Celebrating Beaujolais Nouveau

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Food and wine by David Berkley Fine Wines & Specialty Foods / Styling by Ricki Stevens, La Maison March / Tableware provided by Williams-Sonoma at Pavilions: Apilco Tradition dinner and salad plates, Apilco charcuterie platter, beaded chargers, Hotel napkins, Absolu flatware and Edward water glasses / Dcor items provided by La Maison March / Table cards custom designed by Pulp Papery Flowers by East Sac Florist

The first wine of the harvest is a great excuse for a French-themed party.

In France, the third Thursday of November is when winemakers release the first wine of the harvest season: Beaujolais Nouveau. In homes and bistros throughout France, people celebrate the way the French do best&emdash;with food and wine. Here, we show you how to throw your own Beaujolais Nouveau party.

Menu

• Beau-Jo Cocktail*
• Charcuterie Platter
• Salade Lyonnaise*
• Grilled Sausages
   Fork-Mashed Potatoes With Parsley*
   Haricots Verts With Dijon Vinaigrette*
• French Cheeses
• Drunken Marinated Mixed Berries*
 
* recipe provided

The Wine

Made from the Gamay grape, Beaujolais Nouveau is harvested in the fall and only briefly fermented. Under French law, the wine can’t be released before the third Thursday in November, and by custom it isn’t served after New Year’s Day. It’s light and fruity&emdash;a fun wine, says David Berkley, who sells Beaujolais Nouveau at his Pavilions shop, David Berkley Fine Wines & Specialty Foods. It’s gulpable, Berkley explains. Don’t take it too seriously.

At $8 to $15 a bottle, Beaujolais Nouveau is modestly priced. Serve it chilled (52 to 55 degrees)&emdash;the more refreshing, the better, Berkley says.

If you have a few bottles left over after your Beaujolais Nouveau party, save them for Thanksgiving. Beaujolais Nouveau goes perfectly with turkey and the trimmings.

Say It Like a Frenchman

Wondering how to pronounce Beaujolais Nouveau? Here goes: BOH-zho-LAY noo-VOH.

The Food

David Berkley came up with a simple bistro menu that requires precious little cooking. It makes it easy on the host or hostess, he says.
When your guests arrive, set out a charcuterie platter piled high with French sausages and pâts from your favorite deli or specialty grocer. Serve with cornichons (tiny pickles) and olives, French mustard and crusty baguettes.

Sit your guests down for the next course: a traditional bistro salad, made with frise and topped with a poached egg and crispy strips of fried bacon (known as lardons).

Follow that up with a super-easy entre of grilled sausages, fork-mashed Yukon Gold potatoes and haricots verts (green beans) tossed with Dijon vinaigrette. End the meal with a classic French dessert: an assortment of cheeses, served with mixed berries marinated in&emdash;what else?&emdash;Beaujolais Nouveau.

The Table

According to interior designer Ricki Stevens, a Beaujolais Nouveau party should have an air of casual elegance. Everything should be comfortable and inviting, she says.

Stevens set the table with white bistro china, crisp linen napkins, French silverware and chunky wine glasses. I like the contrast of the rustic wood table and the simple dishes with the sparkle of silver, says Stevens, owner of La Maison March in Sacramento. In the center of the table, she placed an antique wood tray filled with flickering votive candles, a large, wrought-iron candleholder in the shape of a pumpkin and two low arrangements of roses.

Small clusters of flowers are less formal than a single large centerpiece, she explains. I like to keep them low so your guests can see each other across the table.

 

Setting the Scene

In France, banners everywhere declare Le Beaujolais Nouveau est arriv! (The New Beaujolais is here!) To lend an air of festivity (and authenticity) to your party, make your own banners using your computer printer; hang them on your front door and near the wine.

To get your guests in the mood, play French music by the famed French songstress Edith Piaf or by Baguette Quartette, a Bay Area group that performs Parisian street music from the ’20s, ’30s and ’40s. (Baguette Quartet has four CDs, available at baguettequartette.org.)

