Tuesday, September 01, 2009

Because I am French!

...well, OK, Swiss. Mostly Norwegian, actually, with a smattering of German. Still, none of that prevents me from cooking like a Frenchman on occasion. :)

This past weekend was actually cool enough to cook some hearty "comfort food." So Sunday's culinary project was coq au vin, a French concoction of chicken stewed in red wine.

Tradition would dictate your cooking wine be a Bourgogne rouge, but I just used a cheap Zinfandel. I don't do the traditional pearl onions and bacon, either. And I am also guessing fennel bulb is something of an unusual ingredient in coq au vin, but I really don't care. It is my dish, and I like the flavor! :) Anyway, here is how I do it:

Jean's Coq au Vin

-6 pieces of chicken, skin on (2 each breasts, legs, thighs)
-1 bottle of red wine
-4 garlic cloves, peeled and smashed
-2 carrots, peeled and sliced
-1 small onion, sliced
-1 small fennel bulb, sliced
-1 celery stalk, sliced
-4 cloves (the spice, that is)
-1/2 tsp. herbes de Provence
-Fresh ground black pepper
-Butter and extra virgin olive oil
-Salt and more black pepper
-1 T. flour
-1 bouquet garni (bundle of fresh thyme, fresh parsley, and a couple dried bay leaves)
-1 8 oz. package of crimini mushrooms, sliced
-1 T. cornstarch, mixed with 1 T. cold water to make a slurry
-Fresh parsley for garnish

The day before you plan on making this for dinner, combine the first 10 ingredients in a large nonreactive bowl or dish, deep enough so that the chicken is submerged. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight.

The next day, remove the chicken and pat dry. Strain the solids from the red wine marinade, reserving both.

In a large Dutch oven, heat some butter and extra virgin olive oil over medium high heat. Season the chicken with salt and pepper. Brown the chicken pieces on all side, in batches if necessary. It is important to take your time here because you want to get good color on the skin (good color = good flavor). Transfer chicken to a platter.

Wipe some of the excess oil of of the Dutch oven, adding some fresh oil if some additional oil is needed. Add the reserved vegetables and cook over medium high heat until brown and soft. This will take several minutes. Sprinkle the vegetables with the flour and give it a good stir until everything is coated. Add the reserved wine marinade to deglaze, scraping up the tasty browned bits from the bottom of the pot. Toss in the bouquet garni and return the chicken pieces to the Dutch oven. Bring to a gentle boil, then reduce to a simmer and cover. Every once in awhile, skim the surface to remove the fat, and also turn the chicken occasionally. Allow to cook for at least 1 hour until the chicken is cooked though, juices are running clear, cooked to at least 165 degrees F, etc.

Transfer chicken to a platter and cover with aluminum foil to keep warm. Strain the cooking liquid. Discard the vegetables and the bouquet garni (they have given their all). Return the liquid to the Dutch oven and add the sliced mushrooms. Turn the heat back up to medium high and reduce the heck out of the liquid. You want a nice rolling boil here to cause evaporation and concentrate the flavors. This will take several minutes. Try to reduce the amount of liquid by half.

When the liquid is reduced to your satisfaction, pour in a little bit of the cornstarch slurry while continually stirring. NOTE: You may not need all of the slurry! It will depend upon how much your liquid is reduced. Observe how the sauce tightens up as you pour in just a small amount. Add more of the slurry if needed to get the sauce to the desired consistency.

Reduce the heat to low and return the chicken to the Dutch oven. Turn the chicken pieces so they are coated, allowing them to warm up for a few minutes in the sauce. Check your seasoning! Make sure it tastes good. Add a little salt and pepper if needed, or if you are so inclined, strip off some leaves of fresh thyme and toss them into the pot for a last minute flavor boost.

Add some fresh chopped parsley right at the end and serve it up. Drizzle some of that luxurious sauce over the top, too. If you were smart, you made some roasted garlic mashed potatoes for a side dish, which makes a fantastic little reservoir for holding more of the sauce. Mmmmm.....

Until next time,

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