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French Inspired: Holiday Menu

Sonoma Cutrer has had a long association and friendship with winemakers and coopers from the Burgundy region of France. Burgundy is the home of both Chardonnay and Pinot Noir. This year’s menu honors that friendship with 3 recipes that reflect the flavors of that amazing part of the world.

Celery Root Salad

This is a recipe based on the classic French celeriac remoulade which is available almost universally in charcuteries and delis in that country. It’s delicious and can easily be made a main course with the addition of some smoked salmon, cooked shrimp or paper thin sliced parma ham. Salad can be made ahead and stored refrigerated for up to 3 days.

Yields approximately six cups; Serving 6-8

  • 1 medium celery root (2 pounds), peeled and sliced
  • 3/4 cup mayonnaise
  • 1/3 cup buttermilk
  • 3 tablespoons whole grain mustard
  • 1-1/2 tablespoons smooth Dijon mustard
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • 2 teaspoons sherry or brown rice vinegar
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper

Garnish: Savory young greens such as arugula, cress and/or mustard, sieved hard boiled egg and chopped chives.

Finely julienne the celery root by hand or with a mandoline or similar cutter and set aside in a bowl. In a separate bowl mix together the mayonnaise, buttermilk, mustards, lemon juice and vinegar until smooth. Stir in celery root to evenly coat and season to taste with salt and pepper.

To serve: Place greens attractively on chilled plates. Mound salad on top and sprinkle sieved hard boiled egg and chives over top.

Duck Braised with Prunes

This simple French inspired rustic braise is served with sautéed apples. Pick an apple that doesn’t turn mushy, but holds its shape when cooked; Cortland, Jonagold, Northern Spy, Winesap, and Golden Delicious all fit the bill nicely.

Serves 4

  • 4 large duck leg/thighs, about 12 ounces each
  • 4 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1-1/2 cups sliced onion
  • 2 tablespoons chopped garlic
  • 1/2 cup each chopped carrot and celery
  • 1 teaspoon whole black peppercorns
  • 2 large bay leaves
  • 4 crushed juniper berries
  • 2 cups hearty red wine
  • 4 cups rich duck or chicken stock
  • 1 cup pitted prunes, sliced in half
  • 2 peeled and sliced green apples
  • 3 tablespoons butter
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Trim excess fat from duck legs. In a saucepan heat 2 tablespoons of oil and add onions, garlic, carrot and celery and sauté until lightly browned. Add the peppercorns, bay, juniper berries and wine and simmer for 10 minutes partially covered. Cool completely and then add duck legs and marinate in the refrigerator for at least 4 hours and up to 12.

Remove legs from the marinade and pat dry, reserving the marinade. Sauté duck legs in remaining 2 tablespoons of oil until golden brown on all sides. Place duck in a skillet big enough to snugly fit the legs in one layer. Heat reserved marinade and stock with vegetables and the prunes to a simmer. Pour over duck and simmer gently covered for 1-1/2 hours or until the duck is tender. Remove duck and keep warm.

Strain the cooking liquid, pressing down on the solids. Remove as much fat as you can. Place in a saucepan and reduce over high heat to a nice sauce consistency. Season to your taste with salt and pepper.

Sauté the apple slices in butter quickly until lightly browned. Place apples on warm plates, top with the duck and ladle the prune sauce over.

Classic Crème Brûlée

Crème brûlée can be flavored endlessly, but this simple classic version is the best I think.

Serves 6

  • 2 cups heavy cream
  • 1 3-inch vanilla bean split lengthwise or 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 6 large egg yolks
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 2 teaspoons Grand Marnier or other brandy, optional
  • 6 tablespoons sugar for the topping

Pour the cream into a medium saucepan, scrape the seeds from the vanilla bean into the cream, and add the vanilla pod. Bring just to the simmer over moderate heat. Remove from the heat and let cool to room temperature. Remove the vanilla pod and scrape any remaining seeds into the cream. If using extract instead, add it now.

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees. In a medium bowl, whisk the egg yolks until pale in color. Whisk in the 1/2 cup granulated sugar until dissolved. Gradually whisk in the cream. Stir in the Grand Marnier if using.

Place six 6-ounce ovenproof ramekins in a baking pan. Divide the custard mixture among the dishes. Pour hot water into the pan to come halfway up the sides of the dishes.

Bake in the oven for 35 to 40 minutes, or until the center of each custard still jiggles slightly. Remove from the oven and lift the dishes from the hot water. Let cool, then cover each and refrigerate for at least 2 hours or up to 2 days.

When ready to serve, place the dishes on a baking sheet. Evenly sprinkle 1 tablespoon brown or granulated sugar over each ramekin. Using a hand-held blowtorch, caramelize the sugar by holding the torch about 4 inches from the surface of each custard and moving the torch to brown and caramelize the sugar evenly. Alternately preheat the broiler and place the pan about 4 inches from the heat source; watching carefully, broil until the sugar turns golden brown, 1 to 2 minutes.

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