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Beau-Jo Cocktail
With its reddish brown color, this refreshing aperitif is the essence of autumn.

1    bottle each Beaujolais Blanc* or similar white wine, chilled, and crème de cassis

Fill a Champagne flute 3/4 of the way with chilled white wine. Add crème de cassis to the top. Serves 1.

*If you can’t find Beaujolais Blanc, choose a light, nonoaky Chardonnay.


Fork-Mashed Potatoes With Parsley

2    pounds Yukon Gold potatoes, medium-size
1    cup kosher salt
Fine sea salt
2    tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
2    tablespoons fresh Italian parsley, finely chopped

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Wash and dry the potatoes. Layer the kosher salt evenly in the bottom of a baking pan. Place the potatoes on top of the bed of salt and roast until the tip of a knife slides easily through a potato, about 30–45 minutes. Remove from the oven and let them cool briefly, until they can be handled. 

Partially peel back the skin on the potatoes and place the potatoes on a platter. Use a fork to mash each potato about halfway. Season with sea salt, drizzle with olive oil and garnish with chopped parsley. Serves 4.


Salade Lyonnaise

This traditional French bistro recipe comes from chef Luc Dendievel at Restaurant 55 Degrees.

4    slices country bread, crusts removed, cut into cubes
3    tablespoons olive oil
4    eggs
1    tablespoon white vinegar
2    heads frise (curly endive), washed and torn into bite-size pieces
1/2    cup cherry tomatoes, cut in half
2    tablespoons fresh chervil, chopped
8    ounces bacon, cut into 1/4-inch strips
6    tablespoons sherry wine vinegar
Fine sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

To prepare the croutons, preheat oven to 350 degrees. Toss the bread cubes with 1 tablespoon olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Spread in a single layer on a baking sheet and bake, turning once, about 10 minutes or until golden brown. Remove from oven and set aside.

To poach the eggs, bring 2 quarts of water to a slow simmer and add the white vinegar. Break each egg into a small cup. Gently slide the eggs, one at a time, into the simmering water. Cook until the whites are just set, about 4 minutes. Gently lift the eggs out of the water with a slotted spoon. Place in a bowl of warm water to keep warm while finishing the salad.

Place the frise into a large bowl. Toss with the remaining 2 tablespoons olive oil and add salt and pepper to taste. Add the cherry tomatoes and chopped chervil. Divide among 4 plates.

Fry the bacon strips until lightly browned. Discard the bacon fat. Return the pan to medium-high heat and add the sherry wine vinegar, scraping up any brown bits to deglaze the pan. Continue cooking until the liquid is reduced by half. Pour the hot liquid evenly over the 4 plates of frise. (The heat should wilt the leaves slightly.)

Sprinkle each plate with the croutons and bacon strips and top with a poached egg. Serve immediately. Serves 4.


Haricots Verts With Dijon Vinaigrette

12     ounces haricots verts (slender green string beans)
1       tablespoon shallots, minced
1/3    cup Champagne vinegar
3       tablespoons Dijon mustard
1/4    teaspoon garlic, minced
2/3    teaspoon fine sea salt
1/4    teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
2/3  –1 cup olive oil

Blanch the beans in boiling salted water until tender. Drain and place into a bowl of ice water to stop the cooking. After the beans are cooled, remove them from the water and set aside until needed.

To make the dressing, place the shallots, vinegar, mustard, garlic, salt and pepper into a bowl and mix well. Whisk in the oil slowly. (The amount of oil you use depends on how thick you want the dressing.)

To assemble, place the beans into a bowl and toss with the desired amount of dressing. (The dressing should coat the beans.) Serves 4.

Drunken Marinated Mixed Berries
1    cup each raspberries, blackberries, blueberries and strawberries (or your choice of berries)
2    tablespoons sugar
1/4 cup Beaujolais Nouveau
 
Wash and drain the berries. Cut the strawberries into large pieces. Place berries in a bowl, add the sugar and wine and gently mix. Cover and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes and up to 3 hours. Serves 4.