Vigneron refers to a person that cultivates a vineyard for winemaking, or in simpler terms, a winegrower, while the word écrin can mean a jewelry case or a casket. In this dessert recipe for Ecrin de vigneron, Pastry Chef Patrick Castel for Peaks Restaurant creates a dessert in honor of winegrowers. Roughly translating to “winegrower’s casket,” this somber-sounding dessert is sculpted in the form of a casket which can seem dire for a dessert, but it can also resemble a jewelry case for storing precious grapes. This unusual dish is appropriate for solemn or serious occasions but it can also be ironically entertaining for the amusement of sophisticated party guests.
For a dessert dedicated to wine, grapes, and winegrowers, it is only right to serve this elegant dish with a bottle of exquisite white wine. For something more daring, serve it with Marc de Burgogne, a French spirit or pomace brandy made from pressed skins, pulp, and seeds from the leftovers of processing wine. This drink is quite strong and potent, and quite provocative, which goes well with the audacious grape dessert. Be aware that this drink has a fiery after-burn that puts off some drinkers, but that this very same bold and assertive quality is what endears it to others.
Chef Castel uses Marc de Burgogne for steeping some of the white grapes used in this recipe so drinking the spirit with the dessert is not so radical an idea. If you cannot get Marc de Burgogne, you can also use other brandies of good quality to stand up to this refined, thoughtful, and carefully constructed sweet dish.
To make the casket, you need confectioner’s sugar (a hundred and fifty grams). Liquid cream, syrup, milk chocolate, plain chocolate, fresh white grapes, and white grapes macerated in brandy.
Coarsely chop the dark and milk chocolates and place them in separate bowls. Boil cream and whip it up until thick. Mix it in with the finely chopped milk chocolate. Blend together until you get a creamy and even consistency. Sculpt mixture in a small casket mold and place in the refrigerator.
Place fresh grapes in a bowl. Mix in with remaining thick cream. Whisk until the grapes are incorporated in the cream and you get an even consistency. Cut the brandy-soaked grapes into two. Remove the seeds. Place grapes on top of the cooled cream on the casket mold. Cover with the grape cream mixture. Place in the refrigerator for two to three hours.
To make grape coulis, blend fresh grapes and syrup together. Strain with a sieve to take out skins and seeds. Crush the pulp well to extract all the juice. Keep the fleshy mush for decoration. Melt the dark chocolate to make chocolate ganache.
Place the bottom of the cold mold in lukewarm water to loosen the mold. Pop the mold on the plate, placing it on the surface upside down. Decorate the plate with tiny balls of chocolate ganache, which represent the grapes, on the edge of the casket. Place some of the grape mush on the side. Pour some grape coulis, which represents the wine, on the plate. Decorate with scrolls of chocolates and tiny vine leaves.