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Sunday, October 30, 2011

Coq au Vin

Coq au Vin is a classic French dish of chicken stewed in red wine, onions, herbs and bacon (seriously, could you go wrong with all that?!).  The dish was made famous by Julia Child.  The final dish is truly a comfort food stew of tender, browned chicken, herbs and vegetables in a reduced wine and broth reduction, finished with brandy.  It's one of those things that could easily be made ahead of time and rewarmed for a party, or midweek meal, since the flavors seem to only get better as they marry together over time.

The classic preparation of this dish (literally "rooster in red wine") calls for a rooster, or an old hen, or a capon... none of which you are likely to find at your local supermarket.  They called for hours of cooking to tenderize the old meat, but "ta da"... in today's world there are plenty of young, tender chickens readily available that you don't even have to cut up yourself.  (You all know I can't stand having to cut up a chicken.)  So this preparation is very easy and not nearly as time consuming as it would have been in the old, peasant-dish preparations.
                 

Ingredients:                      
                 Click for Printable Recipe
1 package* of chicken (I used only 1.25# because I wasn't making it for a crowd)
1/3 - 1/2 pound bacon
2 large onions
2 1/2 large carrots
salt, pepper, flour
1 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
2 Tbsp butter
3 cups full bodied red wine
1 1 /2 cups chicken stock
1/2 cup tomato sauce
2 -3 Tbsp fresh thyme
1/2 cup brandy 




* This makes way more sauce than needed for that one little package of chicken.  It could easily accommodate a large pack or a few whole bone-in breasts and drumsticks/thighs (or your meat of choice).

Step-by-Step:
It would be best to break this into steps and have all your prep done first:

Cut the bacon into lardons - about 1/2" pieces.
 Slice the onions about 1/4" thick.  (or however your heart desires!)
 Season the chicken with salt and pepper.
 Julienne some carrots.
Mince the garlic.


Add the bacon to the hot olive oil.
 Cook until crisp, then remove to drain on paper towels.

Lightly flour the seasoned chicken then add to the hot bacon/oil grease.
Do NOT move them for a while.  Let them sear a little before turning them.
Turn when lightly browned.  You will give them a chance to cook further later.  You don't want them overdone.
Remove the browned chicken to a dish and cover to keep warm.
Into the leftover oil, add the onions.
You want to stir them around really well and coat them with the bacon drippings.
Once the onions are about half cooked, add the carrots.
Then the minced garlic.

Let all the vegetables cook for a while on medium.  This part takes a while.  Low and slow gives you nicely caramelized onions (which brings out their sweetness).

Meanwhile, grab yourself a handful of fresh thyme.  You won't need this much, but I have tons of it growing, so I just go break off a handful.
To the wilted and translucent vegetables, add a spoon of flour to make a roux of sorts.  It will get thick really quickly.  This is a good thing.
To the roux, add the wine to deglaze the pot...
Stir as you go.  You want to pick up all of the lovely browned bits on the bottom (called "fond") as this will give you so much of the flavor!
Next add the chicken stock....
Then the tomato paste.
Let all of that cook together for a while until it reduces and becomes "saucy."  Now you can strip the thyme leaves and add them in.  
Alternatively, you can just throw the sprigs in there.  The small tender leaves will fall off of the stems, which can later be fished out, if you so desire.
After reducing and tasting, and adjusting the seasonings, add the chicken back to the sauce.  You can see from the level on the pot how much the sauce has reduced at this point.
When the dish is just about to the consistency that you've like, add back most of the bacon, reserving some for garnish.  I don't like to have the bacon in there the whole time, as it loses so much of its crispness after a while.
In the last 5 minutes, finish the sauce with the brandy.  Yummm.  It just gives a hint of a warm, spicy background flavor.
So now, gather up your folks and let the comforting begin.
I like to serve this rich sauce over egg noodles with a side of hot, crusty bread.  The sole purpose of the bread is sop up all the sauce.  Literally.  This sauce has such a silky mouthfeel and savory flavors that it would really be a shame to let it sit there on the plate.... and with people around, you can't very well pick up the plate and lick it.. - can you?
 Written Method:
It would be best to break this into steps and have all your prep done first: Cut the bacon into lardons - about 1/2" pieces.  Slice the onions about 1/4" thick.  (or however your heart desires!)  Season the chicken with salt and pepper.  Julienne some carrots. Mince the garlic.

