Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Coq Au Vin: My Deep Dark Secret

It's time to 'fess up. I love cookbooks, but I rarely ever prepare a recipe as written. It is much, much, much more common for me to consult a few books and then some website, and cobble together what I like from all of them to make something more me.

Tonight, for instance, I stopped at a couple stores on the way home, and bought fixings for coq au vin, or, really, A Slightly Less Pretentious Dish of Red Wine Braised Chicken. And here's how I did it:

Coq au Vin, or a Slightly Less Pretentious Dish of Red Wine Braised Chicken

Preheat your oven to 350°F

8 chicken thighs, with skin, bone in
1 cup flour
hearty pinch salt
hearty grinding pepper

Put flour, salt, and pepper in a brown paper bag. Close up, and shake to combine. Open bag, and put in two chicken thighs. Close the bag, and give a few hearty shakes. Open bag, and take out each thigh, placing them on a cooling rack for the time being. Repeat until all thighs are coated and placed on the rack. Throw out the bag.

Why the rack? Because we want the moisture from the chicken to start forming a shell with the flour, so we want as little contact with surfaces as possible.

2 containers of white mushrooms, sliced
big pat of butter
big pinch of salt

In a separate skillet or pot altogether, melt your big pat of butter over medium-high heat, and then dump in your mushrooms. Add salt. Stir occasionally as you do the rest of your work.

1/2 package bacon, cut into chunks

In a big flat-bottomed pot or a deep skillet, over medium-low heat, render out the bacon fat. If your pot is running hot and you're risking crisping/burning rather than rendering, add a shot glass full of water.

Cook until you've a good amount of fat rendered out, then use tongs and remove the bacon to a bowl for now. Leave the fat in the pan.

Lay 2-3 chicken thighs skin-side down in the bacon-y pot. Let sit for a few minutes, until the crust starts forming, and you see a bit of golden brown. Turn over, and let sit until the other side is crusty/golden. Remove to a heavy 9x13 pan. Repeat with the rest of the chicken thighs, in small batches. If you pot dries out, add a few glugs of olive oil between batches.

4 carrots, chopped
1 onion, chopped
5 cloves garlic, minced

Dump your non-fungus veg into the bacon-y/chicken-y pot, and stir frequently until the onions and garlic are softened. If you have the patience, keep going until the carrots are soft. If not....so be it.

By now, the mushrooms should have cooked down. They're now much more brown than they were, and almost all of the liquid they threw off has evaporated.

If it hasn't evaporated, turn up the heat, and keep the non-fungus veg going until the mushrooms are ready.

When the mushrooms are all ready, take 'em off the heat, and spread them over/between the chicken in the 9x13 pan. Scoop up non-fungus veg and spread over/between the chicken & mushrooms. Sprinkle/spread the bacon on top of the whole mess.

1 750-ml bottle of relatively inexpensive pinot noir, ideally from France or Oregon (it should be something that you would actually deign to drink; plonk has no place here, but "I could use it in Sangria" does)
2 bay leaves
2 sprigs rosemary AND 3 sprigs thyme OR a big ol' pinch of dried herbs de Provence

Check your bacon-y/chicken-y/non-fungus-veg-y pot: is there any fat left in the pan? If so, pour it off (not down the sink...into an empty can) or blot it up with paper towels. Dump in your wine, turn up the heat to high, and start whisking to get all the crusty bits up off the pan bottom. This? Is flavor. It's also "deglazing." It is the key to goodness. Honest. Add in the herbs, and whisk frequently as the whole things bubbles strongly. Keep it going for 3-5 minutes -- it'll reduce somewhat.

Take off the heat, and pour over the chicken/mushroom/veg/bacon concoction. Cover the pan tightly with aluminum foil, and pop in the oven for an hour and a half.

1 package noodles -- egg noodles, spƤtzle, fettuccine, or whatever you have in the cupboard
large amounts of water
heaping pinch of salt
big knob of butter
store bunch of fresh parsley, leafy bits chopped up, stems discarded

Bring water to a boil in a big ol' pot. Toss in the salt, then the noodles. Stir, and cook for the length of time specified on the package. Drain. Put into a big ol' bowl, and toss with the knob of butter and 3/4 of the parsley.

Eat a bowl full of noodles, because by now you're really hungry, and the house smells amazing, and you're salivating, and you need sustenance.

When the chicken's been in the oven for an hour and a half, pull it out, open it up, and sprinkle the rest of the parsley over the whole thing.

Serve the chicken and veg along side the noodles, and spoon some of the delicious sauce over the whole thing. Make sure you're not eating the bay leaves or the sprigs of herbs. Throw those bad boys away.

Like all things stewed and braised, this'll just get better as it sits in the fridge. Make sure you have some leftovers for the next day or two, because you'll be the happiest person in the world.

And that, m'dears, is how I cook.

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