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I Like Soup… and Cru Beaujolais – A Perfect Chilly Weather Pairing

For a summer that included weather conditions that would be considered extreme in most areas — consecutive days of triple digit temperatures (ask anyone who attended WBC11) coupled with oppressive humidity, an earthquake, yes, an earthquake, followed by Hurricane Irene that dumped 10″ to 16″ of rain in many parts of the state — fall weather has set in quickly.   Our corner of Virginia saw a 30 degree temperature drop from one day to the next — 87 degrees and sunny one day, then 57 degrees and rainy the next.

Though I appreciate the beauty that fall brings to Virginia with red, orange, and yellow foliage against a backdrop of green rolling hills, I’d much prefer to ease in to fall with progressively cooler temperatures.  For some reason, I seem to get rancid colds when the temperatures drop so significantly.

I’m hesitant to complain too much since weather is a simple inconvenience for me, but my winemaking friends have been dealt the weather equivalent of a 2 – 6 offsuit hand this year.  (Ed. Note Of the roughly 170 different possible starting hands in Texas Hold ’em, this is one of the worse, requiring creativity and large dose of luck to turn in to a winning hand.)

In terms of the weather in Southeastern, VA, the only constant is change, and much warmer temps will no doubt return soon.  Until then, the cooler weather provides a reason to try a new soup recipe — Jacque Pépin’s take on bean and ham soup — and open one of my favorite summer-to-fall transition wines, cru Beaujolais.

Jacque Pépin's take on bean and ham soup paired with the Duboeuf 2009 Juliénas (don't let my poor photography skills turn you off, the soup was better than this photo)

I’ve long been a fan of bean and ham soup, and the many variations available in nearly every cookbook that contains a soup section, but Jacques Pépin’s version is one of my favorites (I believe there is another version of this soup in Pépin’s Fast Food My Way):

Ingredients:

  • Most importantly, 1 bottle of Cru Beaujolais.  I went with one from Juliénas.
  • 4 smoked ham hocks (get the meaty ones)
  • 1/2 pound dried cannellini beans (1 1/4 cups)
  • 3 quarts water
  • 2 medium red-skinned potatoes, peeled, cut in to 1-inch pieces
  • 1 large leek, white and pale green parts only, cut into 1-inch pieces
  • 1 large carrot, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
  • 1 large parsnip, cut into 1/2-inch pieces (can do without parsnip)
  • 1 large celery rib, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
  • 1/2 pound cabbage, cut into 2-inch pieces (we used kale as a substitute)
  • Salt and pepper, obviously
  • Loaf of fresh French bread, sliced, lightly toasted
  • 2 cups shredded Gruyère cheese (to top the soup and toasted bread slices). I hold the opinion (very strongly) that Gruyere makes everything taste better, and the Gruyere atop toasted bread added a nice crunchy compliment to the soup.

Detailed preparation instructions can be found on page 204 of the October 2011 issue of Food & Wine or visit the F&W recipe page.

Juliénas A great pairing:  As I’ve noted here a number of times, I totally dig Beaujolais (with the exception of Nouveau), and can’t figure out why more of my wine savvy friends don’t appreciate wines from the Crus.  Perhaps the simple virtue of Cru Beaujolais — bright, juicy, low tannin, high acidity, and practical price points — is lost on some (or maybe I’m too simple to know any better🙂 ).

I attended a Beaujolais tasting in the spring and had the chance to taste the George Duboeuf 2009 offerings from each of the ten Crus.  The Morgon and this Juliénas were by far my favorites.  The Duboeuf 2009 Juliénas is full of blueberry, violets, mineral and black tea components.  True to form, nice acidity that worked well with this soup.

Both the bean and ham soup and the Duboeuf Juliénas were a perfect accompaniment to the chilly temps.

What is your favorite cold weather soup (maybe leave recipe)?  What is your favorite summer-to-fall transition food/wine pairing?

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