It has been quiet around the cubbyhole for the past few days. My throat and nose started a fight on Monday, and since then I have spent my time trying to make them friends again. Thankfully, aside from the occasional sneeze and the tissue box never more than an arm's length away, life is nearly back to normal. I appreciate your sympathy, but to be honest, this minor tiff of a cold is a piece of cake compared to the nasty brawl many poor souls have been bed-ridden with for weeks. Nothing like spring to send us into a fever.
At least we have eaten well. Come on! You think a cold is going to keep me from the stove? Oh please. Cooking is like medicine only with a much better after taste.
Yesterday was dreary and rainy, just like my nose, and I spent most of it wrapped in a blanket re-reading portions of Trail of Crumbs by Kim Sunée. Which, by the way, comes highly recommended if you swoon over a sultry seductive memoir that chronicles a life through meals, and searches for home in flavors. It is not for the faint of heart, but of course that does not apply to any of you anyway. If you do not already own it, order it here.
After a few chapters in Provence, I tucked my weary self into the kitchen to start a pot of Coq au Vin. Coq au vin has always been the sign of a long cold afternoon spent tucked inside the house. Mom would make it in the crock-pot when I was a little girl, and after simmering all day; there was not a corner in the house that had not been touched by the scent of mushrooms and wine. As a child, I probably did not appreciate its magnificence, but I certainly do now. Mothers always know best, so much sooner than the rest.
Though I surely did not Master the Art of French Cooking in my Coq au Vin, I did heed Julia Child's advice to blanch the bacon prior to browning it. Boiling bacon was a first for me, but I must admit that of course the Genius herself would have been correct, brilliantly correct. Yes, you read that right, boiling the bacon. Who would have thought? Blanching the bacon first draws out the extra salt and smokiness that could overpower the flavor of the whole dish. Stephen said he did not understand why that would be a bad thing, but whatever, you know how he is about pork.
The process is a bit labor intensive, but once you get it to a simmer; you can go back to sneezing, sniffling, and reading on the sofa. Let me know how it goes; the cooking and reading parts.
Coq au Vin serves 4
Serve the chicken over roasted red potatoes or with thick slices of toasted baguette; whichever way you prefer to soak up the very delicious sauce.
1 whole chicken cut into parts or four breasts or legs, whatever suits your preference
4 strips good quality bacon
15-20 pearl onions
8 oz sliced baby bella or button mushrooms
2 bay leaves
2 garlic cloves, whole but lightly smashed with edge of knife
1 teaspoon dried thyme or 2 teaspoons fresh thyme
1/2 cup chardonnay
2 cups pinot noir, merlot or other dry red wine
1 cup chicken broth
1/2 cup all purpose flour plus 2 tablespoons
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1/2 teaspoon salt or to taste
few cracks black pepper
a bit of olive oil
Prepare the vegetables and bacon
1. Bring one medium size pot of water to a boil. Drop in whole pearl onions and boil for 3 minutes. Strain out pearl onions and bring the water back to a boil to blanch the bacon or boil fresh water for bacon
2. Run pearl onions under cold water until cool enough to handle. Cut off the bottoms and peel off outer skins. set aside
3. Blanch bacon in boiling water for 5 minutes. Drain and set aside
4. Heat large casserole pan or dutch oven with a fitted lid over medium heat and brown bacon on both sides until cooked through. About 10 minutes
5. Remove bacon from pan and set aside. Sauté mushrooms in pan until tender and browned, about 10 minutes. Remove from pan and set aside
6. Add peeled pearl onions to pan and let them get a golden brown finish. After they have a brown edge, add 1/2 cup chardonnay to the pan, and scrape the brown bits off the bottom of the pan. Let the pearl onions sit in the chardonnay until most of the chardonnay has evaporated (about 3 minutes) and then remove the onions and liquid from the pan and set aside
Prepare the chicken
1. Wipe the pan out with a cloth, and add a bit of olive oil just to thinly coat the bottom. Heat pan back up over medium heat. Dredge each piece of chicken in a bit of flour and add to pan. Let sit on one side until golden, about 5 minutes. Flip and brown the other side for 3 minutes
2. Add chicken broth, red wine, thyme, bay leaves, and whole garlic cloves to the pan
3. Turn heat to low and simmer, covered, for 30 minutes. Flip chicken once, add bacon(crumbled) and vegetables to pan, and simmer on low for another 1 1/2 hours. You also could finish the last 1 1/2 hours in the oven if your pan is oven proof. Heat your oven to 300 and cook, covered, after you do the first flip.
To Finish the sauce
1. To prepare a roux in a small sauce pan like pictured above, melt 2 tablespoons of butter over medium low heat. Stir in flour until completely smooth. Let cook, stirring constantly until slightly golden
2. After the chicken has cooked the final 1 1/2 hours, remove the bay leaves and garlic cloves. Ladle 1/2 cup of the wine broth into the small sauce pan with the hot roux and whisk to combine
3. Whisk roux mixture back into chicken pan liquid to thicken the sauce
4. Let cook a few minutes more on stove top or in the oven. Salt to taste and enjoy every last bite