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coq au vin, episode III: the return of the lard croutons

When last we met our coq au vin, its sauteed mushrooms, browned pearl onions, and lard croutons (AKA salt pork, cubed and cooked until crispy and golden brown) were in a Tupperware container in my fridge, which also held my 9.5 quart enameled cast-iron Dutch oven, in which the seasoned, floured, and browned chicken thigh meat was soaking in two bottles of pinot noir, along with a carrot, a celery stalk, an onion, and a nice dose of garlic.

Two days later (it only needed to marinade overnight, but we wanted for various reasons to postpone coq au vin night, and I figured that additional time to marinade would probably improve the dish), the Dutch oven went into a 325-degree oven for a little over two hours, at which point I scooped out the chicken from the mix, turned the oven down to warm, and put the chicken back in the oven in a covered stainless steel pan. The liquid from the gigantic Dutch oven was then strained into a small Dutch oven to make the sauce, which required reducing and thickening it. It seemed a little too salty to me, so I also added some more wine.

Fifteen minutes before dinner, I put some pasta (we elected to go with whole wheat rotini rather than the traditional egg noodles -- I wanted something a little more robust) on to cook, and I added the mushroom/pearl onion/lard crouton mix to the now-reduced sauce. Four minutes before dinner, I put some frozen organic green beans in the microwave to steam (after going to as much effort as I did on the coq au vin, I was feeling not atypically lazy about the vegetable). At dinner time, the pasta went to the center of our plates, ringed with the green beans. Chicken rested on the pasta, and I ladled the sauce over it and garnished each plate with some fresh thyme.

The result was, I think, delicious. I wouldn't want to make coq au vin every day. I think it would go much more quickly the second time through, and I think that it's a good company dish in that most of the culinary heavy lifting gets done at least a day ahead of time; as long as you're home at least three hours before company arrives for dinner (something that's not at all a problem for a seminarian on winter break, though most of my friends could only do that for a Saturday evening gathering), there's not much that's difficult to do on the day you're going to eat the coq au vin. On the other hand, cubing salt pork is rather unpleasant, in my opinion. It's dense to cut through, and then it sticks pretty tenaciously to the knife. It's also got gritty salt throughout, which gets in the numerous tiny and shallow cuts that any chef is likely to have and not normally notice. I think the dish would be easier to do, though probably not as tasty, with slab bacon, and I think I might experiment with other moves that would make the dish easier to make. As with stews generally, it's that wonderful combination of tasty, comforting, satisfying, and (since it actually requires tougher chicken) relatively cheap to make. If I come up with a recipe that manages to compress prep time (and refrigerator space required -- that's always at a premium in our house), I'll post it.

January 19, 2007 in Cooking | Permalink


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Whenever I have to cut up something like salt pork I freeze it or slightly freeze it. I love your description of the cubed salt pork as being "lard croûtons", very apropos.

Posted by: tim | Jan 19, 2007 12:47:14 PM

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