Château Ducru-Beaucaillou Revisited

by mimithorisson


I first heard about Bruno Borie from an English gentlemen who had invited me for a cup of coffee in Pauillac. A wine merchant who was visiting Médoc and wanted to explore the possibilities of working together on a project. It was close to noon and as we discussed his trip, people he had met, wine he had tried, he leaned over and admitted that for all the amazing things, dinners and lunches he’d had on his voyage, the one he was most excited about was the one coming up an hour later. An intimate little lunch, cooked and served in the kitchen of Château Ducru-Beaucaillou by the master of the house, Mr. Bruno Borie. He was beaming with excitement. Later when he met my husband in London he confessed that the lunch had more than lived up to its billing, the highlight of a spectacular Médoc visit.

All this piqued my interest and aroused my culinary curiosity. I was, of course, very familiar with the wines of Ducru-Beaucaillou, some of the best and most respected in the world, but I knew little about the famous grounds or the people living there. A few weeks later, passing through St Julien, I suggested a quick unannounced visit to the château. We trespassed a little bit (as we often do) drove sneakily around, admired the gardens from afar. Oddur wanted to take pictures as he always does, I (as usual) thought it better to get permission. I entered through a door at the side of the château, into something that looked like offices. I introduced myself but was told that the owner of Ducru-Beaucaillou wasn’t there that day and only he could grant such permissions. Oddur was eager to explore, from afar we could hear the barking of dogs, it was all so interesting and inviting but on that day, unfortunately, forbidden. As we were driving away I looked out the rear window, at the château disappearing behind us and I wondered, “where in that grand building would one put a kitchen, was it on the top floor, in the main building, in either of the wings?” Perhaps I would never know.





A few months later a famous oenologist introduced me to his neighbor, a real Médocain character by the name of Yves Lajoux. We went fishing together, he showed us the best hunting spots and finally he wanted to take us to the finest château in Médoc, where he had worked all his life before he retired. You don’t have to be very smart to know what château he was talking about, it fits right into my story. Mr. Lajoux showed us the very impressive grounds (he said he didn’t really need permission) and later insisted that we meet his former boss, a real renaissance man who hunts, cooks and loves his region. Mr. Borie was extremely welcoming, and greeted us on the doorsteps of the château. We discussed cooking, bien sûr, there was some wine talk, but mainly we talked about food. I remember Mr. Borie saying that good food and good wine could not exist without each other, an argument I happen to agree with. We debated on the best way to prepare a mullet fish carpaccio (a local speciality), on our favorite ways to cook a rabbit. It was decided that we would cook together in the fall, in his red kitchen. Mr. Lajoux was given the task of getting a rabbit and we said our goodbyes. I almost asked for a tour of the kitchen but my repressed French manners got the better of me.




As it often is, even with the best intentions, some plans, great as they may be never get to be more than plans. They are never executed, they never see the light of day. Somehow autumn came and went, there was no rabbit, no red kitchen. I often wondered, passing through St Julien about this missed opportunity, this wasted chance. Would I ever get to see the inside of that château?
And then it happened. Reintroduced by a friend, Borie and I decided to make up for lost time and cook together the feast of feasts, something grand to celebrate the holiday season, to help bring in the new year. It was a case of “I was waiting for you to call me … really, I was waiting for you to call me!”




So one glorious day in late November, the vineyards still teeming with golden leaves that have now gone, the gardens of Château Ducru-Beaucaillou at their most beautiful autumn splendor we set up shop in that famous red kitchen and started cooking up a feast. The day began with Bruno getting some vegetables from his private garden and introducing us to his dogs (my husband’s favorite part). They are English setters that he says are very loyal to him, especially a young female of exceptional hunting prowess, Finette, who will have nothing to do with anyone but her master. He showed us all the trees he’s been planting in the last few years, some very exotic varieties that he’s bought at auctions and even special little trees for attracting birds so he can teach his 6-year-old son, Louis, how to hunt. He has even planted a whole forest for his young son, what are now just little plants will have grown into thick woods when the boy turns 30 – I must say I find that very romantic. Planting trees for a person you love or for any reason is always a good idea.




