Thursday, 1 October 2009

Autumn Stews from France -Chaudrée

Chaudrée is a fish stew from the Charentes and Poitou region of France. The name of the stew comes from the French word chaudière which was a large 3-legged heavy iron cooking pot used by fishermen. Chaudrée is very similar to the English Chowder and Chaudrée was once as important on the Atlantic coast of France as Bouillabaisse along the Mediterranean.

Chaudrée nearly always includes squid, the white body part only and butter, which is added just before serving, and sometimes sole or plaice, conger eel, potatoes, garlic and white wine. The fish and vegetables are frequently eaten as the main course after the broth has been served as a soup. In the past Chaudrée was made by fishermen with fish too small to be sold and there are many versions. Today you can expect to find hake, whiting and pollock used in this dish.


4 lb of a variety of white fish
1 lb. squid, white body part only, cut into 2-inch wide strips
14 oz. onions, peeled and shredded
8 garlic cloves, peeled
1/2 quart dry white wine
1/2 quart water
2 tbsp olive oil
1 stick of butter freshly ground pepper
1 bay leaf

Season the squid strips with pepper. Place them in a large cast iron saucepan over low heat. Stir the squid to draw out all the liquid, then add the onions and garlic cloves. Keep stirring until all the liquid has evaporated. Pour in the oil and sauté the contents until they are golden. Add the wine and water, bring just to a boil and reduce heat and simmer gently. Cut the fish into 2-inch pieces. Starting with the fish that takes the longest to cook, add the fish to the simmering broth one at a time, bringing the broth back up to a boil after each addition. Season with pepper and simmer all the fish for 15 minutes. When the cooking time is up, add the stick of butter and allow it to melt into the soup. Serve with croutons.

I have chosen 3 wines from various areas in Bordeaux to go with the Chaudrée – and at varying prices. At the very top of the scale there is Pavillon Blanc du Margaux - the rare Third Wine of Château Margaux (£65 - £110 a bottle dependant on vintage). It's a fresh and aromatic wine with lots of grassy, green pepper notes characteristic of the Sauvignon Blanc grape. Pavillon Blanc is a yellow gold wine which is elegant and luscious with notes of melon, lemon, honey and hay with a hint of minerals with the depth, power and complexity you would expect from Château Margaux.

Fleur de Luze (£5.62) is a lovely, lively, fresh and fruity white wine from Maison A. de Luze et Fils, who have been pioneers in the wine trade since 1820. It's a clear, crystalline pale gold colour with a very clean citrus, lychee, and mango bouquet. It has a long, fruity after taste which follows through with a slight hint of ripe grapefruit and a refreshingly slight touch of fizz. It's best served well-chilled at around 9°-10 °C.

Finally I'd recommend Montagnac Sauvignon Blanc (£5.37). This is a terrific easy drinking wine made from a single grape variety: Sauvignon Blanc – and is great for first time wine drinkers. It's produced in the Languedoc which has been one of France's up and coming wines for a while now. Montagnac Sauvignon is a pale yellow gold, with an attractive light orange tinge. It has aromas of honey, peach, apple and orange peel with smoky and floral hints. In the mouth it has flavours of zesty lemon, herbs and spice, and a touch of caramel and crystallised fruit. Soft but certainly not creamy, with superb balance and a very decent length.

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