Add the bacon to the hot olive oil.  Cook until crisp, then remove to drain on paper towels.  Lightly flour the seasoned chicken then add to the hot bacon/oil grease.  Do NOT move them for a while.  Let them sear a little before turning them.  Turn when lightly browned.  You will give them a chance to cook further later.  You don't want them overdone.  Remove the browned chicken to a dish and cover to keep warm.  Into the leftover oil, add the onions.  You want to stir them around really well and coat them with the bacon drippings.  Once the onions are about half cooked, add the carrots.  Then the minced garlic. Let all the vegetables cook for a while on medium.  This part takes a while.  Low and slow gives you nicely caramelized onions (which brings out their sweetness).

Meanwhile, grab yourself a handful of fresh thyme.  You won't need this much, but I have tons of it growing, so I just go break off a handful. To the wilted and translucent vegetables, add a spoon of flour to make a roux of sorts.  It will get thick really quickly.  This is a good thing.

To the roux, add the wine to deglaze the pot... Stir as you go.  You want to pick up all of the lovely browned bits on the bottom (called "fond") as this will give you so much of the flavor!  Next add the chicken stock....  Then the tomato paste.   Let all of that cook together for a while until it reduces and becomes "saucy."  Now you can strip the thyme leaves and add them in.   Alternatively, you can just throw the sprigs in there.  The small tender leaves will fall off of the stems, which can later be fished out, if you so desire.  After reducing and tasting, and adjusting the seasonings, add the chicken back to the sauce.  You can see from the level on the pot how much the sauce has reduced at this point.

When the dish is just about to the consistency that you've like, add back most of the bacon, reserving some for garnish.  I don't like to have the bacon in there the whole time, as it loses so much of its crispness after a while.  In the last 5 minutes, finish the sauce with the brandy.  Yummm.  It just gives a hint of a warm, spicy background flavor.  So now, gather up your folks and let the comforting  begin.   I like to serve this rich sauce over egg noodles with a side of hot, crusty bread.  The sole purpose of the bread is sop up all the sauce.  Literally.  This sauce has such a silky mouthfeel and savory flavors that it would really be a shame to let it sit there on the plate.... and with people around, you can't very well pick up the plate and lick it.. - can you?

Looking for more fabulous recipes?  Please visit my Recipe Index for tons of ideas!  Here are a few to get you started:

Louisiana Crab Claws Bordelaise
Roasted Red Pepper and Basil Pesto Penne
Pumpkin Ravioli with Brown Butter and Crispy Sage
Pasta alla Tuscana
Chicken Cordon Bleu


Food Nerd Notes:


Coq Au Vin is a Burgundian dish, and is considered a French comfort food. The traditional recipe for Coq au Vin did not include chicken, but rather a "Coq," which is a rooster. A lot of recipes originally called for old barnyard fowl, roosters, capon (a de-sexed rooster), and old laying hens. Coq au Vin was originally considered peasant food, and the farmers would make do with what they had on hand.  The red wine in the recipe was used not to mask flavor, but to allow the acids to help break down the old meat of the rooster True coq Au Vin was actually finished with the blood of the rooster stabilized with brandy and vinegar, this would help the blood not clot.

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Double Chocolate Pecan Pie

As the story goes, pecan pie was a favorite of my grandfather's, whom we called "Papa."  My mother supposedly made him one each week when he came home from a long week away from the family at work.  Someone else that is very close to me has been off working for a week, so I thought this would be a nice welcome home dessert for dinner.

In addition to the nostalgia of this dessert, this particular pie has a little something extra with the addition of chocolate - glorious chocolate! 

Ingredients:

1/2 cup butter, melted
1 cup sugar
1 cup light corn syrup
4 eggs, beaten
1 tsp vanilla
1/4 tsp salt
1 unbaked 9 inch pie crust
2 1/2 cups chopped pecans
3/4 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips

Method:
Let's break this into segments:
  1. prepare the crust
  2. prepare the filling
  3. bake
1.  The crust
Okay, so it's no secret that I am intimidated by making pastry.  (hush, Mom!)  I'm not the biggest fan of preformed pie shells, either.  My go-to pie crust is the Pillbury roll-out pie crust in the box.  ALWAYS comes out great, and I don't have to stress.  

