Tuesday, April 01, 2014

Touchstone: Bourgogne

Looking for Burgundy in Lyon is a fruitful exercise. When you narrow down the dishes that do Burgundy justice, they appear in one form of another over and over again, year after year on café menus here. How can they not, when we have the abundance of Burgundy tumbling onto the market stalls all year? When we seek inspiration in the seasons and the market, it is inevitable that we're going to choose the best from all of the distinct regions that Lyon is privy to by association. So many of the dishes served here are not only local, but distilled into a collection of the best coming from each point of the compass surrounding this great city.

Escargots de Bourgogne are at home on the Lyonnais table. Platters are slid onto tables, dishcloth covered hands pulling back, leaving the dish sizzling on checkered woven cotton and white linen tablecloths alike, ready to be devoured with their fresh spring garlic and chopped herb seasoned garlicky butter. We dutifully sop it all up with a rich spongy pinch of poolish-fed baguette. I fell across the perfect beurre d'escargot butter quite by accident when browsing through a collection of local recipes, then another. Several cook's notebooks referred to one source. Paul Bocuse, of course. I questioned the use of almond flour, wondering what on earth that might contribute. But it serves a little bit like a megaphone for the flavors of the earth, carrying them, pronouncing them to well harmonize and mingle with the aromatic seasoned butter. With a sip of a local white sparkling Burgundy wine, the moment becomes a touchstone of sorts, one that crystalizes an important idea. It shines brighter and comes easier in retrospect. We savor it, and each other, and the sun streams into the kitchen. We are in Lyon.

While we're chopping up bunches of fresh herbs and mincing the season's fresh spring garlic shoots, grating the nutmeg and such, I always like to slice a naked escargot into pieces, to be tasted alone before we stuff the rest into the shells with the prepared butter and pop them under the broiler. There is a silence that falls across the kitchen when I pass out the escargot forks. I explain that it's very important to taste now, that any well prepared escargot de Bourgogne is going to taste fresh and earthy, that it's going to give us something very special: In fact, when we put them into our mouths, we are reminded of just what it tastes like, the terroir of this rich and varied land.

Recipe: Escargots de Bourgogne

You can always find locally processed escargots in Lyon. Escargots de Bourgogne are considered to be a special occasion dish that are commonly served during the winter holidays in many regions of France, but in Lyon, they are available and readily consumed year-round. It is about as rare to find any restaurant that processes their own live escargots as a place that makes their own cheese or cured meats. It's not unheard of, but just not common since the experts local to Lyon like Maison Malatre, have got it down to a science. The escargots are first isolated from food source for several days to empty their digestive tracts, then they are boiled in their shells, removed from the shells, further processed by hand to remove inedible parts, then slow simmered again in an aromatic and herbal broth before being preserved for distribution. It is rare these days to find average home cooks going through this process, although some families have their traditions.

3 dozen medium simmered escargots
3 dozen clean dry escargot shells
200 grams butter
4 grams fleur de sel, or 3/4 tsp
1/4 tsp ground pepper
1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
10 g fresh garlic, minced
8 g shallot, minced
10 g fresh almond flour
20 g parsley, finely minced

Stuff one escargot, tail first, into each shell. Combine the butter, salt, pepper, nutmeg, almond flour, shallots, garlic and parsley and work them together until thoroughly combined, but without crushing the minced herbs so much that the butter turns green. With a butter knife, gently fill each shell to the brim with the seasoned butter. Place in trays or balanced on piles of sea salt, with the opening facing up to ensure that the butter doesn't flow out when it melts. Put the trays of snails under the grill or broiler and cook until the butter is sizzling and the snails are hot. Serve immediately with a splash of cold sparkling Burgundy white wine or Champagne.


Blogger RachelD said...

It's always a delightful surprise to have you drop in, especially today, when I dashed over to see the new post. This one STILL has not popped to the top of my register.

Chris ADORES the sight, scent, and taste of escargots prepared in this manner (is there another?) and I should check to see if one of the new Fresh Markets might have some other than the canned variety. (And I certainly do not need an excuse to make up all that exquisite garlic/herb butter, though I don't think I could eat a snail. It's not an EWWWW factor, at all, but that I just have an affinity for the beautiful creatures. I just called up the stairs to ask Caro if she remembered the name of the pair which graced the linoleum floor of our country kitchen these thirty years ago. We named them as a couple, as we did the pair of ducks which became our adopted pets here at our first apartment---Maurice and Velveeta). They'd just meander through now and then, or we'd see the shining effect of their progress across the floor.

I've seen the "kits" in various stores, with the shells rattly-dry in attached cellophane, but that feels like buying canned oysters (he likes the smoked ones of those, as well). Like the puzzled looks at your mention of Bombe Marquise, I think that would probably be the response here in Indiana if I asked for non-canned escargots.

We'll put this one on the "perhaps" list for the snails, but the butter---that will be soon, perhaps with some nicely-seared scallops.

Always lovely to have you visit.
Is Lyon even lovelier than Paris in April?


PS And I've just learned a new word---POOLISH. Jane of Little Compton Mornings made a loaf of the bread recently, and now I've heard it again.

8:25 PM, April 07, 2014  
Blogger RachelD said...

Just wanted to thank you, Dear Lucy, for dropping in at Lawn Tea. I have a happy heart-leap when I see LYON has appeared on the sidebar.

I did comment on this post yesterday, I believe, but it has not appeared yet. As that has happened a couple of times in the past, I hope it's not my machine's communication with yours.

Hope you're all warm and well---I know you're busy, and SO envy your students the blessing of your lessons and expertise. My best thoughts to you all,


11:55 PM, April 09, 2014  
Blogger RachelD said...

Dear, Dear Lucy,

I've missed your charming, witty, wonderful posts, and hope all is well and warm and prosperous with you.

Do be well, and know you're missed.


8:23 PM, April 07, 2015  

Post a Comment

<< Home