After our walk we started chopping away, sautéing, wrapping the pigeons with fat… lots of serious old-fashioned cooking going on. In making the foie gras terrine we started by smoking it on the sarment vines, outdoors, just by the golden vineyards. This technique was certainly a first for me. The chanterelles that Bruno had picked up himself on a recent trip to Brittany were ready to be sautééd in his glistening copper pans. It was, let’s say, a perfect cooking day for me!

When you spend the better part of a day cooking a glorious feast you might as well enjoy the moment and dress for the occasion. I must confess (well you can see it in the photos) that the grandeur of the château inspired me to wear my heels all day (a girl can cook all day and still feel glamorous). When it was time to sit down and enjoy it all Bruno and I felt we needed to up our game and put on our finest attire.

New Year’s eve should always be a black tie event – even in November.




It was Bruno who came up with the menu we cooked, a feast of all his favorite things, cooked his way, in his kitchen. He wanted to prepare a menu of the food he loves, fit for the occasion and for his wine. Each course paired perfectly with various wines and vintages he chose from the family’s estates. It’s meant to be a little holiday treat for his clients and my readers – I sincerely hope that our day of cooking will inspire you to cook a feast of your own with your own versions of these recipes. As I have said somewhere before, there is dinner and a show … and then there are moments when the dinner IS the show!




As I was sitting there, taking the last sip of the 1982 Ducru-Beaucaillou, inside the very château that’s illustrated on the bottle I thought to myself “things just don’t get much better than this”, it was one of those moments where you think that you might never get to have that feeling again. But it seems I’m in luck. Bruno has challenged me to another cooking session in the new year, this time I have to come up with all the dishes. So as they say on TV … to be continued.


Bruno Borie’s New Year’s Eve Dinner Menu

Pumpkin soup with chestnuts and fresh foie gras

Terrine of foie gras grilled on cabernet vine shoots, red wine of Médoc jelly, root vegetables with truffle oil

Cordouan blue lobster stew with red wine of Médoc

Pigeon “Woodcock” Style

Braised green cabbage

My Grandmother’s Chestnut Cake with custard


Pumpkin soup with chestnuts and fresh foie gras

(Can be prepared the day before)

For this soup, we served it in a large pumpkin. Just carve the top hat of the pumpkin, scoop out and reserve the flesh.


1 large pumpkin
1 large onion, sliced finely
1 liter/1 quart chicken stock
A few cooked chestnuts, coarsely chopped
1/4 tsp ground nutmed or grated
A slice of foie gras (optional)
4 tablespoons olive oil
A dash of piment d’Espelette
A few sprigs of chive, chopped finely
Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Heat olive oil in a large pot, sauté the onions for a few minutes on a medium heat, add the pumpkin chunks and continue to cook for a few minutes. Pour the stock, season with salt and pepper and bring to a simmer. Cover with a lid and leave to cook for 5 minutes, or until pumpkin is tender and cooked through. Blend with a stick blender, adjust the seasoning, add a dash of piment d’Espelette to your taste and grate some nutmeg. Set aside.
Cut the cooked chestnuts into 4 or 6 pieces.
Cut up a generous slice of foie gras into small cubes, heat a sauté pan on a high heat. Once the pan is sizzling hot, sauté the foie gras cubes so they are golden brown on all sides – this should take less than a minute as you don’t want the cubes to overcook or melt.
Just before serving, heat the soup. Serve the soup, garnish with a few bits of chestnut and cubes of foie gras; add snippets of chives as a final decorative touch.


