Friday, September 16, 2011

Frog Legs a la Poulette with Truffle Parsnips and Honey Dew Melon Gazpacho Paired Five French Wines (yes, five!)

Frog Legs a la Poulette Honey Dew Melon Gazpacho Truffle Parsnips

During a recent visit to my all time favorite butcher, Nick’s of Calvert in Prince Frederick Maryland, Chef Sue drew my attention to a before unnoticed section of the store featuring some off-the-beaten-path delicacies.  I am constantly in search of opportunities to expand my culinary repertoire and quickly became excited about the possibilities.  I will gradually work my way through the entire display case, but decided to start with frog legs.

Knowing little more than frog legs are naturally attached to frogs, I began my research.  As I scoured the internet to learn about frog legs and their preparation, I found that from a culinary perspective, frog legs have their roots in France.  With this tidbit in hand, I decided to proceed with a French preparation and promptly settled on frog legs a la poulette.  As is my routine, I collected a number of recipes, analyzed them, selected the best aspects of each (in my opinion) and cobbled together the recipe you will find at the end of this post.  The frog legs were accompanied by a honey dew melon gazpacho starter (an original of mine) and truffle parsnips thanks to Chef Sue.

Frog Leg Saute

The honey dew melon gazpacho started the night off with brilliant freshness amplified by the mint and cilantro in the recipe.  The mint and cilantro components are contrasting flavors that wonderfully focused the bright sweetness of the honey dew melon.  As we enjoyed this palate cleansing treat, Chef Sue offered her praise but suggested that it could be improved by reserving some portions of the melon, peach, and tomato, chopping them and adding back to the puree for a more complex texture.  I agree completely with Chef Sue and plan on making this adjustment.  I thoroughly enjoyed the gazpacho and am certain I will be preparing it again soon with this improvement.  If you decide to make the gazpacho, I would recommend reserving 1/3 of the tomato and peach along with 1/4 of the melon.  Chop these to about 1/4 inch cubes and add back to the mixture after blending.

While the frog legs were pleasant, they tasted like, um, chicken.  I was expecting (and hoping for) a touch of gamey flavor, but alas, the cliché proved true – frog legs taste like chicken.  Chef Sue did not completely agree with me on this assessment and noted a gamey flavor.  C'est la vie.  Although the meat was not deserving of a “must have” endorsement, the sauce in the a la poulette preparation is a medal winner.  It was rich, full of mushroom induced earthiness, and a wonderful flavor profile that made our wines sing with joy.

The truffle parsnips were a glorious accompaniment to the poulette sauce.  The creamy earthiness of this dish was a beautiful compliment to the poulette sauce with extremely well balanced flavors distant echoes between the truffle and mushrooms, and a nice textural contrast to the frog legs.  The earthiness also became an enjoyable complement to the minerality in each of the wines.

2005 Chateau de Citeaux Bourgogne Chardonnay-1

As for the wines, things get complicated.  I selected the 2005 Chateau de Citeaux Bourgogne Chardonnay and new that friends Aaron and Lena were bringing a bottle (2007 Cahteau de Rully Primier Cru Rodet).  So far, so good.  The world began to spin out of control when Richter and Meredith showed up with three bottles disguised in paper and bows with the challenge of identifying the grapes.  This made for great fun and a couple of surprises I will get to momentarily.  Here is the full list of the wines we enjoyed:
  • 2005 Chateau de Citeaux Bourgogne Chardonnay
  • 2007 Cahteau de Rully Primier Cru Rodet Bourgogne
  • 2008 Christophe Camu Chablis
  • 2008 Savigny Les Beaune Premier Cru Les Peuillets Bourgogne
  • 2009 Gonnet Gigondas Rhone
2008 Christophe Camu Chablis

Without divulging the contents of the disguised Chablis, Meredith offered a helpful piece of information by stating this wine was the one in the group with bright acidity.  With this knowledge, we paired the 2008 Christophe Camu Chablis with the honey dew melon gazpacho which turned out to be a perfect pair in balance between acidity and sweetness of the gazpacho.  The acidity also did a fine job of penetrating the creaminess of the other items on the menu, but showed its true colors in the gazpacho pairing.  To get a sense of this wine, think of a Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc, back off the sweetness a notch, and add minerals.  A very pleasant and versatile pairing wine.

