Friday, 2 March 2012

Chablis Tasting and a Very Tasty Asparagus, Brie and Prosciutto Tart

Yes, you read that right. This week I have been mostly learning about wines; Chablis, to be exact. And while I'm nowhere near being a wine 'buff' I'd like to think that, thanks to the lovely people at Chablis, I've picked up a few tips and hints on how to taste and serve wine in the future.


  
For example. Did you know that you can tell whether a wine is sweet or dry just by watching the speed the droplets fall down the glass when you swirl it? (Dry wine droplets fall faster). And did you know that the darker a wine is, the older it is? I didn't. I also learned how to taste a wine properly by smelling it first and then tasting it to get the full flavours that are there. Honestly, I've been going on about 'fruity aromas' and levels of acidity this week, but it's all been pretty exciting.

The idea was for me to be sent a couple of bottles of wine and pair them up with the foods I think they would go the best with. The wines I was sent were Chablis Premier Cru, Les Vaillons, 2007, Billaud-Simon and Chablis, Les Champs Blancs, 2010, Pascal Bouchard.



The first one I tried, the Chablis, Les Champs Blancs, I thought was clean and fresh-tasting and I could also detect citrussy flavours and aromas. It was lemon-gold in colour, and the flavour lingered a while on the tongue after a sip. As I slowly sipped, I started craving salty flavours - ham most probably, but I also knew that this wine would go well with a mild, creamy cheese too: Brie. And so I decided that I would cook a Brie and Prosciutto Tart to go with this wine. I kept a bit back, just to make sure it worked and it really did! The crisp wine worked brilliantly with the thin, buttery pastry and the prosciutto in the tart gave me the saltiness I craved. The Brie was mellow and soft, and not harsh as a cheddar would be, and the asparagus just gave it a freshness that finished the whole thing off.
The second bottle I tried, the Chablis Premier Cru, I felt had a much stronger flavour and while it still had a clean, citrus taste, it seemed more fruity to me. In fact, as I sipped, I fancied popping a plump, sweet raspberry in my mouth - strange, but I did.

I felt that the second wine would work well also with the tart, but also with something creamy and with chicken as the main ingredient. This dish I made from the ingredients from Vaucluse would be perfect - chicken thighs in a creamy garlic and herb sauce. I also thought that both wines would work very well with fish. As I imagined tucking into a plate of salmon I could see that the dryness of both wines would counteract the oily fish and the citrussy taste would compliment it.

Creamy Chicken and Herbs

  
I loved both the wines, but of the two, my favourite was the Premier Cru - it just seemed to have a fuller flavour and there seemed to be a lot more going on in the taste. You could sit there for ages, gazing into the distance, trying to detect whether it's the lemony or grapefruity flavours that are rippling over your tastebuds. Before this week, I'd regarded wine as something special to sip on while you're cooking the Sunday roast or sharing a bottle in front of an old film, but now I'll be more careful to try and detect the flavours that have gone into the wine and give it - and the winemakers - the respect they both deserve.


Brie, Prosciutto and Asparagus Tart
Serves 8-10
Ingredients
  • 1 small onion, sliced
  • 40g unsalted butter
  • 1 ½ tablespoons olive oil
  • 4-5 asparagus tips (save the stalks for soup)
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 egg yolk
  • 150ml double cream
  • 50g Brie
  • 175g shortcrust pastry
  • 70g prosciutto
  • salt and black pepper

Method
  1.  Butter a 20cm flan tin and set to one side, and preheat the oven to 180C.
  2. Slice the onion and fry gently in a knob of butter and a tiny trickle of olive oil, until soft. Leave to cool. While the onion is cooling, melt the 40g butter and pour in the 1½ tablespoons olive oil and mix together. Set to one side. Pour boiling water from the kettle over the asparagus tips and leave for 1-2 minutes. Drain.
  3. Beat the eggs and double cream together in a bowl. Chop the Brie into small pieces - it's quite sticky so as long as you have little chunks it's fine. Take the prosciutto and put 20g to one side. Chop the rest into small pieces. Fold the chopped prosciutto and the brie into the egg and cream mixture, along with the melted butter and oil. Stir to mix everything together and finish with a good grinding of black pepper.
  4. Line your flan tin with the pastry, cover with greaseproof paper and baking beans and bake for 15 minutes. Carefully remove the beans and the paper (leave to cool if you have to, don't burn yourself!) and turn the oven down to 160C.
  5. Pour the filling into the tart case and arrange the asparagus tips on top. Curl up the reserved prosciutto slices and arrange these over the top of the tart - they'll go crisp in the oven. 
  6. Bake the tart for 40 minutes, until the pastry is golden and the filling has set. Leave to cool to room temperature and cut into wedges. Serve with a green salad and a cool glass of Chablis.