Thursday, March 26, 2009

Coq au Vin

When it's getting to be spring and you start to get a bit nostalgic for the wintery snows that left us only weeks ago, it's nice to get a day that is crispy and overcast because it justifies cooking something rich, hearty, warming, and cozifying.

I love all forms of chicken cooked in wine, and yet I've never made a proper Coq au Vin. Tonight a dear friend is coming, having just returned from overseas. I think she warrants something special; something special that involves bacon. Nothing warms a person's heart like one meat cooked in the fat of another meat. And chicken cooked in bacon and then simmered in a hearty red wine is pretty much the top of the cozy-dinner list.

Words cannot express how delicious, rich, and umami-fied this meal was. If you need a meaty, brothy, scrumptious fix, this is it. Trust me.

I'll say it right now: I don't like mushrooms and nothing anyone can do can induce me to cook with or eat them. Aside from that, and the fact that Provigo doesn't stock peeled, frozen pearl onions and I'm lazy, I'm not going to do any modifications to the classic Coq au Vin à la Julia Child. Sound good, Julia?

A half a pack of low-salt bacon, cut into rectangles about 1/4 inch across and 1 inch long. YUM BACON
6 boneless, skinless chicken thighs
pepper to taste
1/4 c cognac
3 c bold red wine
1-2 c chicken stock
2 tbs tomato paste
2 cloves mashed garlic
3 large carrots, sliced into 1/2" by 3" points
1/2 tsp thyme
2 bay leaves
2 onions, sliced into half-moons
1/2 lb sauteed mushrooms (I'm having none of it)
parsley for garnish

1. Sautee your bacon until it is very lightly browned. Julia wanted me to saute it in 2 tbs butter -- IMAGINE!!! Remove to a side dish. Use a dutch oven or fireproof casserole.

2. Brown the chicken in the hot fat. Season the chicken with salt and pepper and return bacon to the pot. Add the onions and the carrots. Cover, and cook slowly for 10 minutes, turning the chicken once.

3. Pour in cognac (I used brandy). OK and here is a direct quote from Mastering the Art of French Cooking: "Averting your face, ignite the cognac with a lighted match. Shake the casserole back and forth for several seconds until the flames subside." Uh... I'm not so sure I can do this. I'm not sure my landlord or my eyelashes would like it. I did not set my brandy on fire, but feel free to attempt this dangerous culinary feat at your own risk.

4. Pour in the wine (MOAR BOOZE) and add just enough stock to cover the chicken. Stir in the tomato paste, garlic, and herbs. Bring to a simmer and cover for 25-30 minutes, until the chicken is tender and the juices run clear. Skim off the fat. Julia says you should thicken the gravy with flour, but I found that I reduced it enough so that I didn't need to do this.

6. Then boil rapidly until the liquid is reduced to 2 1/4 cup. Discard bay leaf and remove from heat. Serve to your adoring guests!

I served it with roasted potatoes, and lots of wine although Julia also recommends buttered peas. Even though we were only three, and this recipe is supposed to serve 4-6, we polished off all of it and two bottles of wine. The bacon really made this meal, so use turkey bacon if you must, but don't omit it all together!

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