Thursday, March 7, 2013

Rustic decadence

Coq au vin (p148): a French recipe from the collection of international dishes. I gather that this can be roughly translated as 'chicken in wine', a modest but accurate description. It's one of those traditional peasant recipes that are generally described as 'rustic'. To my simple palate, however, there's something quite decadent about a recipe that starts with cooking bacon in butter, and goes on to use brandy and red wine as a cooking liquid.

I used my largest saucepan for this recipe, even though I was only doing a half (or slightly more than half, actually, since the chicken thighs I was using were so massive) recipe. This was only just big enough - you'd want a large flameproof casserole dish or something if you were going to do the full recipe.

As I've said, the recipe begins with cooking bacon in melted butter. Unnecessary saturated fat, perhaps, but it smells so good! I scooped out he bacon and set that aside, then placed my chicken pieces in the butter and let them brown on both sides. Then, the chicken was also removed and set aside while I cooked the onions.

The recipe lists pickling onions, but they didn't have them at Pak N Save when I went to get my ingredients. I substituted shallots, which seemed to work just fine. I cooked these whole until they'd gone golden, then tipped the chicken pieces and bacon back in.

At this stage, I added button mushrooms, then poured in a small amount of brandy. The next additions were garlic, tomato paste, and red wine. Finally, I tied together a bay leaf and a sprig each of thyme and parsley, and bunged that in as well. That was all for the time being - I put the lid on and let it simmer.

After 40 minutes, the chicken was beautifully tender and smelled amazing. I added some seasoning, then scooped out the chicken so I could work on thickening the sauce. The recipe didn't say whether to remove all the other bits (mushrooms, onions etc) as well, but I figured it would be easier if I did.

When all the bits had been scooped out, I had only liquid to work with. I'd prepared a paste of butter and flour, which the recipe tells me is called Beurre maniéI added this paste to the sauce bit by bit, whisking until it was absorbed. This is a pretty clever way of thickening a sauce, because it doesn't seem to create any lumps - the flour just gets absorbed as the butter melts. Of course, what with the garlic and other bits and pieces, the sauce wasn't exactly smooth anyway - I doubt if I would have noticed a lump or two.

I returned the rest of the ingredients to the sauce and served myself up a plateful. It occurred to me that I ought to have bread or something to go with it, but never mind. I was just keen to try this plateful of delicious-smelling chicken. 

It was absolutely as delicious as I'd anticipated. I couldn't get enough of the rich savoury sauce, and the chicken and vegetables just fell apart as I ate. I really could have done with some bread to mop up my plate, and it somehow does need something more to make a complete meal. 

Coq au vin might seem like a lot of work, but while you do seem to spend a bit of time taking stuff in and out of the pan, it's really not difficult. It just takes a few minutes of attention at the beginning and end of the simmering time, and you get a really nice meal out of it. 

No comments:

Post a Comment

Popular posts this week