Friday, April 14, 2006

Coq Au Vin

When I was a girl, chicken came in two forms: lightly breaded and grilled. Lightly breaded chicken appeared as chicken Parmesan, chicken Marsala or simply plain. Grilled chicken sometimes joined forces with teriyaki, bread to form a sandwich, or cold on a salad. How quickly chicken can turn boring.

Somehow, I never grew sick of it. But these days I have added to my mother’s repertoire. D loves his fried chicken and we often dish it up this way. Roasted is excellent with a little basil, garlic and pomegranate molasses rubbed on top. But please, somebody bless the French for thinking to add wine to everything!

I must have understood I would come into a love of food. I took my first French class by the second grade—after school sessions taught me numbers, color, hello and goodbye. By sixth grade I was accompanying my family to Paris. While my father attempted to ask for directions in his broken Spanish reasoning, “it’s close enough,” I ran in to intersect and placate a developing brawl. With my basic direction skills I was able to ask, receive and even understand the compliment: “Little girl! How well your French is! Such a fine accent! Never listen to your father!” Well, thank you, I still try not to.

My love continued until some evil teachers in high school set me back. It has not stopped my love of the culture, especially the food. I was beyond ecstatic when a (dare I say reasonable) French bistro opened in my area. And even when I was snubbed by the waiter for requesting ketchup with my fries (is it my fault a steak au poîvre comes with no sauce?!) I returned for more. Each time the food got better, I had tried everything on the menu, and pretty soon I was having drinks with one of the chefs. So it made a perfect setting for an intimate birthday party.

It was my birthday and I ate my mussels with pleasure. But as I spied a guest enjoying his Coq au Vin with much gusto, I took to staring until a morsel was offered; pure decadence. The chicken fell right off the bone. The sauce was thick and rich and just calling for crusty bread to act as a sponge. That one little taste was etched in stone.

So with an organic chicken accompanying me home my mind wandered past my youth of lightly breaded chicken, grilled chicken, paused briefly at fried and then rounded the corner to my birthday memory. A bottle of cheap ($3.99) wine was purchased and miscellaneous vegetables were pulled from the refrigerator. Suppose I claim my Coq au Vin surpassed that of my beloved restaurant? With the chicken melting off the bone (while it appears to hold together quite well in the photo) and the sauce begging to be sopped up with great zeal, this is a meal that is calling out to be made.

While at my family’s Seder the other night I mentioned this dish. “Oh no,” my step-mother cringed, “coq au vin just takes too long!” Actually, prepping this dish is simple. Like all braised meat it is the slow cooking that takes patience. And with all braised food, the wait is well worth it.

Coq Au Vin
Makes: 4 servings. Active Time= 25 minutes. Cook Time= 1-½ hours.
* 1 whole chicken, cut into sections (you can ask your butcher to cut it for you)
* 2 carrots, cut into 1-2 inch pieces
* 1 celery stalk, cut into 1-2 inch pieces
* 1 apple (I used a Golden Delicious, but any sweet baking apple would work)
* 1 onion, chopped in ¼ inch discs
* 2 cups red wine
* 2 bay leaves
* 1-2 tsp fresh rosemary
* 1-2 tsp fresh basil (or any other herbs you like)
* fresh pepper/ salt
* 2 Tbl unsalted butter or olive oil

1) In a Dutch oven (or other pot with tight fitting lid) over medium heat, warm the pan and melt the butter. Add carrots, celery, apple and onion. Sautée until onions are limp, about 8 minutes.
2) Add chicken and brown on both sides; 8-10 minutes. Add wine, bay leaves and other herbs.
3) Reduce heat to medium-low, secure lid and allow to simmer for 1-½ hours; or until meat falls off bone.
4) When done, carefully remove chicken and any loose bones from pot; set aside (or place on serving plates). Using a hand-held blender, or in batches with an upright blender, purée the contents of the pot until thick and smooth. Return chicken to pot (or add purée on top of chicken). Garnish with fresh herbs and serve with fresh crusty bread.

In non-food related activities WCB at Eat Stuff brings us the world of cats.
Some cats understand good window manners. Here is Kitty BoJangles at her perch eyeing a few squirrels:

And then there is Whisky, the Terrible Tot. Thinking he can claw his way out of house and home to chase the birds and squirrels:

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