December 15, 2014

Deomonstrably Delicious

With the holiday season in full swing, the local kitchen store in Arnay le Duc offered a series of cooking demonstrations. I attended the final installment on a recent Saturday afternoon. The proprietress had invited a chef from one of the restaurants in town to prepare some warming treats for her customers.

In the middle of the store, there was a Lacanche stove set up. These are super high-end stoves manufactured just a few minutes away in the town of the same name. (They are called the "pianos" of cooking; Americans, apparently, drool over them.) There was an assortment of chairs for the, ahem, somewhat less-than young members of the audience, and a good crowd of 25-30 people was on hand. 

The proprietress supervises the chef
The chef, Daniel (not that Daniel), was chatting away while he prepped one of the undisputed flagship dishes of Burgundy: oeufs en meurette, or poached eggs in red wine sauce. He had a few dozen eggs in their cartons, a pot of bubbling water on the stove, and a pot of sauce that made the store smell just this side of heaven. Soon, eggs were gently rolling in the pot, removed onto paper towels in a stainless steel service pan. When the chef needed a chinois to strain the sauce, the proprietress simply plucked one off the wall from her inventory. As he finalized his sauce, the local caviste, who had been invited to pair wines with the afternoon's offerings, suggested that he should put 5cl of the wine he was planning to serve with the eggs.

The crowd enthused at this idea, even if the chef recoiled a bit in horror at what he clearly thought was a break with tradition. He commented to the assembled guests, "If it is no longer good, it is no longer my sauce!" Plastic plates appeared, and were adorned with an egg, a couple spoonfuls of sauce, and a toast point. The aromas and visuals proved stronger than the Iron Rule of France ("on ne mange pas entre les repas," or "one does not eat in between is practically religion. My wife recently offered five women one madeleine at 11am, and they refused to a person. I cannot recall the last time I saw a French person snack.), and the guests happily accepted. 
No need to send back this poached egg for being hard in the middle
While the dish is simplicity itself, it is also delicious. This version was no exception: the egg white was set perfectly, the yolk spilled out in a lava-like flow of deep, golden yellow, marrying with and enriching the acidic red wine sauce, studded with onions and lardons. Mopping it up with the toast point was not quite sufficient, and spoons were passed around, helping induct a gaggle of locals into the Clean Plate Club. Our friend the caviste had poured everyone a healthy glass of Chroey les Beaune ("Pourquoi un Chorey les Beaune? Because it is fruity, not too tannic, and fresh.)

This would solidly qualify as an appetizer in most restaurants. But we were far from done. Next up was a creamed mushroom mixture spooned into little hills on toast, covered in grated emmental cheese, and passed into a hot oven to gratinée it. 

"A nice little apéro," says the chef
As an obscure white from northern Burgundy appeared (in fresh glasses...good heavens, people, what did you think? They'd use your red wine glass for a white wine?), one of my new friends in Arnay happily accepted and began to drink, commenting that "mushrooms are not my thing. Sure, I enjoy a poulet de Bresse with morels, but I won't eat what he's prepared," violating Iron Rule Number Two: drinking booze without food. For the rest of us, however, we enjoyed a fulfilling (if a little gluey) second snack.

The crowd thinned out a bit, but Super Chef was still going. A bunch of egg yolks got mixed with some softened butter while chocolate chips melted in a bain marie

0% chance this will be bad

We miss our machine in storage in VT
In a Kitchen Aid mixer, egg whites and a little bit of sugar were whipped into Minimanjaros, the white summits airy, like a summer cloud. Once the melted chocolate had been incorporated into the butter/yolk mixture, the whites were folded in until homogenized.

Not his first time
The final preparation was placed into a fancy plastic tube that was a 21st century version of the pastry bag (conveniently on sale in the store...remember, this is a business) and piped into plastic bowls for the crowd. 

SO much better than the traditional pastry bag! Only 8 million euros!
It was light, fluffy, and deeply chocolaty. The thought of dinner in three hours began to make me nervous, and the double-whammy of local cremant and a Muscat sweet dessert wine from "outside of Montpellier" made the four minute drive home a little daunting. 

L to R: Emcee, Chef, Caviste (the last a noble man)
The spoons from the chocolate mousse licked clean, most of the people felt like their work here was done, and they promptly said their thank yous and goodbyes, leaving the onerous chore of making the cash register sing to some other poor fellow. Just another 900 calorie afternoon in Arnay le Duc.

Recipe for chocolate mousse (enough to fill a big glass bowl like in the pictures):

6 egg yolks
9 egg whites
250-275g of chocolat (he used 55%)
120g of butter
80g sugar

In a big bowl, mixx yolks and softened butter together while the chocolate melts in a bain marie. Whip the egg whites to stiff peaks, adding the sugar when they begin to firm up. Mix the melted chocolate with the yolks and butter. Fold in the egg whites. Eat.

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