Crocus l'Atelier Malbec de Cahors with Château de Mercuès Chicken in Saffron Broth with Vegetables

Crocus l'Atelier Malbec de Cahors with Château de Mercuès Chicken in Saffron Broth with Vegetables

In a land far, far away there is an elegant Château called Mercuès overlooking a dramatic cliff. In the Château, there lived some beautiful wines . . .

Last summer, I wrote a post on Crocus Malbec — a collaboration in Cahors between Paul Hobbs and Bertrand Vigoroux. Earlier this year I had the chance to attend a winemaker lunch exploring their latest vintage, paired with a seminar taking a closer look of the varied terroirs of the region. Shortly thereafter, I had the chance to see visit the region on a press trip and actually see these terroirs for myself.

You can bet that there will be future posts geeking out over what I learned about the terroirs, however, today I had something different in mind. Among the information we were sent home with at the end of the Crocus  lunch was a recipe card for a recipe developed by Julien Poisot, the chef at Château de Mercuès, developed to pair with Crocus’ l’Atelier wine (Average price: $19. Please note that this wine was received as a sample. No other compensations was received and all opinions are my own.) I thought it would be fun to make their recipe and compare, particularly since they took their pairing in such a different direction. I was working with one of their other cuvées, but I thought it would be fun to make their recipe and compare, particularly since they took their pairing in such a different direction. While I paired the wine with a steak flavored with tea and lavender, the Mercuès recipe pairs the wine with chicken and vegetables poached in a light but flavorful saffron broth. The saffron is very apropos as it is derived from the crocus flower, for which the wine is named.

As a bit of background, Château de Mercuès is a Relais & Château property that dates back to to the 13th century. The Château also happens to have a Michelin starred restaurant and a 4-star hotel on the premises. It was purchased by Georges Vigoroux in 1983 and the family restored the building to its current condition.

Château de Mercuès. Image borrowed from their website.

The Château also has vineyards and a winery, from which they’ve developed several lines of wine. Among his other projects, Bertrand Vigoroux (Georges’ son) developed the Crocus line in collaboration with Paul Hobbs. For a closer look at the region and at the Crocus project, I invite you to take a look at my last post, as well as this timeline of their history.

L’Atelier refers to an artisan’s ‘workshop,’ and this wine is made from a select palette of diverse terroirs. I actually had the chance to go to Cahors this past October (amazing!), so I plan to take a geeky deep dive into the fascinating terroir of Cahors in a future post, but take a look at these handy cards as way of primer in the meantime. 

The wine is full-bodied, but nicely balanced with bright acidity. It showed notes of bright blackberry, black cherry, plum, with undercurrents of dust and bramble. The wine sees no oak, but nonetheless, it has a touch of spice on the palate. The tannins were also quite fine.

The Château de Mercuès recipe title says it uses “spring” vegetables, but with a couple of exceptions, many of those called for are available much later in the year. Moreover, the saffron broth seemed just as ideal for a chilly evening. I did make a few minor tweaks to the recipe, largely based on convenience. First up, the original recipe called for rainbow chard. Since I was already using beets in the dish, and beets are related to chard, I opted to use the beet greens rather than to purchase a whole other vegetable. I also omitted the green onion since it was no longer in season. At the time I prepared the dish, I could still find asparagus, but you can omit it if it is not in season. I recommend using thinner asparagus for faster cooking, if you choose to use it.

You might also note from the recipe card that the amount required of each item is quite scant. I went ahead and made a bigger quantity so as to have leftovers. After we had the first prettily plated round, I chopped up all the veggies and the chicken into pieces to enjoy the rest as chicken soup. (Tip: a sprinkle of Parmesan in the soup is quite tasty!)

I also decided to adapt the recipe to make use of my sous vide circulator. You absolutely don’t have to do this; feel free to follow the recipe card (pictured below), or follow the alternate directions I give below. By separating out the chicken and adding it in at the end, I was able to omit most of the extra work of boiling the vegetables separately (with the exception of the asparagus and red beets) and then shocking them in cold water. Instead, I just cooked them directly in the broth. Since most of these vegetables have orange or red pigments, the yellow-orange pigment of the saffron did not muddy their color. Additionally, there was no worry of overcooking the chicken. 

Crocus l'Atelier Malbec de Cahors with Château de Mercuès Chicken in Saffron Broth with Vegetables. Photo by Greg Hudson.

I admit that I was skeptical that the weights of the wine and dish would match, but I think those fine tannins allowed this fairly big wine to pair with this light dish. The flavors of the wine melded nicely with the earthiness of the saffron. As far as the vegetables in the mix, the beets made a particularly nice match. 

Château de Mercuès Chicken in Saffron Broth with Vegetables.


