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Cooking With Wine: Bordeaux, Sauternes

Cooking With Wine: Bordeaux, Sauternes

Bordeaux - Sauternes

Cooking With Wine is on SOMM TV and features renowned chef Kate Hill as she cooks through the regions of France. With over 30 years of experience and teaching students worldwide, episode 4 features Kate taking viewers on a culinary journey to Bordeaux. Create Les Huîtres et Saucisse & Sabayon au Sauternes (Oysters & Sausage with Sauternes Sabayon) at home with the recipe below. 

Choosing a recipe for the Bordeaux region was a bit of a puzzle. I have tried to avoid the apparent clichés as we moved through the well-known regions of France, pairing a style of wine rather than a specific vineyard or grape varietal. In Bordeaux, the obvious choice is a big deep Cabernet Sauvignon from the Medoc paired with Lamb, or a generous Côte de Boeuf. But I have a fondness for the quieter backroads of Bordeaux’s inland. There is one that leads to a modest village spoiled for choice with wine shops that gleam golden like Ali Baba’s cave and reflect the singular wine produced here – Sauternes. As often as not, the late-harvest botrytis-affected Sauternes bookends a great meal: served with foie gras before; with desserts after. This recipe is a cliché buster yet stays within the traditional techniques of cooking with wine while expressing a taste of Bordeaux.

Sabayon is a classic wine sauce. Often, it uses Champagne or another dry white wine. But for this recipe, we’re using a sweet Sauternes. By adding the Sauternes to the oysters during the poach, the oyster flavor is coaxed into the wine, creating a sweet and briny broth that gets whisked into the rich egg yolk foam. Popping the barely cooked oysters, sausage and sabayon under the broiler for a few minutes results in a golden browned gratin spilling out of the oyster shells and into your mouth. Obviously, drink alongside a well-chilled glass of Sauternes.

Cooking with Wine Bordeaux Sauternes
Ingredients for Les Huîtres, Saucisse & Sabayon au Sauternes

Les Huîtres, Saucisse & Sabayon au Sauternes

Oysters, Sausage & Sabayon au Sauternes

  • 1 dozen fresh raw oysters
  • 2 glasses Sauternes wine 
  • 250 grams or 8 oz. fresh pork sausage, enough for a tablespoon per oyster (if the sausage is not already seasoned add salt and pepper to taste)
  • 1 teaspoon quatre-épices (a mix of nutmeg, cinnamon, clove, ginger)
  • 4 egg yolks
  1. Place the raw oysters in a pan with a tightly fitted lid.  Pour two glasses of Sauternes wine over the oysters, place the lid on, and steam quickly over a hot fire. When the wine comes to a boil and enough steam has been created to barely open the oysters (3-4 minutes), remove from heat and open the oysters, reserving the oyster in one bowl, the shells in another. Strain the wine and oyster juices through a fine sieve.
Oysters steaming in Sauternes

2. Prepare the sausage: break up the sausage into a crumble, add the quatre-épices, heat in a pan until barely cooked, but do not brown. Set aside.

Make the sabayon:

  1. Separate eggs and whisk the yolks until smooth.

2. Place yolks into a sauce pan, add a couple tablespoons of the warm Sauternes to temper the eggs. Begin whisking over a low flame adding most of the liquid into the yolks. Whisk continually until it starts to stabilize and thicken (about 5 minutes). You want to form a thick foam with no liquid left in the bottom of the pan. All the egg yolk and wine should be in suspension and the sabayon should thickly coat a spoon.

In this clip from Bordeaux – Sauternes, we prepare the sabayon.

Assemble the oysters: 

  1. Place the empty bottom shells of the oysters on an oven-proof platter. I used some rock salt to hold them in place, but you can also just crowd the shells together so they don’t move or rock.

2. Place a spoon of cooked sausage into the bottom of the shell.

3. Place barely-cooked oysters on top of the sausage.

4. Cover and fill each shell with the sabayon until it is full, full, full.

5. Cook under a broiler until the sabayon starts to gratinée and brown. Remove and eat while warm with a glass of well-chilled Sauternes. Bon Appétit!

Recipe © Kate Hill. Visit for online classes, in-person programs, and tours in France.

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