17 March 2013

Cooking Crépinettes

Crépinettes take their name from the light, membranous fat that they’re wrapped in, called crépine in French. The classic version, from Bordeaux, is a simple breakfast sausage with very restrained but precise seasoning of salt, white pepper, and nutmeg. There are variations: caillettes, a Burgundian version, include organ meats; with chard, from Normandy; and a Languedocienne sophistication, with black truffles.  

Along the French coast, crépinettes are often eaten alongside local, flat-shelled oysters with sauce mignonette, the sharp-edged, perfectly delicious combination of shallot, crushed black peppercorns, and white wine. Purists argue that it’s a Parisian affectation, and many aficionados eat their oysters “au nature,” with no condiments at all. But, as the French say, “à chacun, son goût.”  Kept the in your refrigerator, crépinettes will last 5-6 days, no longer.  They will freeze well up to three months. 

Cook crépinettes in a half-half mixture light-bodied oil and half butter, or in just clarified butter, if you have it. Use a heavy fry pan or, preferably, a cast iron skillet.  Warm the pan to a gentle sizzle, and then turn the heat down low. Add a thin coating of fat and cook the sausages for seven minutes on each side, turning once, until firm all the way through, about 15 minutes. They are wonderful on the grill, too, cooked for the same amount of time.

Serve crépinettes with buttered baguette and roquette (arugula) salad, or if you’re living large, with your favorite oysters.  Some sacrilegiously serve Dijon mustard along side; it’s good but not correct. I like to drink a lovely Savennières from Château d’Epiré with crépinettes – it’s a stunning combination! Failing that, try a good Pic St. Loup blanc or fill-bodied Entre-Deux-Mers.  And there’s always Chinon. 

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