Thursday, 5 July 2012

STAGE 6: ÉPERNAY - METZ

Although this blog mainly focuses on food and wine from the stage finish towns and regions, we could hardly write about French gastronomy without mentioning Épernay's most famous export, Champagne.

Champagne is primarily made from the grape varieties Pinot Noir, Chardonnay and Pinot Meunier, and the strict rules of its production state that it must be fermented a second time to produce its distinctive fizz. Champagne has long been associated with high luxury, celebration, festivals and rites of passage. It first gained world renown because of its association with the anointment of French kings. Royalty from throughout Europe spread the message of the unique sparkling wine from Champagne and its association with luxury and power in the 17th, 18th and 19th centuries, and the leading manufacturers devoted considerable energy to creating a history and identity for their wine, associating it and themselves with nobility and royalty, a trend which continues today. Because of the strict appellation laws, only sparkling wine that comes from the Champagne region may be called 'Champagne'. Sparkling wines such as Cava (Spain) and Prosecco (Italy) are made by the same process, but cannot be called 'Champagne'.

Leaving the vineyards around Épernay, the Tour heads east, the peloton making its inexorable way towards the Alps and the extreme challenges of the high mountains. Metz, the stage finish, is a city in the north-east of France, and sits at the confluence of the Moselle and Seille rivers. It is capital of the Lorrain region; perhaps the most famous dish from this area is the Quiche Lorraine, in effect a simple egg and bacon tart. Real Quiche Lorraine, such as the elegant little savoury tarts with a crisp pastry shell you find in a French delicatessen, is really delicious and a long way from the flabby ersatz versions found in UK supermarkets, with soggy pastry and a claggy, tasteless filling.

Metz has a rich and varied cuisine, and many dishes use the Mirabelle plum which is grown in the region - tarts, jams, and liqueurs. Another local speciality is paté lorrain en croute, a coarse terrine of chopped and marinaded pork (and sometimes veal and rabbit) cooked in a crisp, puff pastry case. It makes a superb entree, served hot, and needs only a crisp green salad as an accompaniment.

Serves 8
  • 350gm puff pastry(ready made or homemade)
  • 450gm shoulder or neck of pork
  • 4 shallots.
  • 20gm parsley 
  • 1 glass of dry white wine
  • 10gm salt and 1gm pepper
Cut the pork in strips; mince the shallots over the pork and add the parsley; salt and pepper to taste and pour on a large glass of dry white wine. Leave to marinade for at least 12 hours.

Roll out the pastry: cut out a long rectangular piece. Pour off the marinade and place the pork mix on the pastry; cover it with the remainder of the pastry making sure the crust sticks to the pastry base, folding it over if need be. Brush the crust with egg yolk and place the dish on a well-greased plaque. Bake for an hour in a hot oven (200°C).

To accompany paté lorrain, why not try a Moselle wine - light and aromatic with a crisp acidity.

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