Or chicken with wine if you’re not fancy. But I like fancy so let’s go with Coq Au Vin.
There are many versions of Coq Au Vin out there. And usually if I’m cooking French food, my staple is Julia Child. Not today. Most versions require 2 cups red wine. Alton Brown, however goes with 2 bottles, so if you know me at ALL, you know which recipe I’m going with.
Other variations exist as well. Julia has you cooking it in one fell swoop while The New York Times and Alton Brown versions have you marinating it overnight. NYT says marinate and then cook the chicken. Alton says brown the chicken and then marinate. But it’s all about chicken and bacon fat and mushrooms and wine over noodles so how can you beat that? Maybe someday I’ll do all 3 at once and compare but not today. I have date night tonight and I’m already running behind so we need to get moving.
A little history lesson. The Coq part of Coq Au Vin used to refer to a retired rooster. One that had been strutting a few months too long. A tough old bird (hence the braising in wine). They had no more use and a ton of flavor from being around so long. Most all of the parts were used, including a good bit of blood for flavor and thickening. Kroger was all out of chicken combs and blood. Bummer. Thighs and drumsticks will have to do! They were also out of something else so since we’re cooking with wine, allow me some whine as well.
I would say the biggest drawback to living in a small Texas town is the lack of appreciation for really good, well-crafted, not fried food. Therefore the lack of decent ingredients is an issue a lot of the time. In all fairness, I could make multiple trips to multiple stores and probably find everything I need but I have this irrational loathing and impatience and loathing for making multiple trips for groceries. So in my local Kroger I can find this beautiful looking goat cheese packed in rosemary oil for $8.00. A tear slides down my cheek as I pet it…and walk away. I’m working part-time and we are not in the market for $8 goat cheese. But it’s beautiful nonetheless. But do you think a girl can find some dang PEARL ONIONS??? No. Kroger stopped carrying pearl onions because they kept spoiling before being purchased. (This happened to me when I made Boeuf Bourguignon too now that I recall. I guess I blocked it out due to trauma.) I do find them in the freezer section but this just makes me grumpy. I bought the bag anyway. <kicks dirt, has small tantrum and stomps the rest of the grocery trip, daring the cashier to ask me if I found everything okay, get home and get over it when I start cooking because cooking is everything. Next to eating. And drinking wine.>
So we start with a little pork salt. Kroger doesn’t carry real pork salt apparently. It looks more like bacon slices. Pork salt should be mostly, if not all, white. But the package I bought is twice as much as I need so I just cut the fat off and discard the rest. (I know, I’m terrible about wasting food but the freezer only has so much room.) I cut them into quarter-inch matchsticks like so:
And then dice like so:
They are simmered in water for about 10 minutes prior to frying to get some of that salt out. Rookie mistake made here. Alton Brown said 2Tbsp of water. That’s not much water so I use a small saute pan. Why is this a rookie mistake? Because I did not read my recipe again all the way through prior to cooking. ALWAYS READ YOUR RECIPES BEFORE STARTING OUT. I make this mistake a lot…about as often as I burn myself. I’ll start cooking something amazing for dinner and run into “blah blah blah, overnight”. Awesome.
Okay, so I put the pork salt (I prefer lardon as the french call it) in a small saucepan with the 2Tbsp water, pop the lid on and get to working on the chicken. There is flappy chicken skin all over these thighs and legs (4 of each). It’s best to get that off before cooking. The best way I have found is to lay it skin side down and take the knife to anything that stretches beyond the meat of the piece and discard. So I dry the chicken thoroughly, snip the flappy parts and salt and pepper. Then shake them a few pieces at a time in a ziploc with some flour in it, shaking them off as they come out.
After 10 minutes I took the lid of the lardon and let the water simmer out and then let the lardon get crispy. Removed them to a plate. Since my stinkin pearl onions were frozen, I ran warm water over them until they were thawed and then dried them as much as I could in paper towels without smooshing them and threw them in the hot oil. I was sure they wouldn’t brown but they did, look!!
Remove the onions, and throw in a couple of “knobs” of homemade butter and quartered mushrooms in batches so they brown. Something I learned from reading Julie and Julia is not to crowd mushrooms. They’re beautiful brown and not soggy. Removed them to a plate.
Then my rookie mistake bit me good. I removed the mushrooms and looked at the recipe. Yep, this is where we brown the chicken. Fantastic!! So I brown the chicken. One piece at a time. This is why I’m running behind for date night. But it did give me enough time to quarter an onion, two celery stalks and two carrots, harvest some thyme from the back yard (about 8 sprigs), peel 3 cloves of garlic and hunt down a bay leaf. All were placed at the bottom of my enamel cooking stock pot (the same one I used for my pot roast).
The chicken is a nice pretty brown so I stack it on the veggies in the pot. And you know what comes next…my favorite! Time to deglaze that tiny saute pan. It’s fun nonetheless. Deglazing juice goes on top of the chicken and veggies, along with 2 cups of chicken broth and the remainder of that bottle of wine and another bottle. (I bought 2 bottles of $10 bordeaux – pinot or beaujolais would work too.) Put the cover on and in the fridge until tomorrow.
Mushrooms, lardon and onions get stuck in a ziploc and in the fridge until tomorrow as well. So that’s Part 1 of the Coq Au Vin adventure. I didn’t burn myself today so that’s a plus. I’m off to shower before I get divorced before I’m even married! Stay tuned for Part 2 tomorrow. Until then…
Happy reading, joyous cooking and spread the love!