February 24, 2016
I was in Paris a couple of weeks ago, and made arrangements to arrive a day earlier than most of my fellow travelers so I could enjoy the solitude of that great city.
I went to dinner at a nearby bistro, Chez Marcel on rue Stanislaus in the 6th. The owner seated me, then brought over the chalk board with the evening’s specials. One caught my eye immediately — the sea bass with spinach sauce. January is a great time for fresh sea bass in France, and Chez Marcel is only a block away from the fish market at Le Dome, so it might well be the freshest fish on the planet. But with spinach sauce? The chef assured me I would be pleased. The crucial thing, he said, is to not overcook the spinach!
Barbara was home in California still, so I took a photo of the dish when it arrived, and then e-mailed it to her. I ordered a bottle of white Burgundy from the list, and sat down to a singularly wonderful meal. I was struck by how much better the white Burgundy tasted with the sauce, than it did just as a glass of wine before the dish arrived.
In the midst of dinner, Barbara e-mailed back and remarked that she had made a similar sauce for sea bass at Chez Panisse years ago, and the most important thing was to not overcook the spinach. She prepared it for me after our return, and served it with a bottle of our 2014 Chuy’s Vineyard Chardonnay. It was a marriage made in heaven.
The minerality of the Chuy’s Chardonnay matched perfectly with the bright flavors of the fresh, de-stemmed spinach, and gave the fish just enough additional flavor that it seemed like a chorus. I don’t often go on about food and wine pairings but this is one for the ages. I asked Barbara to show me how to make the spinach sauce, and it was surprisingly easy. Just make sure you try it with a bottle of the 2014 Chardonnay ‘Chuy’s Vineyard’.
Here’s her recipe:
1 ½ pounds baby spinach, remove stems and wash
2 Shallots, minced
2 cups milk and cream mixture
2 Tablespoons butter
2 Tablespoons white flour
Salt & Pepper
Steam spinach in a large pot over medium high heat stirring occasionally until wilted, 2-4 minutes. This can be done in batches. Remove from water and put in ice water, drain and squeeze out excess water. In a blender or food processor, puree the spinach.
Sauté minced shallots in butter until clear in color. Add flour and stir into the butter shallot mixture until flour has been absorbed.
Over a low heat, slowly whisk the cream and milk mixture into the shallots and flour. The sauce should thicken.
Add the pureed spinach to the sauce and salt and pepper to taste.
If you have extra spinach, set it aside after steaming. Warm the extra spinach and serve as an accompaniment with the fish.
2014 Chardonnay ‘Chuy’s Vineyard’ – $42/bottle
2014 Chardonnay ‘Chuy’s Vineyard’ 1.5L – $89/bottle