Tourin à l’ail
The Dordogne is a department located in South-west France and is named after the river Dordogne that runs through it. This land that encompassed the Dordogne is the exact same land that was once known as the county of Périgord and is synonymous of course with France’s most luxurious ingredients, from the very highest quality goose foie gras to the elusive black truffle. Périgord is also famous for its duck products, from duck foie gras to confit de canard. The region is divided into four areas each named after a specific colour- Périgord Noir (Black), Périgord Blanc (White), Périgord Vert (Green) and Périgord Pourpre (Purple).
It is here in the Dordogne that the dish Tourin à l’ail (French Egg Drop Garlic Soup) was invented, and rose to fame due to the use of duck fat in the dish. Every February, there is a competition in Villeréal, south-east of Bergerac (the wine-producing region of Dordogne), to see who can produce the best tasting Tourin à l’ail. This soup is traditional made from a flour roux containing garlic and onions fried in duck fat. Chicken stock is then mixed in with the roux and the soup is then thickened with a mixture of egg yolks and vinegar. The final step of to complete the dish is to slowly drizzle in egg whites while whisking extremely rapidly to produce long strands of cooked egg whites suspended in the soup, similar to Chinese egg drop soup.
The traditional story surrounding Tourin à l’ail is that the soup has the ability to cure hangovers and provide energy. Thus this soup is traditional served to newlyweds the night of their wedding as well as to vineyard pickers during grape harvest season. The soup is also eaten the day after parties and banquets with heavy drinking as a hangover cure.
An ancient tradition in South-west France surrounding drinking soups including Tourin à l’ail is faire chabrot or faire chabròl (to drink like a goat), which is the practice of adding a bit of red wine to your soup towards the end of the bowl of soup, before drinking the soup straight from the bowl. In the Périgord region, this practice is known as fà chabroù, while it is known as cabroù in Provence. Today this traditional is obsolete and is considered an old and rural gesture only performed by the older generation in France. Today however, chabrot is sometimes still performed in the spirit of connivance and friendliness.
Tourin à l’ail
- 20ml duck/goose fat (can be replaced with olive/vegetable oil)
- 25 cloves of garlic + 5 cloves for garnish
- 1 large onion
- 30g flour
- 3 duck eggs
- 1500ml chicken stock/vegetable stock
- 10ml of white vinegar (or vinegar of choice such as sherry or red wine vinegar)
- Fresh thyme sprigs
- Salt and Pepper
- Butter and sliced baguette
- Dice the onions and slice the garlic cloves. In a stock pot, melt the duck fat over medium heat and sweat the onions and garlic cloves. Do not brown them.
- Add in the flour to the pot and stir well so that the flour and fat combine to make a roux. (Stir for a minute without browning the roux)
- Add in the stock and a few springs of thyme. Simmer for 30 minutes.
- Remove the thyme before pureeing the soup with a hand blender.
- Separate the eggs and mix and egg yolks with the vinegar.
- Slowly add the egg yolk mixture to the soup while stirring the soup constantly to mix well.
- Bring the soup up to a boil, switch off the heat and slowly drizzle in the egg whites into the soup while stirring gently to cause thin strands of cooked egg whites to be suspended in the soup.
- Fry the remaining garlic in butter a frying pan. Remove the garlic from the pan and toast the baguette slices in the frying pan with the remaining butter. Top the baguette slices with the garlic and remaining thyme leaves and serve with the soup.
- Duck fat gives the soup its unique and traditional flavour but can always be replaced with any frying oil
- Remember the cook the flour so that it is able to absorb more stock.
- A roux is usually butter and flour whisked together to form a paste that serves as a base for many sauces such as béchamel sauce.
- If you don’t remove the thyme stems before blending the soup, the soup will have bits of hard to bite thyme stems mixed into it which are rough on the tongue.
- When adding the egg yolks to the soup, make sure the soup is not boiling if not you risk curdling the egg yolks.
- The egg yolks and vinegar mixture are used to thicken the soup.
The classic wine pairing advice that food and wine that originate from the same place go well together hold true here. A fine example of a true Périgourdine wines include white wine would be wines from Bergerac. The Bergerac wines represent 13 Appellation d’Origine Controlée (AOC) recorded in 1936, with only 2 of the AOCs producing white wines, namely Bergerac White and Montravel. Bergerac White is produced from the blend of Sémillon, Sauvignon, Muscadelle, Ondec and Chenin Blanc, while Montravel is produced from Sémillon, Muscadelle and Sauvignon. This combination of grape varieties is similar to Bordeaux whites (with the exception of Chenin Blanc) and the wines have high acidity, with aromas of white flowers and occasionally, have a herbaceous note to them. They are light bodied with moderate alcohol. This high acidity and fresh style of wine goes well with Tourin à l’ail as the high acidity pairs with the fat from the duck fat and egg yolks, while the herbaceous notes pair with the thyme and garlic. Alternative wine pairings include Sauvignon Blanc from the Loire Valley, France, or New Zealand.
With Éric Alfred Leslie Satie’s Gymnopédie No.1 gently playing in the background whilst I write this post, I realise how this song pairs well the characteristics of this dish. The song’s enchanting slow-paced tune has the ability to bring you back to the the melancholic and romantic Paris of the early 1900s, interpreted through a impressionistic style of music. Satie moved from his father’s residence to lodgings in Montmartre in 1887, and was soon to start rubbing shoulders with the artistic clientele of the Le Chat Noir cabaret, which included the then not yet famous Claude Debussy. The Le Chat Noir was thought to be the first modern cabaret and was founded by Rodolphe Salis. A cabaret at that time was a somewhat precursor to the modern restaurant, where wine was only sold and served with a meal on a tablecloth. At Le Chat Noir, entertainment was also provided in the form of music and political satire, and it was here that Éric Satie composed his most famous pieces, his Gymnopédies.