In our first cooking class of this series we cooked up the Loire Valley. In this class we moved on to the food and wine of Champagne with appetizers of Belgian endives in a Béchamel sauce and savoury eclairs with smoked salmon, and of course Champagne, the real thing!
We started with two appetizers:
Braised Belgian Endives Rolled in Ham with Béchamel Sauce
I’m not overly fond of the bitterness of the endive, but these were cored to remove the bitter core, and the Béchamel sauce and ham turned them into something that I would definitely serve at a dinner party.
This dish was paired with a Saumur Cab Franc, dark purple with a raspberry lip, bone dry and tannic.
I don’t have too many notes on this wine as I was frantically running around trying to finish dish number two (actually supposed to be dish number one so you can see how far behind we were):
Madame de Pompadour Éclair (smoked salmon with mustard dill éclair)
Chef Eric named this recipe after Madame de Pompadour as these savoury éclairs go as well with champagne as Madame herself. This was a very complex recipe, based on a very old recipe, back when there were a lot of servants racing around the kitchen preparing delicacies for Kings and Queens.
After all that beating the choux paste was transferred to a piping bag, and strips of paste piped onto a flat baking pan.
Leftover egg mix was used to smooth out the paste and poppy seeds were sprinkled on top. A second baking pan was put underneath the first in order to keep the pastries from burning on the bottom.
Next we made the filling of dill/mustard cream cheese Chantilly which is where I ran into problems. I’ve never used a piping bag before, and Chef Eric wasn’t standing over me when I attempted to fill the bag with the cream cheese mixture. BIG mistake.
This is not a job for one person. Especially one who starts out by forgetting to roll the bag half-way down before attempting to fill it. Result, cream cheese everywhere but in the piping bag. Including all over my camera. So there aren’t any photos of this fiasco.
Fortunately the other bag person did it properly and by the time I got my piping bag set up most of the éclairs were already filled. The cheese was followed by a layer of smoked salmon and there was also supposed to be shallots and romaine leaves involved but we didn’t finish by the time the champagne was ready to serve.
Somewhere in the middle of all this frantic cooking action we also made some ‘hot-cold’ Chaud-Froid with tomato sauce, gelatin and fish velouté for glazing the éclairs.
Now I finally got to sit down and eat. Exquisite! And the champagne served with this dish was truly delicious, a 2003 Chardonnay Brut, with honey and gingerbread, pear and toast. $80, but well worth it if I had that kind of money hanging around.
Because of our frantic attempts to get our dish to the table I missed the introduction to Champagne and how to read a champagne label. I just caught Chef Eric saying that we should make a note that the bottle was 750 ml, not one of those “small champagne bottles that one takes along for fishing or hiking…” Ah, to be French!
Class 1 of this series focussed on the Food & Wine of the Loire Valley.
Class 1 Part 1: featuring Frog’s Leg Soup, followed by two excellent appetizers: one of scallops served in the shell and the other of pork belly nibbles with mustard sauce.
Class 1 Part 2: a main course of light salad with hazelnut-crusted goat cheese plus the dessert of cookies with homemade Cointreau ice cream.
Chef Eric posts many of his recipes on his website: http://www.911cheferic.com/