2005 Chateau de Citeaux Bourgogne Chardonnay-2

The three burgundies were similar in flavor profile with subdued melon, peach, butter, and citrus accompanying instantly notable minerality.  With the exception of the 2005 Chateau de Citeaux Bourgogne Chardonnay, all presented a well balanced and moderately bright acidity.  The 2005 Chateau de Citeaux Bourgogne Chardonnay stood out with a well integrated and creamy mouth feel.  Another standout performance was the pleasant buttery flavors from the 2007 Cahteau de Rully Primier Cru Rodet Bourgogne which made for a heavenly match with the poulette sauce and the truffle parsnips.

2007 Chateau de Rully Premier Cru Rodet Bourgogne

The undisputed surprise of the night was the 2009 Gonnet Gigondas Rhone.  This wine stood out for two reasons.  First, it was the only red wine in the crowd of Chardonnays.  Second, while all the wines worked wonderfully, the 2009 Gonnet Gigondas Rhone was clearly the best pairing across all three recipes.  The 2009 Gonnet Gigondas Rhone is a medium bodied wine with rich flavors of red and dark berries supported by noteworthy minerality and subtle tannins.  I would not have independently selected this wine, but I am extremely pleased the professionals at Schneider’s of Capitol Hill recommended this wine to Richter and Meredith.  It was one of those great surprises that come along on occasion and result in a mind bending awesome parings.

2008 Savigny Les Beaune Primier Cru Les Peuillets Bourgogne

I cannot pour enough accolades over the great folks at Schneider’s of Capitol Hill.  They assisted all of our dinner party with recommended wines for the pairing.  On top of that, they offered Richter and Meredith three different approaches to the pairing – the acidity and minerality of the Chablis, the well balanced and buttery 2008 Savigny Les Beaune Premier Cru Les Peuillets Bourgogne, and the winner for the night, the 2009 Gonnet Gigondas Rhone.

2009 Gonnet Gigondas

With five wines, blind tasting, great food, and great friends, this was an extraordinary evening.

Frog Legs a la Poulette Honey Dew Melon Gazpacho Truffle Parsnips-1


Honey Dew Melon Gazpacho

  • Flesh from 1/2 honey dew melon
  • 1 peach, peeled and diced
  • 1 tomato, diced
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • 2 tablespoons chopped mint
  • 2 tablespoons chopped cilantro
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  1. After extracting the flesh of the melon, cut in to pieces or cubes about 1 inch large.
  2. Add all ingredients to a blender, and blend until smooth.
  3. Taste and adjust sweetness with honey.
  4. Chill for at least one hour before serving.
Truffle Parsnips

  • 4 medium parsnips (cleaned, pealed and cubed)
  • 3 small red potatoes (cubed)
  • 1/4 cup cream cheese
  • 2 oz. butter
  • Truffle salt or truffle oil to taste
  • Green onions (chopped as garnish)
  1. Boil parsnips and potatoes until fork tender.
  2. Mash parsnips and potatoes in a bowl along with the cream cheese and butter.
  3. Season with truffle salt or truffle oil to taste.  If you decide to go with the truffle oil, you will want to season with salt.
  4. Plate and garnish with green onions.
Frog Legs a la Poulette

  • 1 dozen frog legs
  • 2 wine glasses white wine (one for you, and one for the frogs)
  • 2 cups diced mushrooms (I used baby bellas)
  • 2 tablespoons flour
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 1 tablespoons sugar
  • 1/2 small onion diced
  • 2 tablespoons chopped parsley
  • 1/2 teaspoon paprika
  • 1 cup chicken stock
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream
  • 3 egg yolks, beaten
  • Season to taste with salt and pepper
  1. Wash the frog legs and pat dry.
  2. Sauté onions and frog legs in a large skillet with 1 tablespoon of butter over medium high heat until onions are translucent.
  3. Season with salt and add a glass of wine and mushrooms. Simmer for 5 minutes.
  4. Add remaining butter, sugar, flour, and paprika. Cook for 5 minutes.
  5. Add chicken stock, lemon juice and cream.
  6. Bring to a boil then add the parsley.
  7. Reduce heat to medium and thicken with egg yolks, remove from heat and serve.
2005 Chateau de Citeaux Bourgogne Chardonnay

In vino veritas, buen provecho


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