Terrine of foie gras grilled on cabernet vine shoots, red wine of Médoc jelly, root vegetables with truffle oil
(To be prepared 36 to 48 hours in advance)


1 foie gras liver, approximately 500 to 600 g/ 1 to 1 1 1/4 pounds
1 leek
2 carrots
1 onion
6 cloves
2 cloves of garlic
1 shallot
1 bouquet garni
Salt & freshly ground black pepper

For the red wine jelly

500ml/ 2 cups red wine from Médoc
2 sheets of gelatin

Place the foie gras in icy water, open and devein carefully.
Light the cabernet vine cuttings and wait for the embers to be slightly covered with ash. Place the foie gras on the grill above the embers to both sear and smoke it at the same time. Once it’s golden-brown on all sides, take it back to the kitchen, season with salt and pepper and vacuum-wrap. Place the vacuum-wrapped foie gras in a baking dish and fill halfway with room temperature water and cook in a preheated oven for 1 hour at 60°C (14o°F) au’bain-marie’ (water-bath).
Leave to cool completely.
Pour the red wine in a saucepan. Add the sliced leeks, carrots, onions pierced with cloves, garlic, shallots and a bouquet-garni. Cook on a medium heat and leave to simmer.
Flambé the wine for a few minutes. Pour the wine through a sieve, salt and pepper to taste and add the necessary amounts of gelatin sheets (add+25% more because of the wine). Leave to cool.
Open the vacuum-wrapped foie gras, place in a terrine dish, pour the cooled red wine jelly mixture on top until completely covered. Cover the top with a plastic wrap, cover with a lid and leave to set in the refrigerator for 24 to 48 hours before serving.

For the side dish:

A mixture of root vegetable, all peeled and chopped into small 1/2 inch cubes
1 small truffle
Olive oil
A few sprigs of chives
Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Peel and chop up root vegetables, such as carrots, salsify, raves, celery, parsnips … blanch them for a few minutes in salted water, then set aside and keep cool. An hour or two before serving, season  with olive oil, a truffle chopped into tiny cubes, salt, pepper and chives.


Cordouan blue lobster stew with red wine of Médoc

(the broth can be prepared the day before)


For this recipe, prepare a red wine fish stock in advance.

2 lobsters, approx 500-600g/ 1 to 1&1/4 pound each
1 bottle of Médoc red wine
Olive oil
A dash of piment d’Espelette
Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Prepare a fish stock with red wine (preferably of Médoc). Using fish bones, heads and skin, add a bay leaf, a stalk of celery, a few branches of parsley, 1 carrot, 1 onion, salt & pepper. Instead of using water, use red wine. Cook for 20 to 30 minutes and drain through a sieve.

Chop up the lobster into thick slices. Sear the slices quickly in a drizzle of olive oil, salt and spice with piment d’Espelette for a few minutes.
Place the lobster in a casserole dish, cover with the red wine fish stock and place in the oven at 60°C (140°F) for 1 hour.


Pigeon “Woodcock” Style
(To be prepared the day of serving)

For 4-6 pigeons (depending on size).

4-6 pigeons (keep the livers, hearts and gizzards)
4-6 fatback slices to wrap the pigeons
6 generous slices of country bread
80 g/ approx. 3 ounces de Bayonne ham
1 shallot
Unsalted butter
1 tablespoon Cognac
3 tablespoons Madera wine
1 teaspoon whole grain mustard
1 teaspoon juniper grains
5 tablespoons of red wine game stock
Salt and freshly ground black pepepr

For the sauce

1 shallot
80 g/ approx. 3 ounces Bayonne ham
1 slice of foie gras
Red wine game stock
1 teaspoon juniper grains
1 teaspoon mustard
3 tablespoons Madera wine
1 tablespoon Cognac
1 bouquet garni
A dash of piment d’Espelette
Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Prepare the pigeons: Remove all the feathers. Gut them and put aside the livers, hearts and gizzards. Salt and pepper, wrap the pigeons in a strip of lard, and then truss them.

