Bravo didn’t post any screen shots of last night’s Top Chef: Masters (an episode that featured a bride who looked like Carrie Underwood with giant boobs — or as I like to call her, Carrie Boobserwood), and so I figured I’d helm my own culinary minded post with yet another installment of Adventures in Domesticity. This time around I opted to veer from my typical Asian predilections and go more European. After all, I’d been craving chicken lately (odd, I know), and what better way to celebrate the bird than by attempting coq au vin for the very first time. It also helped that at least two of my friends (Meeshie and jash) had both recently and independently whipped up a batch of the dish, thus stoking my craving for it. For such a classically French dish, I would normally defer to a Julia Child recipe, but alas, my editions of Julia Child & Company and Julia Child & MORE Company (caps are mine, not hers) did not seem to have any coq au vin instructions (or at least I didn’t see them), and so I then headed straight for the Hamptons — metaphorically — and saw what Ina Garten had to say on the subject. Sure enough, she had a recipe on the Food Network website (as did Alton Brown and Tyler Florence, but I wasn’t about to trust them over Ina). A quick stop at Fresh & Easy later (and regrettably Ralph’s too), I was ready to go!
The only question was whether or not this version could live up to great one my mom used to make when I was a kid (um, I guess I could have asked her for her recipe, but sometimes logic escapes me).
Things started off as they often do: with a cutting board and a knife. I took some time to make sure my knife was extra sharp because for the first time ever, I was doing something VERY bold:
I was gonna break down my own chicken! I won’t lie: I was a bit scared. Well, not scared. It’s more like I was concerned. I had visions of the knife slipping and the chicken going flying across the kitchen, perhaps rolling into the living room and spreading salmonella to my recently vacuumed carpet. Then I remembered that I hadn’t vacuumed in about a month (and by a month, I mean two months); so really, the chicken should have been more afraid of the carpet than the other way around. Not that either one is afraid of the other. These are my issues, you see. Okay, I’m babbling.
Since I was alone, I couldn’t document the exciting process of me butchering the zteeecken, but I am proud to report that the thighs and leg were a breeze to remove. Well, there were some mild issues with the drumsticks, but nothing too detrimental.
I couldn’t remember what to do next though: cut out the backbone or remove the wings? I immediately consulted an instructional video for about the tenth time (don’t worry, I washed my hands first, which is why I was able to hold the camera at this impasse)
Eventually I figured it out (backbone next, followed by wings). I plopped all the pieces in this bowl and stared triumphantly over it for a moment. Hey, it wasn’t that bad! And considering this poultry had cost me only $4, I’m starting to think this might be how I buy chicken from now on.
As for that back bone, I dropped it in a pot for an impending chicken stock experience. I couldn’t tell you how thrilled I was: finally, HOMEMADE CHICKEN STOCK! JUST HOW INA ALWAYS WANTS!
Now it was time to start cooking for real, and no that wasn’t a veiled reference to Sunny Anderson. Here I’ve chopped up some bacon, which is always a great way to start any dish.
I tossed the bacon in my dutch oven and rendered it out for about eight or ten minutes. In the meantime, I seasoned the chicken pieces with salt and pepper.
After I took the bacon out, the chicken went in (in batches). Time to brown away!
About fifteen minutes later, all the pieces were browned and looking quite lovely.
Next went in some onions and carrots. Wonderful odors ensued.
And so the garlic has arrived.
After about ten minutes of cooking the veggies, it was time for all the ingredients to be reunited as one happy family.
Macro shot sequel!
I then added some brandy, some chicken broth, and half a bottle of red wine. Confession: I used the $2 stuff from Fresh & Easy, not the recommended pinot noir.
Oh, and how could i forget? A thyme bundle harvested from my very own herb garden! Perhaps tomorrow I’ll post a “State of the Herbs” update as it’s been several months. Spoiler alert: things are not well.
Well, I covered up the coq au vin pot and put it in the oven at 250 degrees. I then turned my attention to the stock, which consisted of water, parsley, dill, garlic, onion, carrot, peppercorns (black AND white), and salt. I didn’t totally know what I was doing, but it seemed about right.
A little later, everything was simmering away beautifully. This would continue for the next three and a half hours.
While the chicken cooked, I chopped up some cremini mushrooms.
Time to sautÃ© these mofos.
While the mushrooms underwent their transformative experience, I then mashed some butter and flour together. Yes, there were indeed many steps to this recipe, but it wasn’t overwhelming, and they were all spaced out conveniently.
After thirty minutes, I took the chicken out of the stove to test it. Fully cooked! According to Ina, it should be “just not pink.” Seemed like we were on the right path; so I shut off the stove and moved on to the final steps.
Next it was time for some frozen pearl onions to join the party.
Kind of looks like I spilled corn puffs in the pot.
Meanwhile, I had kind of forgotten about the mushrooms, which was a good thing since I tend to pull them prematurely from the sautÃ© pan. I don’t know why — it’s just a thing I do. Luckily, my neglect meant that they were all sorts of beautiful brown.
In went the mushrooms. All I had to do now was let the dish simmer away for about ten minutes on the stovetop.
Bubble, bubble, toil and trouble, etc.
With only about two minutes before the chicken was done, I realized I had totally forgotten to make a side dish. DISASTER! I quickly threw some Earth Balance and a touch of olive oil into my mushroom skillet. This was followed by some frozen spinach, some cayenne pepper, some black pepper, and some garlic powder (I had used the last real garlic in my stock, d’oh!). I had to work quickly; so no photos were taken, but needless to say, I hobbled together a lovely little side in just a few minutes’ time.
At last, the final dish!
With little else to do, I unscrewed my bottle of wine and enjoyed a lovely faux-candlelit dinner with my date: TV.
The verdict? Very good. Not amazing though! There were two problems (and these were minor quibbles really). First, it was a touch too salty, which got in the way of the wine flavor. I know, I know — it’s an Ina Garten recipe. Of course it’ll be salty. I actually, salted less than she recommended. The problem was that my chicken broth was made from bullion, and occasionally, that can be extremely salty. I think it may have overpowered the dish slightly. I should note that I haven’t eaten the chicken since Tuesday, and as we all know with stews, they only get better. I’ll update on that front soon.
The second issue was that the meat wasn’t really falling off the bone. It was cooked perfectly, mind you, but I was expecting it to be crazy tender. In the future, I might have left it in the oven longer. This wasn’t a major deal though. I will say, however, that the chicken from the stock was so amazingly tender that it almost outshone the coq au vin (which is sort of sad and not right — and yes, I DID pick at the chicken when the stock was done).
Overall though, this was a very solid meal, and I would have no qualms about making it again with a few tweaks.
Who else has made coq au vin? Any tips? Any other recipe recommendations?