Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Dining in Burgundy. Cuisine Bourguignonne and the Dishes … à la Bourguignonne.

Dining in Burgundy
Behind the French Menu.
Bryan G. Newman
Burgundy Truffles
Bourguignonne or à la Bourguignonne.
Dishes in the style or the manner of Burgundy.
Cuisine Bourguignonne is extremely varied. À la Bourguignonne does not point to a specific type of cooking or a particular ingredient. Rather it indicates recipes created for local fish, meat, poultry, cheeses, vegetables, fruits and wines; the use of local products is the key.
When wine or cheese are part of a dish  “à la Bourguignonne,” then only wine and cheese considered will be a Vin de Bourgogne, a wine from Burgundy or a Fromage Bourguignonne, a cheese from Burgundy.  For France’s best and widest choice of wines, apart from Bordeaux, no wine growing area of France can compete with Burgundy and Burgundy is not in second place.    Also apart from its four AOC/AOP cheeses, Le Chaource, AOP,  L’Époisses, AOP,  Le Mâconnais, AOC, and  Le Charolais, AOC there are another thirty plus well-recommended cheeses that are unique to Burgundy.
The Burgundy truffle.
Burgundian is also famous for its truffle, the Truffe de Bourgogne; the Burgundy Truffle also called the Truffe Grise de Bourgogne, the Grey truffle of Burgundy, or the Burgundy Winter truffle. While this truffle is found in many other areas of Northern France for the Burgundians, it is their truffle, and they claim that none can compete with it for taste and aroma; the land makes it different. N.B. When you are in Burgundy, do not compare this truffle unfavorably with its more expensive Périgord cousin,  the competition, you will begin an argument that will never end!  
Burgundy Winter Truffles are harvested from September to the beginning of January. The truffle is dark with a rough skin with is black to gray or dark brown and inside they are a veined and coffee-colored. It is tough for anyone to describe the taste of the Burgundy truffle or other truffles for that matter.  I have enjoyed the Burgundy truffle when it has been shaved on top of the food that I had just been served.  The truffle immediately affects the food on which it rests, and you can clearly note a different smell, described by some as musky and others as nutty. I could accept both descriptions or refuse them as not being exact enough; however, like the word musky, it sounds earthy, so I will go with musky.   Its effect on the senses is a slightly earthy smell and lightly garlicky in taste, but that is not the point. Eaten together with the truffle interacts with the dish you have ordered, and you will notice a huge difference in the taste of the food. The truffle brings out an incredible fuller flavor on the dishes that I tried with them. Then, on other occasions, I have also been very disappointed when a dish has been brought out with a few specs of truffle in a sauce where no truffle could be tasted. Burgundy truffle should not be cooked, that is one way to destroy the flavor, and in any case, a few specs are not enough to create any noticeable flavor changes. If the menu offers a surcharge for truffle and you think it is worth it, go for it.  If the server adds too little truffle, then point that out and ask for more; you need quite a few scrapings for the truffle to work its magic. Do not order a dish with the truffle added in the kitchen, let you see them add it.
Kir, Kir Royale and Crémant de Bourgogne
The most famous aperitifs of Burgundy are, of course, the Kir and the Kir Royale.  Kir will rarely be missing from any list of apéritifs anywhere in France and never in Burgundy. Whether Kir is in or out of the aperitif popularity stakes it is still a drink to enjoy, and it is best in Burgundy where it all began.   Kir is Crème de Cassis, which is a 16% alcohol sweet blackcurrant cordial, over which a dry white wine will be gently poured. (You may also buy a 20% Crème de Cassis, but that will not be used in a restaurant Kir). The Kir Royale will use Champagne instead of white wine or the sparkling white Crémant de Bourgogne AOC.  The Crémant de Bourgogne is an excellent sparkling wine and if you do not want a Kir but would prefer a Champagne-type sparkling wine as an aperitif then keep in mind a Crémant de Bourgogne. Burgundy’s Cremant is much less expensive, and you will not be displeased.  For Crémants and all sparkling wines including Champagne, the sweetness scale is very different to that of French still wines.  Before ordering a sparkling wine look at the labeling designation for the sweetness or dryness of sparkling wine in the final paragraphs of my posts on Crémants and Champagnes.  With all sparkling wines check when deciding on the sweetness of the wine that you choose; for an aperitif, I would recommend the Brut, which while it translates as “dry” is closer to medium dry.