In a large dutch oven, heat 2 to 3 tablespoons of olive oil on a high heat and cook the pigeons on all sides until golden brown. Turn down the heat to medium low and leave them to cook, turning them occasionally, for about 25 minutes, or until cooked through (to your desired cuisson).

Giblet paste for the toasts

Carefully clean the giblets (remove the internal skin from the gizzards), finely chop them along with a few cubes of Bayonne ham. Salt and pepper. Sauté a shallot in butter, add the mince, cook it all together then add one generous shot of Armagnac or Cognac and three of Madeira. Add a rounded teaspoon of whole-grain mustard, a few grains of juniper and a ladle of the red-wine game stock. Let simmer gently on the stove. Spread thick slices of good country bread with butter and grill them on a pan. When ready to serve spread a generous layer on the grilled bread.

For the sauce

Sauté the shallot with the diced Bayonne ham and a generous slice of foie gras cut into cubes. Pour a large cup of red-wine game stock, add a few grains of juniper, one teaspoon of whole-grain mustard, 3 shots of Madeira and
1 of Armagnac or Cognac, a bouquet-garni, a few grains of juniper and a pinch of Piment d’Espelette. Leave to a simmer for 1 hour, and blend (with a stick blender) after removing the bouquet-garni. Adjust the salt and pepper and drizzle the pigeons previously placed on the toasts.

Braised green cabbage
(you can prepare this side dish the day before)


1 Savoy cabbage
1 onion, sliced
1 shallot, sliced
1 large carrot, sliced
1 slice unsmoked pancetta, sliced into chunky match sticks
1 glass white wine
A few grains of juniper, coriander and cumin
Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Blanch the cabbage leaves in simmering water.
Remove the spines and cut up the leaves coarsely. In a pot sauté an onion, a shallot, carrots and a dice up a generous slice of unsmoked pancetta.
Add the cabbage and a glass of white wine. Put in a few grains of juniper, coriander and cumin. Add an onion pierced with 3 cloves and grate a bit of nutmeg.
Stir everything, cover and leave to cook gently on the stove for 20 to 30 minutes.


My Grandmother’s Chestnut Cake with custard
(Prepare 48 hours ahead)

1 kilo/ approx 2 pounds of unsweetened chestnuts peeled, blanched and pureed
250 g/ 2 1 1/2 cups of confectioner’s sugar
100 g/ 1/2 cup of granulated sugar
150 g/ 2/3 cup of butter
350 g 12 ounces Venezuelan dark chocolate
A shot of rum or Cognac, optional

Melt the chocolate in a double-boiler over simmering water, add the butter and both sugar. Mix together with the chestnuts (previously pureed) to a medium texture.
Add a shot of Martinique dark rum or good Cognac – this step is optional.
Place the mixture in cake tins (for this recipe, we used canelés ramekins in silicone, as it is easier for unmoulding). Leave them in the refrigerator for 24 to 48 hours before serving. Take the cakes out of the ramekins and serve with a crème anglaise (you can find the crème Anglaise recipe here).

Recettes en Français:

Dîner du Nouvel An de Bruno Borie

Soupe de citrouille aux châtaignes et foie gras frais

Terrine de foie gras grillé aux sarments de cabernet, gelée au vin de médoc, racines anciennes à l’huile truffée

Civet de Homard bleu de Cordouan au vin rouge de Médoc

Pigeon façon bécasse

Choux vert braisé

Gâteau aux châtaignes de ma Grand-Mère

Crème anglaise

Soupe de citrouille aux châtaignes et foie gras frais
(Peut-être préparé la veille)


1 oignon
1 citrouille (pour environ 1 kg de chair)
1 litre bouillon de volaille
Piment d’Espelette
Noix de muscade, rapée
Quelques chataîgnes, coupées en 4 ou 6 morceaux
Une belle tranche de foie gras, coupée en cubes
Quelques brins de ciboulette
Huile d’olive
Sel et poivre

