Monday, January 11, 2010

Le Petite Coq au Vin

Write this down: Anything remotely resembling French cookery will involve a) tons of butter (yay!) and b) every pot and pan in the house (not so yay)...and sometimes bacon (yay again!).

I was catching up on my own blog reading, and whilst reading The Amateur Gourmet, I saw his post about his Top 10 Dishes of 2009. The dishes all looked pretty awesome, and like him, I am a sucker for something braised...especially if I get to use my Le Creuset pots. Which, I am sad to say, are rather underused in my kitchen. When you're cooking for one, it's usually a quick saute here and there. I have been trying to use them more and more, because why else do I have them? But I'm still a little afraid of them. Totally irrational, I know, because they are cast iron, and it would take a whole house nuclear disaster to hurt them...seriously, this is where those indestructible cockroaches will be living after the apocalypse--in cast-iron Le Creuset pot condos. And yet, some people are afraid of spiders, too. (I know, arachnophobia is real...I was just trying to be funny, because I'm not afraid of spiders, but I seem to be afraid of seemingly indestructible cookware. Maybe I should say something along the lines of "...and some people are afraid of dust bunnies." Is that better?)

And that brings us back to the coq au vin. I decided to try Adam's technique and the recipe that he used and see if I could make a smaller version for myself...after eating practically an entire ham left over from New Year's Day luncheon, I am a bit weary of too many leftovers...and ham, dammit. I really like ham, but I am a bit overdosed.

I also am not a big fan of the darker parts of the chicken...yes, Virginia, I know that's where the most flavor is, but I'm just not as thrilled about the taste of those pieces. Although, after braising them in a lot of wine, all the parts will probably taste the same anyway.

So, I set out to make a 2-piece coq au vin, using the bone-in breasts that I had originally bought with a quick chicken soup in mind. (And, to be perfectly honest...the real reason I wanted to make coq au vin was so I could make something with pearl onions. I love those little buggers when you put them in a stew or braised dish--they are like little flavor sponges, soaking up all manner of goodness.)

Also put it out of your head that this is going to be a 30-minute meal. Is braising, Braising is long, slow cooking in a flavorful liquid...operative word being long.

The definition of "coq au vin" is basically "rooster in wine," and supposedly was a way to use an older, tougher bird, but most recipes I've ever seen call for chicken/hen. I found this definition on Wikipedia and thought it amusing:

Coq au vin is a French braise of chicken cooked with wine, lardons (BACON!), mushrooms, and optionally garlic. While the wine is typically Burgundy wine, many regions of France have variants of coq au vin using the local wine, such a coq au vin jaune (Jura), coq au Riesling (Alsace), coc au Champagne, and so on.

Well, at first glance, it's not *that* amusing, but when I tell you the part about my coq au vin should be called "coq au whatever bottle I found in the bottom of the china cabinet and then the stupid cork broke off in it and I had to push it all the way through, AND strain the stupid pieces of cork out," then, it gets amusing.

And, there's the quest to find frozen pearl onions, which seemed to have disappeared from every store but Kroger, which had 4 bags for $5, so I bought 4 to have for future use. (And, Kroger was the 3rd store I went that point, I was ready to even prep fresh ones if I could have found them...did I mention that I decided to do this dish during the Great Southern Blizzard of January 2010? The one where my area closed schools for 2 days on the day before we had even received any snow? The one where there were rabid hordes at the grocery getting bread and milk as if was 2012 and the Mayan calendar had just fallen off the pyramid?)

So, go look at the AG's post--he remembers to post pictures during the important parts--and look at the stages of his coq au vin. Pretty much, mine looked exactly like his, with the exception of cutting the ingredients mostly in half...I made all the onions and mushroom parts! I almost overcooked the breasts, because I should have lowered the temperature of my oven when I flipped them. I cut the cooking time to about 35 minutes, and when I pulled that glorious pot of goodness out, it was boiling merrily away...not simmering, but boiling. Ack!

I also liked the idea that he served his leftovers with buttered egg noodles, so I decided to go straight to that step for the actual first service. The leftovers were still very awesome 3 days later...the chicken was a little overdone after being zapped, but that's usually the case.

This would also be a good casual company dish with mashed potatoes and some sort of green veg--maybe steamed green beans. Next time, though I think I'll use a better bottle of vin and hopefully avoid that whole picking of cork out of my teeth. Hadn't had to do that since college...when one of my neighbors down the hall, who was way more sophisticated than me, smuggled in bottles of Blue Nun, and invariably no one had a corkscrew. We were pretty adept at poking the cork through with a steak knife and drinking around the bits.

Not that I've looked for Blue Nun in about 20 years or so, but she's still around...and has gone high tech with the website and other offerings. Now, I'm going to have to seek out the ol' gal and see how she's changed with the times. I'll report back for the good of the Republic and let you all know. After all, if she was good enough for Elvis... Cheers!

Besides, I'm going to need something to do with myself as we begin the Rickety Fat Dog Tumor Watch 2010. Yep, it looks like the mass in his mouth is making a resurgence, and we are going to have to be aggressive, be! be! aggressive! with it. Which means a trip to a veterinary dentist/oral surgeon who has experience with this sort of stuff...and then, there's still no guarantee. The last few years have really sucked, and for once, it would be nice if Fate would deal me, if not a winning hand, a hand that allows me to stay in the game. Hand me that corkscrew...I need a medicinal dose.

I mean, how can you not want to throw your all your worldly possession into saving this little face?

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