I love how serendipitous life can be. Sometimes the most rewarding experiences come in the unlikeliest of places. For example, my husband and I planned an entire weekend trip to a different country all because of a conversation on twitter. There, I met a certain M. Jean-Charles Fagot, vintner and restauranteur in the heart of Bourgogne, France, who invited us to come try his wine and food. We’d been wanting to take some short holidays in France as it was, and so quickly agreed and made reservations. Ha and yes, we are the types who think nothing of planning an entire trip centered around one meal.
After the hustle and bustle of our current lives en Suisse, the entire trip was a welcome reprieve, with a theme of leisure and relaxation. From the fresh Springtime flowers, to the gorgeous textured old buildings, to the sweet and succulent tastes of everything from delicate macaron cakes (did you know you can make a layered cake from giant macaron cookies? omg amazing) to succulent and rich l’escarboeuf, the entire weekend was about stopping to admire and fill the senses. Dinner at Jean-Charle’s restaurant was no exception. On the taxi ride to Corpeau we got a great tour of some of the history and wines of the area, and entering the restaurant, we were immediately greeted by Jean-Charles, whose charisma can fill a room with excitement and energy. Down into le cave we went to taste some wines – I really wish I knew more about how to taste wine – I knew which I liked best, and we talked a bit about the differences between American and European tastes – what I tasted as lusciously smooth he remarked most local people would think was rather spicy. I think this means I just need to taste more wine from the area and broaden my current wine palate. He also explained to us how the Côte d’Or gets its name, from the blazing golden hue all the hills become in the Fall when the leaves on the vines change color. I shall have to go back I think, just to see this
After wine tasting, English-speaking time was over. “Maintenant, il faut apprendre le français (You must learn French now)” So we had dinner in our best French (which certainly isn’t that great) – but what I loved is everyone let us try. There’s really no other way we are going to learn how to speak if we don’t get the opportunity to practice. At home en Suisse, the only time I use French it seems is when when we are in a hurry buying something amongst the throngs of people trying to get their shopping done before all the stores close, so if someone switches to English after hearing me I don’t mind because it will get things done faster and I can get home sooner. A holiday is the perfect excuse to slow down and really work on our language skills, which I have to say improved more in one weekend than any class I have taken so far.
The atmosphere was causal and inviting – one chef was over the grill on the fireplace in the middle of the eating area preparing some meats, the aromas permeating the room and enticing the nose with previews of flavors yet to come. As for the food? It was my first time having snails since I was like 2. I don’t remember that time, but my mother says I loved them, and I’m sure I did. One just doesn’t get that many opportunities in one’s life to try snails, at least I haven’t, and so I ordered l’escarboeuf. We both probably ate too much, but it was too good to leave on the plate, even after 4 courses. And my husband, even gluten free, had a fantastic meal – of course we also ordered a bottle of wine In fact, we purchased our entire customs limit of wine to take back with us on the train as well.
So in the spirit of our great Easter holiday, I wanted to cook something Burgundian, that we could drink a bottle of Jean-Charles’ wine with. I knew there was no way to recreate the fabulous l’escarbeouf I had without some famous Burgundian snails, but wanted to make something similar – my mind immediately went to Julia Child’s boeuf bourguignon, which is now most assuredly famous after Julie & Julia has been out. Having never had her recipe before, I have no idea if her recipe is authentic or Americanized. I decided to make a version with duck, because duck was on sale at the grocery store, and when duck is on sale there is no decision making necessary. Because of that, I didn’t have to cook the stew nearly as long which made things easier as well. Then I reduced the sauce from the stew into a gravy – a thick, powerful gravy that melted in your mouth with every bite, no matter what you ate it with. The dish went perfectly with the wine.
Adapted from Julia Child’s Mastering the Art of French Cooking
Two duck fillets (about 1 lb. total)
1/2 cup flour of your choice
2 tbs. olive oil
2 onions, sliced
3 carrots, quartered
2 cloves garlic, sliced
salt & pepper
1 bottle pinot noir (not an expensive one)
2 cups of fingerling potatoes, quartered
2 cups broth
1 bay leaf
2 tbs. butter
2 tbs. olive oil
1 cup pearl onions
2 cups brown button mushrooms
1 tbs. cornstarch
1. Trim the layer of fat off of the duck fillets and melt the fat in a medium to large pot. Meanwhile, lightly flour the meat. When the fat is melted and hot, quickly sear the outside of the fillets and then set aside. Preheat oven to 325F.
2. In the same pot, sauté the sliced onions, carrots, and garlic, add a little salt & pepper, and cook until softened. Then deglaze with the wine and go ahead and add the entire bottle in, along with potatoes, 1.5 cups broth, thyme, tarragon, and bay leaf. Place the duck fillets on top and make sure they are just submerged in the liquid. Roast in the oven covered about 90 min, or until the meat is tender and falls off the fork.
3. To peel the pearl onions, blanche them quickly and then submerge in cold water. This will make the outer skins easy to remove. Heat up 2 tbs. butter and olive oil in a pan, and then saute the onions, rolling them around in the pan every few minutes. Once browned, add about 1/2 cup of broth and cover and simmer until tender, about 45 min.
4. Remove the onions from the pan, and add in the mushrooms. Sauté until the mushrooms are browned (maybe 10-15 min).
5. When the meat is done, strain all the ingredients and return the liquid to the pot. Heat on the stove and bring back to a boil, and then let reduce down to 1/4 volume. Add 1/4 cup into a small bowl and whisk with cornstarch, then return it to the pot and stir throughout until thickened.
6. Plate veggies, onions and mushrooms, and duck fillet over some crème fraiche mashed potatoes, and top with sauce and some fresh tarragon to garnish. Enjoy!
Disclosure – I was neither paid nor compensated for writing this post, all opinions are my own, and I’m writing about my experience because it really was fabulously awesome.