Emincez un oignon, le faire fondre dans un peu d’huile d’olive, rajoutez la citrouille coupée en gros cubes, faire suer le tout, couvrir avec de l’eau et du brouillon de volaille, saler.
Quand la citrouille est cuite, mixez le tout, ajustez le sel, rajoutez du piment d’Espelette en poudre jusqu’à votre goût, râpez un peu de noix de muscade.
Epluchez quelques châtaignes, les blanchir, les couper en 4 ou 6 morceaux.
Détaillez une belle tranche de foie gras frais en petits cubes, les poêler très rapidement pour garder leur moelleux.
Au moment de servir donnez un bouillon à la soupe et garnissez chaque assiette. Posez dans chacune quelques morceaux de châtaignes et dés de foie gras ; décorez avec une tombée de ciboulette ciselée.

Terrine de foie gras grillé aux sarments de cabernet, gelée au vin de médoc, racines anciennes à l’huile truffée
(A préparer 36 à 48 heures à l’avance)


Un foie gras entier, environ 500 à 600 g
Vin rouge du Médoc
1 ou 2 poireaux
1 carotte
1 oignon piqué de clou de girofle
1 gousse d’ aïl
2 échalotes
1 bouquet garni
Sel et poivre

Pour la garniture:

1 truffe noire
2 carottes
1 salsifi
2 raves
1 branche de céleri
1 panais
Quelques brins de ciboulette
Huile d’olive
Sel et poivre

Placez le foie gras dans de l’eau glacée, l’ouvrir et ôtez les veines avec précaution.
Allumez les sarments de vigne. Attendre que les braises soient légèrement couvertes de cendres. Placez le foie gras sur le grill au-dessus de votre braise. Le faire à la fois saisir et fumer. Dès que vous l’aurez doré sur toutes les faces, ramenez-le en cuisine, salez et poivrez, roulez-le dans du film alimentaire et le mettre sous vide avant de le cuire au bain marie, 1 heure à 60°.
Le refroidir.
Faites infuser dans du vin rouge du Médoc une garniture aromatique composée de poireaux, de carottes, d’oignons piqués de clou de girofle, d’ail, d’échalotes et un bouquet garni.
Faites chauffer le tout et maintenez une température frémissante.
Faites bruler le vin en plaçant une flamme au-dessus de la casserole frémissante jusqu’à ce que l’alcool soit évaporé. Passez le vin, ajustez sel et poivre et rajoutez la quantité de feuilles gélatines nécessaire (+25% à cause du vin). Laissez refroidir.
Placer le foie gras dans la terrine et le recouvrir de la gelée au vin rouge.
Epluchez et détaillez des racines anciennes tel: carottes, salsifis, raves, céleri, panais, etc…les blanchir à l’eau salée, réservez-les au frais. Une ou deux heures avant le service, assaisonnez-les avec de l’huile d’olive, une truffe détaillée en petits dés, sel, poivre et ciboulette.

Civet de Homard bleu de Cordouan au vin rouge de Médoc
(Le fumet peut être fait la veille)


2 Homards bleus
1 bouteille de vin rouge du Médoc
Huile d’olive
Piment d’Espelette
Sel et poivre

Préparez un fond de poisson avec du vin rouge du Médoc. (Parures de poisson, carottes, oignons, poireaux, bouquet garni)

Détaillez le homard en petits tronçons. Faites saisir rapidement les morceaux dans un filet de l’huile d’olive, salez et épicez avec du piment d’Espelette.
Placez le homard dans une cocotte, recouvrez-le avec le fond de vin rouge et laissez le tout au four à 60°C pendant 1 heure.