Kir Royale
Dishes à la Bourguignonne on French menus:
Brouillade d'Œufs aux Truffes de Bourgogne -  The Provencal version of scrambled eggs made with Burgundy’s truffles. With truffles, this dish is an entrée, the first course for lunch or dinner.  Without the truffles, it may also be on a breakfast menu.  For a brouillade, the eggs whites are whipped first, and only then are the yolks are added and scrambled; the result is very light scrambled eggs. To this dish, when the eggs are ready to be served, shavings of the Burgundy truffle are added. Hopefully, the chef who prepares your brouillade will have truffle scraped by the waiter. It would be a great pity. If you cannot taste the truffle, remember, you may always ask for more
Les St Jacques Contisées a la Truffe de Bourgogne – Scallop meat sliced open and stuffed with shavings of the Burgundy truffle. N.B. The word contisées is the word that indicates the markings made when the scallop is sliced).
The Burgundy Winter Truffle in the languages of France's neighbors:
 (Dutch -  zomertruffel), German - trüffel der Bourgogn), (Italian – chatin or  tartufo uncinato), (Spanish - trufa de Borgoña), (Latin -tuber uncinatum).

Beef  Burgundy
Bœuf à la Bourguignonne or Bœuf Bourguignon - This is the dish from Burgundy that everyone knows, or at least has heard of. Bœuf à la Bourguignonne is a beef stew braised in a red Burgundy wine. It is so much part of French cuisine that it will, in the winter, be on menus in many parts of France.
Bœuf Bourguignon
For Bœuf à la Bourguignonne the meat is marinated for 24 hours in a good dry red Burgundy wine, and that the locals claim, is the secret. No other wine will do. After marinating, the beef will cook slowly with added wine and veal stock and vegetables: mostly onions, mushrooms, and carrots that will be added later.  Bacon, in the form of lardons, bacon pieces, may sometimes be added for flavoring; the dish will, traditionally, be served with boiled potatoes.
Crème Brûlée au Pain d'Épices de Dijon -  Crème Brulee made with the gingerbread of Dijon. The City of Dijon is the regional Capital of all of Burgundy and world famous for its mustard; but, within France, it is equally famous for its gingerbread. For the title of the best gingerbread in France, Dijon competes with the city of Reims, the center of the Champagne industry in Champagne. Champagne was part of the region called Champagne-Ardennes; that changed on 1 July 2016, and now the regions of Alsace, Lorraine, and the Champagne-Ardennes are joined together, and now they are all part of a super region called the Grande Est. (The meaning of the Grande Est is the “Great East.”  A reference to the region’s importance and position in the North-East of France).
A shop selling gingerbread.
Escargots à la Bourguignonne  –  Snails in the manner of Burgundy; this is France’s most popular snail dish.  The snails are cooked outside of their shells with herbs, parsley, cream and beurre d’escargots, snail butter. Snail Butter is butter, garlic, shallots and parsley with an occasional additional herb added by the chef. The snails, to make the dish attractive, are nearly always returned to their shells before they are served; and then lightly baked in the oven. When ready the dish will be served with the sauce from the Snail Butter.  Snail Butter, by the way, is used in many other dishes and does not, and never did, contain any snails

Escargots à la Bourguignonne
Fondue Bourguignonne –The original beef fondue; claimed as its own by Burgundy. Cubes of raw filet of beef, beef tenderloin, are prepared separately for each diner.  Each diner will have been given his or her own fourchette à fondue, a distinctive, long, fondue fork that keeps the diner’s hand away from the hot oil in which the cubes of beef will be dipped.  Each diner dips, and cooks, their cubes of beef in a communal pot of bubbling oil.  When cooked to the diner’s satisfaction he or she may dip the fried cube of filet into a variety of sauces before eating. N.B. These fondue forks become extremely hot at the tip, and they have burned many a tongue, I speak with experience so please transfer the meat to your plate, and then to an ordinary fork before dipping into one of the sauces and eating.

