Once upon a time, there were three little children who had very discerning tastes. On a particularly dark and rainy day the mother had grown weary of small demanding voices. Had they not been served with love whole-wheat pancakes with fresh berries and bananas for breakfast? Were they not content with their much requested pepperoni pie for lunch? And was the otherwise dreary day not spent placating the little children with basketball, doll dressings, princess pretending and storytelling?
So, when the voices of those smaller than three feet demanded to know what was for dinner the mother, in an attempt to make the dish sound more appealing to her given audience and keep $20 worth of lamb from going to waste, well…told a tiny white lie.
“Mouton! Mes enfants! Ah! Le Mouton!” Exclaimed the mother with exhuberance.
“What’s that (dear mother)?” the precious little children questioned.
“Why it is a special dinner that children in France eat only when they are very, very good.” This may be true.
“You mean like when Santa Claus comes or the tooth fairy?” At least they were listening.
“Exactly. Now, run go play. I’ll ring the dinner bell when the very, very special Mouton is ready.”
And the mother busied herself for quite sometime preparing the ever special Mouton.
Only, the mother wasn’t making Mouton. She was making a leg of lamb. Mouton in French is actually sheep. Lamb is l’agneau. The mother would know this because many, many moons ago she was a French major and actually attended cooking classes while living in France. But, l’agneau doesn’t roll off the tongue very pretty and mouton is just more fun to say. Plus, don’t they both go baabaabaa??? So, the children of this fairy tale believed they were eating mouton. A technicality really.
As our story continues, the children were happily playing elsewhere in the forest when the mother realized that both recipes for the evening called for dry white wine. Zut! The mother had no cooking wine left in her cupboard. Ever resourceful she remembered the other side of the wine cellar. The dusty side that never got opened — its contents a distant memory.
“Why the white wine side of the vestibule of course! Perhaps I have a good bottle of white to use for my leg of lamb and my brussels sprouts,” thought the sage mother. Who really wasn’t very sage as she was fresh out of the needed herb as well.
The white wine side of the chiller contained several bottles of the less appreciated sort. Digging deeper and reaching further the mother felt a familiar bottle graze the tips of her fingers. “Ahhhh,” she sighed gratefully. For amidst all the white wine forgotten remained a glistening bottle from a journey long ago. The final from a case, the other eleven long ago consumed, though not in one sitting. It was a special bottle from a vineyard visited by the mother and the father a long, long time ago. You see, before the children arrived in this tale, the mother and the father, then merely the wife and the husband, traveled far and wide usually in search of a perfect meal and wine. On one such adventure, they stumbled upon a vineyard in the Russian River Valley and talked their way into a tour. Hours later they left the castle on the hill full of spirits and seemingly nonplussed by the two cases of reserve wines they had expressed shipped back to Texas to ensure they would be waiting ready to imbibe upon their return home. The wine that bathed the lamb and flavored the brussels sprouts on this damp winter evening was the final bottle of the 1996 Reserve Chardonnay from the Schlumberger Estate.
The leg of lamb called for 1 cup of wine and the brussels sprouts yet another. The leg of lamb was tender from its hour long bath en papillote in wine, lemon and mint. The brussels sprouts were truly sensational. Simmered in a cup of wine and equal amount of chicken broth then reduced with Dijon, sour cream and tarragon they exploded with an earthy flavor enhanced by toasted slivered almonds. The simple salad of mixed field greens with gruyere, dried cranberries and raspberry vinaigrette rounded out the flavors perfectly.
And the remaining ½ bottle of white? Well, the children ate their mouton. Or perhaps they did not. The mother cleared the table and scrubbed the dishes. Or perhaps she did not. The father bathed the children, read them a story and tucked them sweetly into their beds. Or perhaps he did not. For you see the only thing that remains certain on this particular white wine infused evening is that the family lived happily ever after.