After having partaken of the omble chaevalier (the char) at various times and places. I am of the opinion that skillful Francois Bise at L'Auberge du Pere Bise is particularly deft at bringing out the best in this noble fish.
L'Auberge is situated in lyrical surroundings in the village of Talloires on the Lake of Annecy in Haut-Savole, France. Whether Bise serves the fish simply with sauce hollandaise or more elaborately Nantu style or braised in Port, it is a dish worth the voyage to Talloires.
My personal favorite preparation is braise au porto in which the metamorphosis of the omble is performed without losing any of its inherent delicacy. The origins of the recipe go back to that late king of cuisiniers; Ferdinand Point. Point had created the recipe for trout and Bise, who served as Point's apprentice for four years, refined it for the omble , a more delicate fish than trout.
The fish is first deboned, taking care not to damage the fish. It is then stuffed with lightly sauteed, but not browned, julienne of carrots, truffles and mushrooms. The next step is to poach the fish in a lightly buttered pan with shallots, salt and pepper, good white wine and Port. Cooking it for only a few minutes leaves it ready to be bathed in a sauce made from the reduced poaching mixture, egg yolks and cream.
The saurce fish is briefly put under a flame, which imparts a blondish color to the sauce. This aristocratic dish is then ready to be decorated with truffles before being served with puff pastry crescents. The result is an ultimate satisfaction of many senses. The sheer visual beauty of the orange blonde fish with black diamonds on its back is breathtaking. A slight tartness of the sauce lends this rich and opulent dish a remarkable freshness. One slowly savors and wonders at the creation of nature and its happy artistic transformation at the hands of human beings.
Over the years, I have tried mostly burgundies - Montrachet Corton Charlemagne - with omble chevalier braise au porto.The marriage has been nearly perfect but something has always been a trifle amiss. Only a few weeks ago, I decided to couple the omble with a Sauterne or a Barac. The decision made, it remained only to choose from the varied selection in the wine cellars of l'Auberge. Chateau Coutet a Barsac 1929 would be too overpowering, while Chateau d'Yquem 1961 would perhaps be still too young. Chateau Guiraud 1934 would be uncertain, at least to me. With some trepidation, not devoid of a sense of adventure, Chateau Coutet 1939 was finally chosen.
What a happy choice it turned out to be! The rich golden color of the wine had jsut a shimmer of orange embedded in it. The intense bouquet, a harmonious balance of acid and sugar and the lasting after-taste of the Coutet provided a heavenly match for the omble . A union worthy of a joyous poem.
Talloires is most easily accessible from Geneva. The 30-odd miles can be covered by car or by bus or train to Annecy from where there is a frequent bus and boat service to Talloires. Both automobile and boat taxis are also available. It should be noted that the above preparation of the omble has to be ordered at least 24 hours in advance.