Tourin à l’ail (French Egg Drop Garlic Soup)

Tourin à l’ail

16494483683_eef8a0b64b_k.jpg

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.

41790920365_dc23955d40_k
Chateau Lafite, Pauillac, Bordeaux

 

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 Today this traditional is obsolete and is considered an old and rural gesture only performed by the older generation in France.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.

21227582679_94d7ad3ff6_k.jpg

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
  1. 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.
  2. 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)
  3. Add in the stock and a few springs of thyme. Simmer for 30 minutes.
  4. Remove the thyme before pureeing the soup with a hand blender.
  5. Separate the eggs and mix and egg yolks with the vinegar.
  6. Slowly add the egg yolk mixture to the soup while stirring the soup constantly to mix well.
  7. 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.
  8. 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.
30223083101_d3fb69c8bb_k
Freshly laid duck eggs

Notes:

  • 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.

Wine Pairing:

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.

Le Chat Noir
Le Chat Noir, Montmartre, Paris

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.

Paris-Brest

Paris-Brest (Almond Choux Pastry with Crème Mousseline)

35514626936_f477996a04_k

The Paris-Brest-Paris was a long-distance cycling event (1200km) that was first organised in 1891 by a French Journalist by the name of Pierre Giffard in Saint-Quentin-en-Yvelines, as a circulation aid for parisian newspapers. It was Pierre Giffard, who requested that Louis Durand, the pâtissier of Maisons-Laffitte in Yvelines, create a pastry to commemorate the start of the Paris-Brest-Paris race. This pastry was soon to become known as the Paris-Brest, and consisted of a circular choux pastry ring with an almond cream filling, topping with toasted almonds, which represented the wheel of a bicycle. The pastry gained popularity among cyclist very quickly due to its high calorific value and is now available all across France.

Paris-brest is made from Choux pastry (pâte à choux), which is a dough made with butter, water, flour and eggs. This is unusual compared to most french pastry dough as it does not contain sugar or any rising agents. Instead, it uses the high amount of moisture in the dough from water and eggs to cause to pastry to rise. During baking, the steam released from the dough is trapped inside the dough and causes the pastry to puff up, similar to yorkshire puddings. Choux pastry is the same pastry dough used to make profiteroles, croquembouches, éclairs.

35555650656_9a7d2076b2_k
View of Paris from the Sacré-Cœur, Paris

The main filling traditionally used in Paris-brest is crème mousseline, which is a derivative of pastry cream (crème pâtissière) made by the addition of butter and praline paste. Crème pâtissière is prepared by whisking hot milk with a mixture of egg yolks, sugar, flour and cornstarch, before cooking it on the stove top. The milk used in crème pâtissière is usually flavoured with cointreau or vanilla and can be flavoured to your personal taste (some people even add coffee). To make crème mousseline, butter and praline paste is then whisked hard into crème pâtissière until a fluffy smooth consistency is achieved. The crème mousseline is then chilled until it is ready to be piped.

Modern interpretations of Paris-brest include much smaller versions of it that no longer include the famous hole in the middle that symbolises a bicycle wheel. Furthermore, a version of Paris-brest made using hazelnut paste and topped with toasted hazelnuts have become increasingly popular (instead of the traditional almonds). All in all, the main appeal of the Paris brest has been the crunchy outer texture from the choux pastry and toasted nuts, paired with the rich nutty and creamy filling on the inside.

39658984690_3a7f6a1899_k

Paris-Brest

Choux Pastry:

  • 150g flour
  • 140ml water
  • 90ml milk
  • 90g butter
  • 4g salt
  • 4-5 eggs
  • sliced almonds/nibbed hazelnuts (for topping)
  • Icing sugar (for dusting)
  1. Preheat the oven to 200°C (400°F)
  2. Add the butter, water and salt into a pan and melt together on high heat.
  3. Once completely mixed together, add in all the flour in one go and stir vigorously with a wooden spoon to form a thick paste (panada).
  4. Cook the panada on low heat for 2-3 minutes, constantly stirring.
  5. Take the panada off the heat and add a single whole egg to it. Mix very vigorously with the wooden spoon until the dough becomes smooth.
  6. Continue adding eggs and mixing one at time until the pastry is slightly glossy and hangs down like a v-shape from the wooden spoon. The amount of eggs required is not fixed and serves more as a guide.
  7. Fill a piping bag equipped with a round nozzle with the choux pastry
  8. Draw a 20 cm circle on parchment paper on top of a baking trap and pipe the choux pastry following the 20cm ring.
  9. Pipe another ring inside the first ring, with both rings sticking to each other.
  10. Pipe a final ring resting on top and in between the bottom two rings.
  11. Brush the choux pastry with egg wash and sprinkle on the almonds/hazelnuts.
  12. Bake for 28-30 minutes (the pastry should be firm and golden).
  13. Immediately after baking, slice the ring horizontally into two layers before allowing it to cool.
35257791103_f6d4ac9956_k
Louvre Museum, Paris

