Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Coq a vin-An Almost Autumn Stew

The trees are starting to dress in their autumn finery around town.  I thought I'd do the same so on Sunday, I donned a heavier skirt and a turtleneck sweater and was very comfortable.  Yesterday, it was back to short sleeves.  Why am I surprised?  Didn't my mother always speak of "Indian Summer"?  My closet is in transition and so is the pantry.

This particular recipe is by no means a classic.  I've combined elements of the classic recipe from Dione Lucas with other recipes that I've collected over the years.  If one were doing the classic dish, a whole chicken, cut up, would be in the pot.    This "interpretation"  will definitely please guests invited for a casual meal.  The beauty of the dish is that it's even better on day two.  I'm really partial to that sort of dish since it lets me clean up the kitchen and myself before guests arrive.

As you can see (from this overly fall-coloring attempt at manipulating the photo), I served it with oven roasted vegetables.  However, all you need is a salad and some warm crusty bread to soak up the sauce.

Coq Au Vin
(A little from here and a little from there
and certainly not classic)

8 chicken thighs and legs, bone in and skin attached
2 cups of a good, full-bodied red wine
salt and pepper
6 ounces of fat back (or slab bacon), cut into 1/2 inch pieces
Extra Virgin Olive Oil, as needed
1 medium onion, chopped
1 medium carrot, diced
6 garlic cloves, sliced
12 pearl onions peeled (I use frozen)
8 ounces of mixed mushrooms, cut in half if large
3 tbsp flour
2 tbsp tomato paste
3 tbsp Cognac
2 dried bay leaves
6 sprigs fresh thyme, tied with kitchen twine

Place the chicken into a large bowl and pour the wine over.  Cover and refrigerate overnight.

Remove the chicken, reserving the wine, and pat  dry.  

Leave it, uncovered, on paper towels for 15 minutes to continue drying.  Season with salt and pepper.

Preheat oven to 325.

Saute bacon in a dutch oven or heavy pan over medium heat until crisped and browned, about 15 minutes.  Transfer bacon to a paper towel, leaving drippings in the pot.  Add enough olive oil to measure about three tablespoons.  

Raise heat to medium high and quickly brown the chicken pieces on both sides.  Transfer to a plate.  Add the chopped onions and diced carrots to the pot and cook 3 to 4 minutes.   Add the pearl onions and mushrooms and cook until starting to brown, 3 to 4 minutes.  Add the garlic and cook one minute.  Stir in the flour and tomato paste, and cook for two minutes.  Add the Cognac and cook, stirring, for one minute.

Return the chicken and bacon to to the pot.  Pour in the reserved wine and add the herbs.  Bring to a simmer on top of the stove.  Cover and place in the oven for about 45 minutes to an hour until the chicken is done.  Discard the herbs and spoon off the fat.

I make this dish a day ahead as it only gets better.  To do this, cool until you can handle the chicken.  Carefully remove the skin from the chicken and discard.  Tuck the chicken back into the pot and refrigerate.  You will be able to remove even more of the fat after chilling and before reheating.