To assuage my guilt over not making the crust from scratch, I try to do a little something extra to it to pretend that I actually did something.  Today, I'm making a braid for the edge.   
Roll out the crust on a lightly floured surface.
 Cut the pastry into strips of 1/8" - 1/4" wide.  This is the hardest part of the whole dang recipe!
 
Braid them together, gently.  Having long'ish fingernails is not your friend today.
 Brush the edge of the pastry in the pie plate with water to "glue" on the braid.
Stick it on to the crust with gentle pressure.  Wet the edges of the braids together to bond them to each other.  It took me about 3 1/2 braids worth to go around the 9" pie plate.

2.  The filling
Combine butter, sugar, and corn syrup; cook over low heat, stirring constantly until sugar dissolves.  Let cool slightly.  
1/2 cup butter
1 cup sugar
1 cup light corn syrup.  Tip - if you spray the measuring cup with nonstick spray first, the syrup will just slide right out.
Stir constantly over low heat until the sugar is all dissolved.  
Remove from heat and let it cool a bit.
 Whisk together the eggs, vanilla, and salt. 



SLOWLY temper the eggs by adding small  amounts of warm syrup to them, whisking like crazy as you do.  This will bring the egg temperature up slowly enough that you won't end up with scrambled eggs.  I think a ladle is very handy to do this.
 Mix well!
3.  Fill and Bake 
Pour the filling into the unbaked pie shell.

Add 1/4 cup chocolate chips, half of pecans, another 1/4 cup chocolate chips, the rest of the pecans, then the last 1/4 cup of chocolate chips.




Bake at 325 degrees F for 50 - 55 minutes (covering the edges with foil after the first 30 minutes).
Here's the foil square...
 Fold into quarters...
Cut arc into the foil...
Voila!  A circle!
The circle cut-out allows the pie to cook and brown while protecting the edges from over browning.  Remove for the last 5 - 10 minutes.

Allow the pie to cool to at least room temperature or colder before serving.
As you can see here, I used a pie plate that does NOT have a flat rim, so it looks like my pretty little braid slipped down into the abyss of the pie.  Maybe Santa will bring me a new one!
Garnish with a dollop of sweetened cream and some chocolate shavings.

Looking for more delicious recipes? Please visit my Recipe Index for tons of ideas to cook for and with your family.  

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Here are some bonus recipes for you!







1.  The crust
Okay, so it's no secret that I am intimidated by making pastry.  (hush, Mom!)  I'm not the biggest fan of preformed pie shells, either.  My go-to pie crust is the Pillbury roll-out pie crust in the box.  ALWAYS comes out great, and I don't have to stress.  To assuage my guilt over not making the crust from scratch, I try to do a little something extra to it to pretend that I actually did something.  Today, I'm making a braid for the edge.   
  • Roll out the crust on a lightly floured surface.  Cut the pastry into strips of 1/8" - 1/4" wide.  This is the hardest part of the whole dang recipe! Braid them together, gently.  Having long'ish fingernails is not your friend today.  Brush the edge of the pastry in the pie plate with water to "glue" on the braid.  Stick it on to the crust with gentle pressure.  Wet the edges of the braids together to bond them to each other.  It took me about 3 1/2 braids worth to go around the 9" pie plate.
2.  The filling
Combine butter, sugar, and corn syrup; cook over low heat, stirring constantly until sugar dissolves.  Let cool slightly.  
  • 1/2 cup butter.  1 cup sugar.  1 cup light corn syrup.  Tip - if you spray the measuring cup with nonstick spray first, the syrup will just slide right out.  Stir constantly over low heat until the sugar is all dissolved.   Remove from heat and let it cool a bit.  Whisk together the eggs, vanilla, and salt.  SLOWLY temper the eggs by adding small  amounts of warm syrup to them, whisking like crazy as you do.  This will bring the egg temperature up slowly enough that you won't end up with scrambled eggs.  I think a ladle is very handy to do this.   Mix well!

3.  Fill and Bake 
  • Pour the filling into the unbaked pie shell.  Add 1/4 cup chocolate chips, half of pecans, another 1/4 cup chocolate chips, the rest of the pecans, then the last 1/4 cup of chocolate chips.
    Bake at 325 degrees F for 50 - 55 minutes (covering the edges with foil after the first 30 minutes). 
Allow the pie to cool to at least room temperature or colder before serving.  Garnish with a dollop of sweetened cream and some chocolate shavings.

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