When I asked our nephew for help selecting wine for a Bastille Day cheese tasting, he went above and beyond to outfit us for an amazing experience. Andrew works for wholesale wine distributor H2Vino in Chicago and his friend, Cesar, is the fromager at Pastoral Artisan Cheese, Bread & Wine, also in Chicago. Together, they arranged for us to get a very special package on Wednesday, the day before Bastille Day — two special French wines expertly paired with four cheeses.
Here’s what we received with links for ordering from Pastoral, when available there:
- 2009 Groffier Passetoutgrain Burgundy
- Domaine Sauvete ‘Oneiros’ Sauvignon Blanc
- Bossa, Green Dirt Farm, a sheep’s milk cheese from Missouri
- Pata Cabra, a goat cheese from Spain
- Bella Sabine, spreadable goat cheese from Nebraska
- Comte St. Antoine from France
The white wine, in the photo, is Domaine Sauvete ‘Oneiros’ a 100% Sauvignon Blanc from the village of Touraine in the Loire Valley, the birthplace of Sauvignon Blanc. Andrew described it as bright acidity but really rich body. We found it fruity and summery and a nice complement to our cheeses.
We served the Sauvignon Blanc with a cheese plate of the four cheeses. It was delightful. We liked all of the cheese, but our favorite cheese in this format was the Pata Cabra, a cheese with an unexpected creaminess.
The CD is Erik Satie — Andrew and his girlfriend Abby, both musicians, also came up with music recommendations for our Bastille Day celebration. I liked Gymnopédies No.1, which I remember hearing in the French pavilion at Epcot. Rick liked the ragtime piece, Le Picadilly. Besides the Satie, I also bought, on Andrew and Abby’s recommendation, a CD of Darius Milhaud and one of Francis Poulenc. I spent much of Bastille Day listening to this French music while working on my Camp NaNoWriMo project and found it all excellent and inspiring.
While tasting our cheeses we thought about other ways we might use them. I’m looking forward to trying the Pata Cabra in our tuna panini and the Belle Sabine in our grilled veggie panini. The Comte was good on our veggie pasta last night.
The red wine was Domaine Groffier Passetoutgrains 2009. Passetoutgrains is how they say “use all the grapes” in Burgundy and most are made with 2/3 Gamay and 1/3 Pinot Noir for a cheaper wine. Groffier set out to make the best Passetoutgrains, using 90% Pinot Noir from the prestigious village Morey St. Denis. Andrew says that 2009 was one of the best burgundy vintages in the last 30 years.
We saved the red wine for a main dish, ratatouille, but when I was drafting this post last night, I realized that this red wine and one of our cheeses is the pairing of the week at Pastoral Artisan: Pairing of the Week: Bossa and Groffier Passetoutgrain. Fortunately we still had a couple glasses of the wine so we set that up and it was lovely. The perfect balance of sharp and smooth, nuttiness and earthiness. And, of course, I’m proud that this wonderful cheese is from Missouri.
Back to Bastille Day, for our main dish, I made ratatouille from Julia Child’s cookbook, The Way to Cook, a cookbook I’ve owned for twenty years. We’ve made ratatouille in the past but I used the stew-like recipe from Jane Brody’s Good Food Book (a cookbook I loved to death, literally — it’s in two pieces and I have to be careful not to lose any pages when I pull it out). So, I wanted to try this more casserole-like version. It turned out great with wonderful textures and flavors, including an herbed aroma that went well with the Passetoutgrain burgundy wine.
I followed the recipe pretty closely. I know, unusual for me, but this is Julia Child. I cut it in half because the original recipe was for 6 to 8 and there are only 2 of us.
For herbs, she called for “Thyme, oregano, or a bottled herb blend.” I used thyme and rosemary from my garden. Rick doesn’t like green bell peppers, so I substituted these sweet Italian peppers, also from my garden.
My biggest change was to add sweet corn. A bit odd, I suppose, and definitely an American twist. But there was sweet corn in my CSA box. When you have sweet corn, you eat it as quickly as possible, so in to the ratatouille it went. We cut it off the cob and sauteed it — very tasty, still sweet with a distinct popcorn vibe going on.
I didn’t peel the tomatoes, but I did seed them. I had a bad experience seeding tomatoes years ago (probably for a Julia Child recipe). When I got done seeding, there was no tomato left. But that was a supermarket tomato. My tomatoes from the Farmers Market had plenty of flesh, so seeding worked fine. To seed a tomato, just slice it cross-wise and use a teaspoon to scoop the seeds out of the cavities. This makes the tomato less juicy and more suitable for a casserole dish.
For 2 main dish servings, 3 to 4 side dish servings
1/2 pound eggplant
1/2 pound zucchini
2 ears of corn
Fresh thyme and rosemary, chopped, to taste
Olive oil, as needed
1/2 pound onion, sliced
2 sweet peppers, sliced
3 cloves of garlic, pressed
3 tomatoes, seeded and chopped
Preliminaries. Remove green caps but do not peel the eggplant; cut it into crosswise slices, 3/8 inch thick. Scrub the zucchini, shave off the stem and bud ends, but do not peel; cut lengthwise into 2-inch slices 3/8 inch thick, spread slices on paper towels. Cut the corn off the cobs.
Baking the eggplant. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Arrange eggplant in jelly-roll pans, paint lightly with oil, and sprinkle with some of the herbs. Cover with aluminum foil and bake 15 to 20 minutes, until just tender, but do not overcook; the slices must hold their shape.
The rest of the vegetables. Film the frying pan with 1/16 inch of olive oil. Saute the corn kernels until tender and just beginning to brown, remove to bowl. Add more oil if needed and brown the zucchini on both sides. Remove to paper towel covered plate. Add more oil if needed, saute the onions until tender but not browned. Stir in the peppers and garlic; fold and toss over moderately high heat for several minutes until fairly tender. Set aside 1/2 cup of the tomatoes. Fold the rest into the onions and peppers; toss, adding salt and herbs to taste, until the tomatoes have rendered their juice; continue for several minutes until the juices have boiled off.
Finishing the ratatouille–about 30 minutes. Set aside 4 of the best-looking slices of eggplant for final decoration. Arrange the rest of the vegetables in several layers in a casserole or small pot, starting with the onion-pepper-tomato mixture and adding layers of the corn, zucchini, and eggplant. Continue layering, ending with the onion-pepper-tomato mixture. Arrange the reserved tomato and eggplant decoratively over the top. Cover and bring to the simmer over moderate heat, either on top of the stove or in a 325 degree oven. When bubbling gently, uncover, tip the casserole, and baste with the juices rendered; repeat several times until the juices have almost evaporated.
Serving. Serve hot, warm or cold.
To finish our Bastille Day celebration of France, we watched a French movie, 8 Femme (8 Women), a funny parody of country house murder mysteries and musicals from 2002.
When I realized that our Bastille Day celebration was going to receive so much expert attention, I knew I wanted to be reading a special book this week. That book was My Life in France by Julia Child and it’s been a pleasure. I’m still 20 pages from finishing and this post is long already, so I will post a Weekend Cooking Part 2 tomorrow with a review of that book.
Be sure to check out this weekend’s other cooking posts at Beth Fish Reads, Weekend Cooking: Try This by Danyelle Freeman.