Monday, November 12, 2012

Return of the French Classics - Coq Au Vin

I haven’t blogged for a while, but now that grilling season is over, it’s time to make some saucy comfort food. It took Coq Au Vin prepared in a traditional dutch oven to get me to start blogging again.  I’ve been very busy, and working with new techniques and dishes is what inspires me to blog (even though I seem to have zero time these days).

While this dish is meat based, the technique would work for a robust vegetable dish also. 

A dutch oven is somewhat similar to a crock pot in concept but I’m finding that for certain dishes it renders a different, less soupy flavor.  I have wanted a dutch oven for a long time.  Le Creuset is great, but I’ve decided to buy the Food Network version due; the price was more reasonable and it seems very similar the Le Creuset brand. I almost purchased the 5.5 quart one, but ended up getting 7.5 quart version instead.  I’m glad I did.  The dishes I make max out this dutch oven.  When you spend so much time making such dishes, there are economies of scale, so you may as well make a large portion.

I’ve also been reading “As Always, Julia:  The Letters of Julia Child and Avis DeVoto” by Joan Beardon.  This book inspired me to finally get this dutch oven and return to some of the French cooking I trained myself on in my early cooking days.  I made the Classic Coq Au Vin dish when I was a sophomore in college.  I liked it, but wasn’t thrilled with it, so over time, I abandoned it.  This book inspired me to finally purchase a French style dutch oven and make French style dishes again.  I have a crockpot that allows me to saute and slow cook in the same pot, but I suspected that the dutch oven would produce different results. 

To get in the mood I watched a few old Julia Child videos on YouTube.  I also read several recipes on line for Coq Au Vin.  I ended up blending various recipes (which is what I typically do).  While I liked the Julia Child recipe, I didn’t like the fact that I have to break adding ingredients at certain intervals (e.g., mushrooms at end).  One of the benefits of such cooking is once you fry your ingredients, the slow cooking is fairly easy.

There are many Coq Au Vin recipes out there…and you can add your own variation (as I did).  I basically mixed the classic Julia Child recipe with a few other ones I’ve found (one of them was an Emeril Lagasse recipe).  I believe the Beurre Manie, which is a classic French sauce thickening technique (a different version of roux) thickens a stew/casseulet well.  It consists of mixing softened butter (substitute soy if avoiding dairy) with flour and add it to a simmering sauce.  It makes for a very  nice velvety sauce.

Also, classic Coq Au Vin recipes call for using bacon fat to sauté the chicken, I avoided that also.  I’m not against it, but I must be one of the few people on the planet that doesn’t have an intrinsic craving for bacon. 

I used one free range (no antibiotic/hormone) chicken quartered and about six drumsticks.  I also added carrots to the traditional recipe.  The pearl onions are a must.  They taste delicious.

Some tips:
Always saute the ingredients.  Sauteing ahead of time locks in the meat juices (this is true for crock pot cooking too)-if you don't saute, you get soup texture for your ingredients.
Make sure you scrape those seared pieces when you pour the wine in (can’t do this with a no stick pan).
When the dish is done, make sure you uncover the dutch oven to let steam escape
Do not refrigerate a dish that is not cooled off.

Basic technique (again, there is flexibility here):

Basic Sauteing
Use a robust red wine...and make sure you scrape the  pieces that are stuck on the side...this renders a perfect sauce

with some good wine

The beauty of the Dutch goes straight into the oven and the seal is airtight 


Make sure you remove the lid so it doesn't get locked with the steam

                1 4 pound free range chicken and 6 drumsticks – patted dry and salted
                1/2 teaspoon salt
                1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
                1 onion, finely chopped (optional)
                20 small pearl onions, peeled
                1 head garlic, cloves separated and peeled-they will be thrown in straight without choping
                1 pound mushrooms..roughly quartered-note:  I find baby portabella to be more robust than the usual white mushroom for this
                2 teaspoons tomato paste
                3 cups – bottle of red wine, traditional full bodied wine.  I used Bull’s Blood because it is very robust and reasonably priced (don’t use cheap junk red wine…it will destroy the dish-but a there are many reasonable priced red wines)
                1 1/2 cups chicken stock
                6 sprigs fresh thyme or 1 teaspoon dried thyme
                1 bay leaf
                2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley leaves
                2-3 carrots peeled and sliced (or can even use baby carrots)
for traditional side dish
boil some diced potatoes, chop some parsley and sauté in a tiny amount of oil/butter/soy butter

Beurre Manie:
mix 1 1/2 tablespoons all-purpose flour & 1 tbsp. softened butter (soy or regular)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

In a large, heavy Dutch oven add some oil and brown the chicken, do it in batches.  You cannot simply throw the chicken into the slow cooking process.  Sautéing first locks the juices in. Remove the chicken and in the same oil sauté carrots, pearl onions, onion for about 5 minutes.  Then add the mushrooms and sauté for about 5 minutes.  Add the garlic and sauté for about one minute.
Slowly add the bottle of wine and make sure that you scrape the meat parts that stuck to the pan.  Add chicken broth, tomato paste and herbs/salt/pepper. Add the chicken back, bring to a boil, cover and transfer to a preheated oven.

Cook for about 1.5 hours in the 350 oven.

Carefully remove the lid and  transfer the chicken pieces to a serving dish and cover loosely to keep warm. Return pot to medium-low heat (from oven to oven top). Skim any fat from the surface of the cooking liquid and increase the heat to medium-high. Make the Beurre Mannie (classic French thickening technique), stir into sauce as it simmers (whishing works best).  Let sauce thicken and add chicken back.  Reheat everything and serve with parsley potatoes.

This was supposed to last for two days, but most of it got eaten the first night.

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1 comment:

  1. Post Comment: When you make this ahead, I do follow the Julia Child technique. I make the mushrooms and onions separately and add them later in the process. Then I story it (otherwise the mushrooms will overtake the flavor).