Somewhere around the turn of the century, I was in the forest looking for peace. An owl overhead hunted a rodent. He whooshed and swooped, and pointed the way to a carpet of smooth leaves peeking out of the rotted leaves on the woodsy floor.
The next year, I was armed with knowledge that I wasn't going to kill myself if I ate what I picked. So, I counted the days and finally, I dug, I washed, I ate.
Thus was born a spring-time obsession.
On that first forage, and first sautée, my first pick was a Robert Michel St. Joseph. Spot on. It was so good I thought I must be a professional or something like that. The best pairing I ever had with the royal blades was probably a Chave St. Jo. In subsequent years, there have been a variety of wines, (as expected, the beaujolais is a no go in this case.) And also in the end, white or red, I like red.
I look for wines that are firmy, earthy, spicy, edgy. Pass the acid please.
You've got to find something to lean up against the ramps, not play patty cake with it. But lean. Trust game. Something with a good foundation that won't let you down. B
I haven't tried vin jaune or a good old oxidized savagnin, and you know what? I think that would be just the ticket.
This year if you're forgaging or just looking to choose a bottle to go with your potato and ramp creation, my favorite , and don't forget the cheese, why don't you try:
Raphael Bereche, NC Champagne Brut Reserve (better pre-meal than with)
Franck Balthazar Cornas 2008 (Syrah with ramps remains a favorite)
La Clarine Farm Sierra Foothills Home Vineyard 2010 (This worked brilliantly)
And for bonus points, why don't you try:
Carballo La Palma Listan Blanco 2008 $18. Just enough VA to pull it together for some strange fruit.
Alice's Ramp and Potato Gratin
½ pound ramps
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
8 ounces Gruyère or extra-sharp Cheddar, grated
¼ cup Parmesan cheese, grated
2 pounds red-skinned potatoes (or potato of choice) of similar size
2 cups half-and-half
3 sprigs of thyme
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
Optional: red pepper flakes.
(Note: You can never use too many ramps or too much cheese in this dish. Adjust up or down depending on taste.)
1. Sauté ramps in olive oil until wilted, with a dash of pepper flakes if you like a kick. Combine the cheeses and reserve a cup for the topping.
2. Wash the potatoes, peel if you like (I don't) and slice them into very thin rounds, using a mandoline or a sharp knife.
3. Oil a 9-by-12-inch heavy, shallow baking dish, preferably earthenware or cast enamel.
4. In a small saucepan, bring the half-and-half to a simmer with thyme and add, generously, salt and pepper. Remove the thyme and set the mixture aside.
5. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
6. Arrange about one-fourth of the potatoes in a layer on the bottom of the dish. Season as you go. Evenly layer in about one-third of the ramps, sprinkling cheese and a few spoons of half-and-half; repeat twice, finishing with a layer of potatoes. Pour the rest of the half-and-half over the potato mixture, allowing the liquid to hit just below the top layer of potatoes. Top off with the remaining cheese. Cover with foil and bake until the potatoes feel tender, about one hour.
7. Raise the oven temperature to 425 degrees, remove the foil and bake until the top begins to brown, about 10 minutes.
Yield: 4 to 6 servings.