Tuesday, December 30, 2008

coq au vin? je pense pas!

I can’t help it. I do believe in Culinary Evils of the World and I do believe fabricating a chicken is one of them. And I try, I really do try. All through culinary school I tried. But I always fail in one way or another. I cut off too much meat. I don’t take off enough meat. I break off the wrong bone. I sever an artery.
And yes, I can blame it on the fact that I’ve been so terribly spoiled with those packaged boneless, skinless chicken breasts ready to go, calling my name in the meat section of the grocery store.
But every now and then, I have to walk into that store and look away from those packaged-for-my-convenience-meats and go right to those whole, big birds.
I have to do it because there is no other way to make a Coq Au Vin.

Alright, so I can’t technically call it a Coq Au Vin, because traditional Coq Au Vin is made with rooster and who doesn’t remember the part of Top Chef when Casey was practically ripped apart for mis-naming her dish.
Oh, please.
Rooster or not, it’s poultry.
I still remember a recipe from culinary school that called for 2 ounces of wine. Two ounces?? Really?? I don’t think so.
My version borders on the untraditional. And that’s just fine with me. I start with a whole bird and hack away. The carcass and extra bits, such as the wings, go right into a big pot for chicken stock. The chicken stock simmers away for an hour and then I begin on the actual Coq Au Vin.
This is a Sunday meal, or in my case, a Monday meal. When my day off translates into a whole day of cooking. The chicken simmers away on the stove in red wine and stock and the house is draped in its scent. It’s just one of the best things.
And unlike that container of who-knows-what hanging around the back of the fridge, these leftovers beg to be eaten.
I’ve served this with buttery, rich mashed potatoes. I’ve served it with buttered noodles. Anything to catch the irresistible sauce, anything to run your fork across the plate with to mop up that luxurious sauce. It is luxury on a plate, and to think it was once a peasant dish...
This is slightly untraditional, but so incredibly delicious.

Coq Au Vin
1 whole roasting bird, 6-7 pounds
salt, pepper
vegetable oil

4 slices thick-cut bacon, diced
½ medium onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, chopped
8 oz cremini mushrooms, quartered
2 T tomato paste
½ to a whole bottle of your favorite red wine (I usually opt for a Merlot)
1 cup chicken stock

1. Prepare bird by cutting off legs, thighs, and breasts. Season liberally with salt and pepper and set aside. The carcass can either be put to use for a wonderful homemade stock or just thrown away.
2. In a big stainless steel pot, cook the bacon until the fat has been rendered and it is crisp. Remove from the pan and set aside.
3. Add in a touch more oil and dredge each piece of chicken in flour before searing off the in the hot pan. You want a nice golden brown crust. Once the chicken has browned, set aside.
4. Add in more oil as needed and saute the onions, garlic, and mushrooms for a couple of minutes. Wait until they are slightly tender. Stir in the tomato paste.
5. Pour in your bottle of wine. It will sizzle and smoke up, but also release the bits from the bottom of the pan. Stir and pour in the chicken stock.
6. Add the chicken and bacon back to the pot and bring down to a simmer. Let it simmer away for 1 ½ hours until the meat is super-tender and liquid has reduced to a nice sauce.

Sit down and thoroughly enjoy.