Pigeon façon bécasse
(À préparer le jour même)

4-6 pigeons – selon la taille (gardez les foies, les coeurs et les gésiers)
De la barde de lard (pour chaque pigeon)
Sel et poivre
6 belles tranches de pain de campagne
80 g de jambon de Bayonne
1 échalote
Beurre doux
1 cuillère à soupe de Cognac
3 cuillères à soupe de vin de Madère
1 cuillère à café de moutarde
Quelques grains de baie de genièvre
Une louche de fond de gibier au vin rouge

Pour la sauce

1 échalote
80 g de jambon de Bayonne
1 tranche de foie gras
Fond de gibier au vin rouge
Quelques grains de genièvre
1 cuillère à café de moutarde à l’ancienne
3 cuillères à soupe de vin de Madère
1 cuillère à soupe de Cognac
1 bouquet garni
Quelques grains de baies de genièvre
Une pincée de piment d’Espelette
Sel et poivre

Bien parer les pigeons : ôter toutes les plumes avec attention, vider en gardant les foies, les cœurs et les gésiers. Salez et poivrez, entourez les pigeons d’une barde de lard, puis troussez-les.
Faites les dorer de toutes les faces avant de les placer dans une cocotte pour finir les cuire à température modérée.

Farce pour le toast

Bien nettoyer les abats (ôtez la peau interne des gésiers), hachez les finement avec quelques dés de jambon de Bayonne. Salez et poivrez. Faites fondre une échalote au beurre, rajoutez le hachis, faites cuire l’ensemble puis rajoutez une bonne tombée de cognac et 3 de vin de Madère. Rajoutez une belle cuillère à café de moutarde à l’ancienne, quelques grains de genièvre et une louche de fond de gibier. Laissez mijoter doucement sur le coin de la cuisinière. Passez de belles tartines de pain de campagne au beurre pour les faire rôtir, et au moment de servir étalez généreusement la farce sur chacune.


Faites fondre une échalote avec quelques dés de jambon et une belle tranche de foie gras détaillée en dés. Mouillez avec du fond de gibier au vin rouge, rajoutez quelques grains de genièvre, une cuillère à café de moutarde à l’ancienne, 3 tombées de Madère et une de cognac, bouquet garni, quelques grains de genièvre et une pincée de piment d’Espelette. Laissez frémir pendant 1 heure et mixez après avoir ôté le bouquet garni. Ajustez le sel et le poivre et nappez les pigeons préalablement dressés sur les toasts.

Choux vert braisé
(Peut être préparé la veille)


1 chou vert
1 oignon
1 échalote
2 carottes
Une belle tranche de ventrèche sèche
1 verre de vin blanc
Quelques grains de genièvre, coriandre et cumin
1 oignon, piqué de 3 clous de girofle
Noix de muscade, rapée
Sel et poivre

Blanchir les feuilles de choux dans de l’eau frémissante.
Ôtez les côtes des feuilles et détaillez-les grossièrement. Faites fondre dans une cocotte un oignon, une échalote, des carottes et une belle tranche de ventrêche sèche détaillée en lardons.
Rajoutez les choux et un bon verre de vin blanc. Jetez quelques grains de genièvre, de coriandre et de cumin. Placez un oignon garni de 3 clous de girofle et râpez un peu de muscade.
Remuez le tout et laisser braiser doucement sur le côté de la cuisinière.

Gâteau aux châtaignes de ma Grand-Mère
(À préparer 48 heures à l’avance)

1 kilo de marrons épluchés et blanchis (sans sucre)
250 g de sucre glace
100 g de sucre cristal
150 g de beurre
350 g de chocolat noir du Venezuela

Faites fondre le chocolat au bain marie avec un peu d’eau, ajoutez le beurre et les sucres. Incorporez le tout aux châtaignes préalablement passés à la moulinette (grille de taille moyenne).
Ajoutez une tombée de vieux rhum de la Martinique, d’Armagnac ou de bon Cognac (optionnel).
Placez la pâte dans des moules.
Laissez au réfrigérateur pour 48 heures avant de servir.
Démoulez les gâteaux et servez-les avec une crème anglaise.