Château de Mercuès Chicken in Saffron Broth with Vegetables

Recipe adapted from Julien Poisot, chef at Château de Mercuès.


4 boneless chicken breasts
1 bunch of asparagus (asparagus spears should be fairly thin)
Approximately 6 carrots (carrots should be moderately thin)
4 to 6 radishes, halved
6 to 8 beets with greens, separated, and halved (I used half golden beets and half red beets)
1 ½ quart stock, use more stock or water as needed (I used chicken stock)
2 generous pinches of saffron
2 to 4 tablespoons of butter


1.  If using sous vide circulator: Preheat circulator to 140°F for softer chicken texture, or 150°F for firmer texture.

If using traditional method:  Bring stock seasoned the saffron, salt and pepper to a boil, then reduce to a simmer.

2. Season chicken with salt and pepper.

Sous vide method: Place chicken in heavy duty plastic bags with a pinch of saffron and a tablespoon or two of butter. Remove the air from the bag with a vacuum sealer, or by slowly submerging the bag in the water, then zipping up the bag once the air has been pushed out. Cook the chicken for 1 hour and 30 minutes at 140°F, or for 1 hour at 150°F.

Traditional method: Place the chicken in the simmering saffron broth, cover, and cook for 6 or 7 minutes. Transfer chicken to a separate platter.

3. Simultaneously, bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Once boiling, add the asparagus and cook for about 3 minutes, or until tender-crisp. Remove from the water and chill them in ice water, drain, and set aside.

4. If using the sous vide method, and you haven’t already done so, bring stock seasoned with salt and pepper to a boil with a pinch of saffron to a boil, then reduce to a simmer. This should be about 30 minutes before the chicken is ready.

Add the radishes and beets to the broth and cook for about 20 minutes. (Tip: I you’re using red beets, you might want to cook them in some broth separately to keep the color from bleeding into the rest of the soup.) Add the carrots and continue cooking for approximately 5 more minutes, or until all the vegetables are starting to turn tender crisp. Add in the asparagus and cook for another 1 to 2 minutes, then add the beet green and cook until the greens are wilted.

Traditional method
:  add the chicken back in along with the beet greens to rewarm.

Sous vide method: Feel free to add the cooking liquid from the bag to the soup.

5. Remove the chicken and slice into portions. Arrange vegetables and chicken in bowls.

6. Remove the broth from heat, then stir in a couple of tablespoons of butter. Then pour the broth over the chicken and vegetables in the bowls. Serve. 

Château de Mercuès Chicken in Saffron Broth with Vegetables.
Château de Mercuès. Image borrowed from their website.


Last week the French Winophiles met online to share wines for the "French-Style Season." I intended to share this post as a part of that event, but unfortunately had some personal issues set me a back a bit. Nonetheless, please check out the rest of their offerings:

  • Camilla from Culinary Adventures with Camilla whips up "A French #Winophiles Fête: Foie Gras, Pain d'Epices & Champagne Drappier"
  • Jill shares from L'OCCASION shares "How To Bring French Holiday Traditions Home"
  • Gwen at WinePredator has "Season's Greetings French-Style"
  • Wendy at A Day In The Life On The Farm gives us "A Holiday Gathering with French Foods and Wines"
  • Martin at ENOFLYZ Wine Blog shares "A Taste of French Inspired Holiday Food and Wine"
  • Deanna from Asian Test Kitchen tells writes about "Ants Climb a Tree with French Wine"
  • Jeff from foodwineclick discusses What is French-Style Season?”
  • Liz from What's In That Bottle tells us how toFrenchify Your Festivities with Fun Wines
  • Payal writes at Keep The Peas shares “Bonnes Fêtes à la #winophiles”
  • Lauren from The Swirling Dervish shares "Parisian Holidays: A Few of My Favorite Things"
  • David Crowley of CookingChat shares Festive Pairings for Pouilly-Fumé and Other Special French Wine #winophiles
  • Kat from Bacchus Travel & Tours tells us about "Noël en Provence #winophiles"
  • Jane cooks things up at Always Ravenous shares A French-Inspired Winter Dinner

  • Rupal from Journeys of a Syrah Queen shares French Inspired Holiday Wines
  • Robin at Crushed Grape Chronicles entices us with Un repas de Noël pour les fêtes de fin d’année (A Christmas Dinner for the end of the year celebrations)…with wine #Winophiles”
  • Michelle of Rockin Red Blog writes about A French-Inspired Holiday Alsatian Style
  • Lyn writes at L.M. Archer shares "The Hedonistic Taster: A French-Style Season"
  • Lynn from Savor the Harvest shares "Give a Little Touche Française to your Holiday #Winophiles"

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