mussels shells are opened.(Discard any that did not open).
- To serve; sprinkle mussels with chopped parsley and serve from the pot into individual bowls with slices of French baguette.
Slow-Cooked Leg of Lamb with Cumin, Mint, and Cilantro
- 2 lemons, to get 1 tablespoon zest and 1/4 cup juice
- 6 cloves garlic
- 1 tablespoon paprika
- 1/2 teaspoon ground fenugreek
- 2 teaspoons ground cumin
- 1-1/4 cups mint leaves
- 3/4 cup cilantro leaves
- 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- salt and pepper
- 4-1/2 lbs. boneless leg of lamb
- 1 celery root, peeled and cut into 1 inch wedges
- 5 large carrots, peeled and cut into 2-inch size pieces
- 2 heads garlic, top 1/2 inch sliced off
- Combine the lemon zest, lemon juice, garlic, spices, herbs, and olive oil in a mini food processor. Add 1-1/2 teaspoon of salt and a good amount of freshly ground black pepper. Process on and off until a rough paste forms, set aside.
- In a large bowl, place the leg of lamb and poke the meat all over about 3 times with a small sharp knife. Rub and massage the spice paste all over the meat. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight.
- The next day, preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.
- In a 12" X 16" X 2" baking dish, transfer the lamb with the marinade. Cover the dish tightly with foil and roast for one hour.
- Reduce the oven temperature to 350 degrees F. Add the celery root, carrots, and garlic to the baking dish. Contunue to roast for 4 hours, basting the meat and vegetables every hour.
- Remove the foil and cook for another 30 minutes, or until lamb is browned and falling apart.
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