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coq au vin episode II: the chicken strikes back

OK, so I did my little 'lard croutons,' dredged, seasoned, and browned the chicken, browned the pearl onions (the Barefoot Contessa, whose Food Network show I'm addicted to, clued me in to using frozen pearl onions, rather than having to parboil and peel about 45 of them myself) and then sauteed the quartered mushrooms in the same fat distilled from the salt pork 'lard croutons,' reserving the mushrooms, salt pork, and onions in tupperware in the fridge.

The chicken went into that same 'extract of lard crouton' for browning. This is a dish I would never have been able to attempt were it not for my mother's giving us some enameled cast-iron cookware for Christmas; it's astonishing to me that the heat was distributed evenly enough (I assume that's what it is) for there not to be tons of burned bits from the various brownings and sauteeings and whatnot.

But more importantly, enameled cast iron is non-reactive. Alton Brown's version of coq au vin does something that no other version I've seen does, and that makes tremendous sense to me:

It lets the chicken -- along with savory ingredients (carrots, celery, quartered onions, garlic, and lots of fresh thyme), chicken stock (I had homemade stock, thanks to all those chickens we've roasted, usually on the grill, since moving here, and each time we make stock and freeze it), some tomato paste, and tons of Pinot Noir -- marinade in the fridge in that lovely, nonreactive 'French Oven' at least overnight. I think we'll have it in there two nights, as we've got an unexpected commitment tomorrow night that will probably preclude coq au vin-age.

The day we serve the dish is the day it'll come out of the fridge for the chicken (and savory ingredients) to braise and the sauce to be finished.

This is a genius special dish for special company, I think, for this reason. It requires what many would consider culinary heavy lifting -- lots of chopping and such, and with all of the sauteeing and browning today, I think I was in front of the stove for at least two and a half hours -- but the day I serve it, I'm pretty much just sticking it in the oven for some hours and doing a little sauce finishing of a kind I've done a lot, and find pretty easy.

It was slightly less genius that I gave no thought at all to what we'd eat TONIGHT. My honey had a lengthy job interview (she left in the morning and got back in the late afternoon) followed by a lengthy work-ish conference call, and for some reason she was less than totally thrilled by the lamb stew we've been eating on and off for over a week and the pot roast that we've been eating for the last two nights. I threw together a kind of improvised tetrazini-deal -- ground turkey, mushrooms, and peas (got to get green veggies in somewhere) with plentiful onions and garlic in a sauce with cheese and just a touch of sour cream, served over whole wheat penne. It worked.

The real culinary question is whether the coq au vin will prove sufficiently rewarding to justify the effort. Stay tuned!

January 16, 2007 in Cooking | Permalink

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