Pastry Cream (crème pâtissière):

  • 70g sugar
  • 5 egg yolks
  • 25g flour
  • 25g cornstarch/cornflour (or replace with more flour)
  • 450ml milk
  • 1 vanilla bean/1 teaspoon of vanilla essence.
  1. Pour milk into a pan and add in the vanilla seeds from the vanilla pod by scraping out the seeds using a pairing knife. Bring the milk to boil.
  2. Beat the egg yolks and sugar mixture until the egg yolks are pale, light and fluffy.
  3. Whisk in the flour and cornstarch into the egg mixture.
  4. While constantly whisking the egg mixture, pour in half the hot milk in, all the while mixing well.
  5. Pour the egg mixture back into the pot with the remaining milk (all the whole mixing continuously).
  6. Turn on the heat and continue whisking the mixture until it starts to thicken to your desired consistency. At this point, the pastry cream is done and should be refrigerated until cool enough to use.

32954210734_a364c8e716_k

Mousseline Cream (crème mousseline):

  • Pastry Cream
  • 250g unsalted butter
  • 150g praline paste
  1. If the butter comes straight from the fridge, cut the butter into small cubes and place into a pan.
  2. On medium heat, gently heat the butter until just under a quarter of the butter is melted.
  3. Immediately take off the heat and whisk the butter heavily so that the melted butter combines with the remaining unmelted butter to give you soft butter.
  4. Alternatively, use room temperature butter.
  5. Whisk the butter vigorously into the pastry cream, before adding the praline paste into the mixture and continue whisking.
  6. Once whisked until soft and fluffy, the mousseline cream is ready to be used and can be filled into a pastry bag equipped with a star-tipped nozzle.
  7. To assemble to Paris-Brest, pipe some mousseline cream into the bottom layer of the choux pastry before piping the cream in a uniform pattern all around the bottom layer of the choux pastry.
  8. Gently place the top layer of the choux pastry on top of the mousseline cream and dust the Paris-Brest with icing sugar. Chill before serving.

 

 

Notes:

  • Remember to mix the flour/cornstarch into the pastry cream and choux pastry well and vigorously to prevent lumps from forming.
  • Similarly, whisk the choux pastry well when cooking it on the stove top to prevent the bottom from burning. Boiling the milk for pastry cream also runs to risk of the bottom of the pot scorching so remember to mix well.
  • Pastry cream can be flavoured with chocolate or coffee if you don’t like the taste of praline.
  • If you’re mousseline cream is lumpy after the addition of the butter, it means that the butter was too cold when you added it in. You can fix this by letting the mixture warm up a bit, or even slightly heating it up over a bain-marie.
  • A wooden spoon for mixing the choux pastry is better than using a whisk as the mixture is extremely sticky.
  • The panada for the choux pastry is cooked in order to allow it to better absorb the eggs.
  • A lot of mixing is required to incorporate the eggs into the panada so don’t give up if the dough looks split.
  • Adding eggs one at a time allows you to control the final texture of the choux pastry, remember- the pastry should be glossy and hang down like a v-shape from the wooden spoon.
  • The choux pastry ring should be cut immediately after baking as it is the easiest to cut whist it is still hot. Cutting it immediately also releases steam and allows it to cool down faster.
  • After adding the vanilla seeds to the milk, don’t throw away the pod! You can boil the pod with the milk or add the pod to you sugar jar to make vanilla sugar.
  • The pastry cream recipe can be used already after chilled if you do not intend to make mousseline cream.
  • You can gentle soften the butter for mousseline cream in a microwave as well.
  • The mousseline cream can also be chilled in the fridge before use but should be clingfilmed to prevent a skin from forming on it.
  • Remember to whisk the mousseline cream again before use if making the day before.