Fondue Bourguignonne
Magret de Canard à la Crème de Cassis de Bourgogne - Duck breast prepared with Burgundy’s 16 % alcoholic cream of blackcurrant liqueur.   Black currants and Crème de Cassis are not unique to Burgundy, but the first large-scale French cultivation of the blackberry and production of the Crème de Cassis liqueur began there. 
Magret de Canard à la Crème de Cassis de Bourgogne.
Poulet de Bresse Sauce Crémée au Chablis, Morilles et Girolles – France’s most highly rated chicken, served with a creamy Chablis white wine sauce along with wild Morel and Girolle/Chanterelle mushrooms. The Poulet de Bresse and the Bress Turkey are the only poultry that holds an AOC/AOP for their unique quality.

Bresse is a former French Province that stretches across the Rhone-Alps, Franche-Comte, and Burgundy, and defined parts of these regions are home to the acclaimed poultry of Bresse.  During the French revolution, they broke up the old Provinces and created new regions, each including a number of departments; with different names.  Nevertheless, that has had no effect on the names of France’s most famous foods or wines, and over 200 years later, linkage to a particular ancient Province remains.
Rognons de Veau Dijonnaise – Veal Kidneys prepared in a Dijon Mustard sauce.  The City of Dijon is the regional Capital of all of Burgundy. Dijon is also famous for its mustard and dishes that are made with mustard; however, most of the mustard marked “Dijon,” today comes from outside the city. Despite that, worry not, wherever you go in Dijon every restaurant will have dishes that contain mustard. N.B. Gray Poupon will not usually be available as it is not made in France.
Coq Au Vin De Bourgogne  - Coq au vin is one of the most famous dishes of Burgundy. Properly made (click here) with a great Burgundy red wine it is a fabulous stew.

Coq Au Vin De Bourgogne
Œufs en Meurette – One of Burgundy’s most famous dishes and an entrée for lunch or dinner, not a breakfast dish. Poached eggs are served covered with a thickened Burgundy red wine sauce that is the sauce meurette.  Sauce meurette will also be seen accompanying many other dishes.

Burgundy’s wines.
This is not a blog on wines, but Burgundy’s cuisine cannot be severed from its excellent wines, and so you should choose one to accompany your lunch or dinner. The local wines include over 100 different AOCs.  With famous wines such as  Romanée-Conti, (the most expensive wine in the world) along with other less expensive wines. Consider, wines such as  Gevrey-Chambertin; Aloxe-Corton; Corton Pommard; Côte de Nuits; Nuits-St-Georges; Montrachet; Meursault; Chablis; Pouilly-Fuissé; Côte de Beaune and so many more. Have the sommelier choose a not too young, but a superior, and relatively inexpensive wine.

After your coffee, consider, for your digestif, their Marc de Bourgogne. French marcs are similar to Italian grappas.
The Tastevin, the silver cup on a chain worn by many of the
Sommeliers- wine waiters was designed in Burgundy.

The tastevin, the shallow silver cup that some sommeliers, wine-waiters, wear around their necks is more than just a badge of office. This cup was originally designed in Burgundy for tasting wines in wine cellars lit by candles. The bright, silver cup reflected the light and allowed the sommelier to judge the color and clarity of the wines. I will write more about the tastevin and Confrérie des Chevaliers du Tastevin, the brotherhood, and sisterhood of the sommeliers, in a separate post. I had seen a tastevin used once; then the sommelier had to check a second bottle of an eight-year-old wine that should have tasted exactly the same as that had already been served. It was almost a religious experience!

A meeting of the Confrérie des Chevaliers du Tastevin

The region of Burgundy becomes the combined super region
of Burgundy-France-Comte.
The region of Burgundy is being combined with the region of France Comte.
It is an attempt to reduce the amount pf bureaucracy and the costs of running the country. At the end of the process mainland France will only have 13 regions to administer and not 22.

Since the 1 July 2016, the region of Burgundy has joined with the region of Franche-Comte to become the enlarged region of Bourgogne - Franche-Comte and Bourgogne - Franche-Comte is the new name. The change will have no effect on Burgundy’s cuisine or its wines and cheeses. It will mean, hopefully, lower taxes for the citizens. The regional capital of Burgundy was the city of Dijon; Dijon has now become the regional capital of the new super region. The traveler to Burgundy and or Franche-Comte will only experience the changes on the maps and possibly some street signs.                        
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Bryan G. Newman
Behind the French Menu
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