The richness of Burgundy’s cuisine is largely due to two factors: the region’s wines and its possession of one of the world’s finest breeds of beef cattle, the Charolais. Wines are often used in the preparation of sauces, especially à la bourguignon. Essentially, this means that the dish is cooked in a red wine sauce to which baby onions, mushrooms and lardons (pieces of bacon) are added. The classic Burgundy dishes cooked in this manner are bœuf bourguignon and coq au vin. Another term that frequently appears on menus is meurette, which is also a red wine sauce but made without mushrooms and flambéed with a touch of marc brandy. It’s used with eggs, fish and poultry as well as red meat.
Snails (escargots) are hard to avoid in Burgundy, and the local style of cooking involves stewing them for several hours in white wine with shallots, carrots and onions, then stuffing them with garlic and parsley butter and finishing them off in the oven. Other specialities include the parsley-flavoured ham (jambon persillé); calf’s head (tête de veau, or sansiot); and a pauchouse of river fish (that is, poached in white wine with onions, butter, garlic and lardons).
Like other regions of France, Burgundy produces a variety of cheeses. The best known are the creamy white Chaource, the soft St-Florentin from the Yonne valley, the orange-skinned Époisses and the delicious goat’s cheeses from the Morvan. And then there is gougère, a savoury pastry made with cheese, best eaten warm with a glass of Chablis.