In the midst of a cultural revolution, visionary winemaker Bernard de Nonancourt created a daring wine that combined a structure of freshness with soft character. Making non-vintage rosé champagne was virtually unthinkable prior to 1968.
Inspired by the times of French King Henri IV, a distinctive and elegant bottle was created to celebrate this special cuvée. With notes and aromas of freshly-picked berry fruits this rosé can be paired with anything from foie gras canapés topped with red currants, pata negra ham, raw fish, and soft, creamy cheeses to berry fruit desserts. I like to enjoy it with one of my favorite desserts, a rich and creamy French custard topped with fresh raspberries enhances the wine’s crisply acidic taste and the fresh berries rhyme perfectly with the dry fruity notes.
The French custard crème brûlée (meaning burnt cream) is based on crème pâtissière, for which there are many uses; as a filling for éclairs and profiteroles (pâte à choux) or as a crème anglaise sauce drizzled over a poached pear, and my way to enjoy it, as a warm, silky baked custard as crème brûlée. There are only four ingredients to this decadent dessert; heavy cream, sugar, egg yolks and vanilla bean.
Oh, and of course you also need a blow torch! After whipping together the cream and pouring it into ramekins you top it off with raw sugar which is then gently toasted with a flame until the sugar melts into a glaze and caramelizes, producing a hard sugar crust which must be shattered to get at the velvety custard beneath. Don’t worry if you don’t have a blowtorch, you can place them under the broiler to achieve the same effect.
The first time I ever had crème brûlée was in Paris. My husband and I just stepped off the Batobus tour boat at Quai de Montebello close to the Notre Dame, on the way back to our apartment after visiting the Eiffel Tower. A storm was coming in and we thought we’d be able to make it back in time to pick up our umbrellas before it hit, but fortunately we didn’t. Running up the steps from the Seine we ducked into the first restaurant we passed to grab dinner. Without having done any research, reading any reviews, and without a reservation, we stepped into Le Montebello and were escorted to a table in the corner next to the window.
As the rain came down and I glanced at the menu and instantly knew what I was going to order. French onion soup for starters, boeuf bourguignon for an entree and crème brûlée for dessert. A carafe of Burgundy wine arrived at the table and Jason filled our glasses. The meal was delicious, all of it, but I was anxiously looking forward to trying my first crème brûlée. When it arrived I wasted no time, and with my spoon in hand I gently cracked through the caramel shell, and found a delicate custard speckled with vanilla bean. The shell was hard and crunchy, the custard soft and sweet. A perfect match.
My husband and I went to Paris for our 11th wedding Anniversary and when I look through our photos it feels like it was only yesterday. I’d give anything to visit Paris again one day, but until that day comes, I can recreate some of the wonderful dishes we enjoyed so much. So, I thought what a perfect pairing; Laurent-Perrier Rose Champagne and a luscious, creamy, rich custard infused with vanilla bean and topped with a caramel crust for Valentine’s Day.
recipe adapted from Larousse Gastronomique
makes 2 servings
3 egg yolks
1/2 cup confectioners sugar
1 1/4 cups whipping gream
1/4 cup full milk
1/3 cup demerara (raw) sugar
1 vanilla bean
Use the tip of a sharp knife to cut the vanilla pod (bean) down the middle and scrape out the black seeds. Put them in a bowl with 3 egg yolks and 1/2 cup confectioners sugar and whisk well. Gradually add 1 1/4 cups whipping cream and 1/4 cup milk, whisking well all the time.
Strain through a fine sleeve. Transfer the cream mixture to small oven-proof ramekins and bake in a bain marie (water bath pan) in preheated oven at 300’F for 35 mins. Leave to cool to room temperature, then refrigerate for 1 hour. Sprinkle the tops with 1/3 cup demerara (raw) sugar and lightly torch til golden. If you don’t have a torch, cook them under a preheated broiler. Refrigerate for 30 minutes before serving.