Rendez-vous across the river
Médoc, a peninsula northwest of Bordeaux is generally known as the left bank (in wine world terms). The left bank produces some of the best wines in the world, has beautiful unspoilt nature and magical châteaux. It is also, as you might know, where we live. The left bank, however, is only half the story. On the other side of the Gironde estuary is a whole other magic kingdom the crown jewel of which is St. Emilion. The two sides have a friendly rivalry and endless speculation on who produces the best wines. They have Petrus of Pomerol and Cheval Blanc from St. Emilion, we have Lafite, Latour and château Margaux. We have the beaches and the forests, they have the postcard pretty hills of the Dordogne valley. Since we moved here three years ago we have been so busy discovering the wonders of Médoc that we’ve frankly neglected “the other camp”. Lately I’ve been looking for a good excuse to renew my acquaintance with the right bank and last week I found not one but two excellent reasons to finally go.
The first reason was that our good friends, Ari and Auður were staying with us and dying to discover St. Emilion. The second reason was even better. Recently I was contacted by Stéphane Gabart, a fellow gourmand, food blogger of My French Heaven, bon vivant and a native of the right bank. We decided it would be fun to meet and he said he’d love to have us over for a little feast, that it would be fun to cook together. Last Friday we set off with four kids, my mother-in-law, one dog, Auður and Ari. We expected the day to be good, we were certainly not disappointed.
We started at the very pretty farmer’s market in Libourne where Stéphane introduced us to all the “players”, his favorite handsome cheesemonger (not the one in the photo although he was very good too) where we got amazing truffle flavored butter, the poultry man where we got a chunk of foie gras and his favorite pâtisserie where we got a selection of little delights. Our last stop was at “the best boulangerie”, Sylvain Marie. on the right bank where we got lots of baguettes fresh from the oven.
The next few hours were spent cooking, laughing, drinking and eating at Stéphane’s home in Libourne, so full of memories and mementos from his family. I particularly enjoyed Stéphane’s story of his aunt who makes the best foie gras. She has a secret recipe and doesn’t share it with anyone, ever! She is very fond of her nephew so to everyone’s surprise she gave him the coveted formula. Before she gave it though, she swore him to secrecy. He must not share it with anyone, not even the family. I bet it’s delicious (and will try to get the recipe, somehow…). Stéphane had decided to make something with duck and foie gras because he had read they were my favorite food and we had the best time making duck raviolis together. For starter, he had prepared a lovely salmon tartare, his signature dish that never fails to please. It was all so tasty and melted in the mouth, we felt spoilt and happy. The meal ended on a high note with Stéphane opening the bright green pastry box from pâtisserie Lopez so everyone could choose their favorite pastry. It was baba au rhum for me.
After lunch (which lasted for hours), we headed to St. Emilion. We drove through Pomerol, stopped at Stéphane’s parent’s château where he runs a charming B&B, had a stroll in the hills above where we spotted picturesque windmills. Finally we found ourselves in St. Emilion, just in time to get a bottle or two for dinner and take in all the beauty. Our last stop was to get the legendary macaroons from Nadia Fermigier, typical of the village and a reminder of a time gone by. Stéphane told me that he used to get them as a boy and when he had finished eating them he licked the paper they came on. It was easy picturing him as a little garçon with his macaroons, it reminds me of myself as a little girl in Hong Kong having dumplings with my parents and savoring every bite. Once a gourmand always a gourmand.
They say that food brings people together and last Friday it certainly did. We have, of course, invited Stéphane to come and stay with us, get to know the dogs (he’s dying to have one), cook a few feasts. We can’t wait to have him over.
Merci Stéphane for sharing these wonderful recipes!
Stéphane’s salmon tartare
Ingredients (serves 8 to 10 as an apéritif dip – 6 as an appetizer):
1 red onion, sliced finely
3 big tablespoons of heavy cream
6 medium slices of smoked salmon (preferably Scottish)
2 or 3 salmon steaks raw (sushi grade!)
1 fist full of chopped chives
1 teaspoon tabasco
2 big table spoons of trout eggs (NOT SALMON. THEY BREAK TOO EASY, don’t pop as much in your mouth and they are too fatty)
Salt and pepper to taste
Chop both types of salmon in quarter-inch cubes or even a little smaller (DO NOT mix in a blender!!!)
Chop-up every other ingredients
Mix everything up with the cream (reserve eggs)
Add trout eggs at the end and mix carefully one more time
Duck confit & foie gras raviolis
30 wonton sheets (3 ravioli per person)
2 legs of duck confit
Half a pound of fresh (raw) foie gras
A pound of morels or any other tasty mushroom
Persillade (1 clove of garlic with a fist full of chopped fresh parsley)
3-4 tablespoons of heavy liquid cream
Half a small glass of Port or Muscat
Salt and pepper
2 shallots, sliced finely
Chives, chopped finely
Steps (prep the sauce first, then the ravioli):
1) Prep your sauce first by lightly browning the chopped shallots and whole morels in canola oil
2) Add a small glass worth of veal stock
3) Add persillade (1 clove of garlic with a fist full of chopped fresh parsley)
4) Add the Port
5) Add the cream with some salt and pepper and stir. You may need to add cream and/or water to the sauce when you reheat it before serving so it has the taste and thickness you like…
6) For the ravioli, warm your confit up, debone it, take skin and fat away and chop the meat
7) Lightly brown the meat in a pan over high heat
8) Take the pan off the stove. Wait 5 minutes and add foie gras cut in half inch cubes. Mix everything up
9) Put a tablespoon worth of the mixture in the center of a wonton sheet, dip your finger in water and humidify the borders. Add top sheet. Make sure there is no air trapped inside and that the borders are sealed properly.
10) Bring water to a boil and dip the raviolis in it for 10 to 20 seconds by batches (3-4 at a time). Make sure the water doesn’t boil too hard.
11) Take the ravioli out one by one with a spatula and dispose them on a plate right before serving
Reheat, taste and adjust your sauce
12) Add the sauce on top of your ravioli and serve as soon as each plate is ready.