Today was epiphany day! Not because of the Coq Au Vin, I’ve made it before and know that other than the time I spend getting the chicken drunk by marinating it in wine, it’s not really a tough dish. I woke up this morning feeling liberated. Some of those little niggling problems that have been giving me a headache lately, seem to have reasonable solutions with very little work on my part. Nothing major, just little frustrations like my home building project being put off for a month and a relationship that, while I might not need to walk away forever, I do need to take some baby steps in the opposite direction right now. I came to the conclusion that as far as the building project goes….I can have an additional month of peace. On the relationship front….I’m beginning to develop a clear picture of what’s truly important to me. A wise friend keeps telling me that it’s better to be alone than in a relationship that drains the life out of you and because of current circumstances, I’m being drained.
I feel as though I’ve had my own little French Revolution and no one was beheaded or shot with a musket. So perhaps, Coq Au Vin was an appropriate dish, cake would have been too obvious. I don’t really have many memories of Coq Au Vin, it wan’t a dish that my family ever made. The strange part of that is that we have ancestral ties to France and I’m sure that some of my relations were even struck down in the streets, while protesting. We do, however, make a mean Chicken Cacciatore, which makes no sense, because as far as I know, we’re not Italian (OK I can pass but that’s as close as it gets).
My first introduction to this dish was one of my cooking classes in Germany and I remember thinking that it took too long and required too much stirring and chopping. Who knew that later in life, I’d opt to stay home, wear sweats and cook chicken in wine sauce on a Saturday night, instead of going out to find the next trendy bar. I think my trendy bar days are officially over and I’d forgotten how soothing it can be to stir a sauce until it thickens and to sneak tastes throughout the process.
This is really one of those dishes that you don’t just pop in your mouth to chew, you savor it, rolling it around your tongue and unlocking the layers of flavor that unfurl themselves on your palete. It’s best shared but I have to admit to creating a fabulous dinner for one (I did slip a piece of chicken to the dog, so technically I did have company). I lit candles, brought out the fine china and was sorely disappointed when a waiter didn’t show up with a chocolate creme brulee for dessert. OK it slid downhill from there and I wound up eating an ice cream bar but I imagined creme brulee when I licked the stick.
As nice as it would have been to share this amazing dish with someone, I realize that it’ll happen (patience is not one of my virtues) and at least I can be well fed in the meantime. I also knew that this was a special moment because pretty soon, it’ll be impossible to enjoy a nice meal because of all the dust and debris in my house. So right now, I’m grateful that I have some peace in my life and that’s a pretty good thing. Bon Appetite!
Don’t forget to check in with Sam and see what she’s cooking up at Comfortably Hungry. I’ll give you a hint….seafood’s never looked this good!
|Coq Au Vin|
- 5 slices bacon, sliced into 1/2-inch pieces
- 1 chicken, about 3 1/2 to 4 pounds, quartered, rinsed and patted dry
- 2 carrots, diced
- 2 stalks of celery, chopped
- 1 onion, finely chopped
- 3 cups full-bodied dry red wine, such as Pinot Noir or Cotes-du-Rhone
- 1/2 teaspoon salt (more for wine marinade)
- 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- 20 small pearl onions, peeled
- 1/2 cup minced shallots (2 large shallots)
- 1 head garlic, cloves separated and peeled
- 1 pound button mushrooms, wiped clean and halved or quartered if large (should match size of onions)
- 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
- 2 teaspoons tomato paste
- 1 1/2 cups rich chicken stock
- 6 sprigs fresh thyme
- 1 bay leaf
- Egg noodles, accompaniment
- 2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley leaves
- Marinate chicken, carrots, onions and celery in wine and salt overnight. Remove the chicken and veggies from the wine and set both aside.
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
- In a large, heavy Dutch oven over high heat fry the bacon until crisp and all of the fat is rendered. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the crisp bacon bits to paper towels to drain. Reserve.
- Season the chicken pieces with the salt and pepper. Brown the chicken pieces in the hot bacon fat, working in batches, if necessary, and turning to ensure even cooking. Transfer the chicken pieces to a large plate or bowl and set aside. Remove some of the bacon fat, leaving about 4 tablespoons in the Dutch oven. Reduce the heat to medium-high and add the chopped onion, pearl onions, shallots and garlic cloves to the Dutch oven and cook until soft, about 4 minutes.
- Add the mushrooms, onion, celery and carrots and cook for 5 minutes longer, or until they’ve released most of their liquid and have begun to brown. Add the flour and tomato paste and cook, stirring constantly, for 1 minute. Slowly add the wine and stock, stirring constantly. Add the thyme, bay leaf, reserved bacon and chicken. Bring liquid to a boil. Cover the pot, place in the oven and cook for about 1 1/2 hours, or until the chicken is very tender. Transfer the chicken pieces to a serving dish and cover loosely to keep warm. Return pot to medium-low heat. Skim any fat from the surface of the cooking liquid and increase the heat to medium-high. Cook until the sauce has thickened slightly and coats the back of a spoon, about 15 to 20 minutes. Taste and adjust the seasoning if necessary. Return the chicken to the Dutch oven and cook for a few minutes to heat through, then serve.
- Serve with egg noodles. Garnish with the chopped parsley.
- *This dish may be prepared 1 or 2 days in advance and then reheated slowly just before serving.