Just over a week ago we held a French wine tasting evening which were served with delicious French food. We wanted to offer a range of dishes in the style of a tasting menu that wouldn’t be out of place in a French restaurant. All of the wines for this particular event are available to purchase at Tanners in Bridgnorth or Shrewsbury and some of them are stocked in our restaurant.
As our guests arrived, they were greeted with a bowl of palmiers; folded puff pastry that we added sundried tomatoes to for flavour. A palmier can also be made sweet, instead of tomatoes, simply dust the puff pastry with sugar before baking. They are delicious served with coffee. The starter was salmon rillettes which is a fish pate, made with a combination of salmon fillet and finely chopped shallots poached in butter, with smoked salmon and dill added before chilling. The butter sets the pate, which we served on a crostini made from French baguette drizzled with olive oil. The Rillettes were accompanied by the first wine of the evening Chateaux Rives-Blanques Blanquette de Limoux.
French onion soup originates from 18th century Paris and started life as a beef broth with caramelised onions on top. While the recipe has evolved, it is still a beef based stock with caramelised onions, traditionally served with a large cheese topped crouton. The flavour in the soup comes from slow cooking the onions with sugar to caramelise them with wine added to the stock to finish. We certainly used our fair amount of French baguette that night, with the crouton being a chunk of baguette toasted with Comte cheese. We served the soup with La Petite Vigne Viogner.
Savereux (translates literally as tasty!)
Tarte Tatin is usually known as a dessert or sweet dish, commonly made with apples, however, as you will find out later on, we already had a dessert in mind. Still, we were intrigued to try a tarte tatin so decided that tomatoes would made a tasty savoury alternative. Fresh de-seeded salad and cherry tomatoes were cooked on the stove in a pan before adding balsamic vinegar, sugar and oregano to caramelise them. Once softened, puff pastry was laid on top of the tomatoes to cover the entire pan before baking it in the oven. To serve, the tart is turned the ‘right’ way round and sliced. The finished dish was truly delicious, served with Domaine des Lauriers, Picpoul de Pinet.
Entrée (main course) – we could have also titled this course Salade
When putting together ideas for the main dish, we settled on duck confit as this is a popular French delicacy. We looked for ideas of how to serve our duck confit and came across a recipe for Landaise salad. A speciality of the Landes region of France between Bordeaux and Bayonne and described as ‘a way for you to eat salad while drinking Bordeaux reds!’ There are variations and suggestions for the ingredients that go into the salad but essentially the components are fat (many French recipes would use fois gras but avocado was suggested as a suitable alternative), crunch from a baguette crouton (we made ours by chopping a baguette into small pieces, drizzling with oil, salt and garlic powder and baking), and acidity brought from a vinaigrette dressing. The base of a Landaise is usually Romaine lettuce. To confit the duck breasts, marinate them for 24 hours in a combination of cumin seeds, coriander seeds, juniper berries, sea salt, fresh thyme, rosemary and garlic rubbed into the skin. When ready to cook, heat your oven to 150/130 fan and place the duck in a casserole dish, covered with duck fat (you could also use goose fat). Add peppercorns and bay leaf and cook for 2.5 hours or until the meat is soft. To finish, slice the duck and pan fry until crisp. As a Bordeaux red is the perfect accompaniment to a Landaise salad, we served Chateau Argadens Bordeaux Superieur.
If you’ve ever been to France and eaten cheese in a restaurant, you will know that the French never serve biscuits with their cheese. The only accompaniment is crusty baguette or bread. It’s also a tradition in France that the cheese course is served before dessert (if both are being served). For our cheeseboard we chose brie which is a soft cow’s milk cheese named after the French region it originates from. Our second cheese was Roquefort, a sheep’s milk cheese from the south of France and among the world’s best known blue cheeses. Finally, our third cheese was Comte which is a hard cheese similar to a mild (and less crumbly than) parmesan. We served Domaine de la Cendrillon Classique Corbiers.
On a holiday to France with friends in 2006 we accidentally discovered Ile Flottante. Our destination was the Ile de Re and after dinner one evening, Simon advised our friend that he thought what she was ordering was a floater coffee…it turned out to be a sweet poached meringue floating on a pool of crème anglaise! So when planning our menu, there really was only one dessert we wanted to serve.
French meringue is spooned into simmering milk to poach for a few minutes before placing in the centre of the crème anglaise and drizzling with toffee sauce. Of course, the perfect wine is a dessert wine and what better than Le Fage Monbazzilac.
Our next tasting evening is Mexican and takes place on Friday 20th September. To book you can visit our events page or call us at the restaurant on 01902 894400