Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Coq au Vin

So I've got three quarters of a bottle of Merlot left over from my dégustation and my first thought is boeuf bourguignon. But thinking further, the words coq au vin pop into my head. So in an instant I've got my A Little Taste of France cookbook out and I wasn't surprised to find a recipe for the traditional chicken stew.

I find that chicken never takes on flavours very well. Chicken is chicken. Sure the skin can taste really great. But the flesh, especially the dryer white breast that I prefer, barelly soaks up any flavours. Take beef. It becomes one with whatever you throw at it. But chicken is obstinate and always maintains its individuality. As if it's too good for a world of flavours. Well trust the French to beat the pig-headed meat at its very childish game.

This recipe calls for the chicken to be marinated overnight. Throw anything in wine for over 12 hours and it's sure to be happy at the end of it all. So I guess the moral of the story is that when faced with a challenge, soak it in alcohol and marinate overnight. Yes. That's the answer.

Coq au Vin

1 whole chicken cut into eight pieces (leg, thigh, upper breat, lower breast and repeat)
1/2 bottle red wine
2 bay leaves
2 sprigs of thyme
Half a package of bacon (250g or 9oz)
60g (2 1/4oz) butter
20 pearl onions
250g (9oz) tiny button mushrooms
1 tsp oil
30g (1/4 cup) plain all-purpose flour
1/2 litre (2 cups) chicken stock
125ml (1/2 cup) brandy --- which we omitted as per the price of brandy
2 tsp tomato paste
1 1/2 tbsp softened butter
1 tbsp plain all-purpose flour
2 tbsp chopped parsley

1. Put the win, bay leaves, thyme and some salt and pepper in a bowl and add the chicken. Cover and leave to marinate, preferably overnight.

2. Sauté bacon in a frying pan and drain excess fat. Take cooked bacon out of frying pan. In the now vacant pan, melt a quarter of the butter, add the onions and sauté until browned. Take out of pan.

3. Melt another quarter of the butter, add the mushrooms, season with salt and pepper and sauté for 5 minutes. Remove and set aside.

4. Drain the chicken, reserving the marinade, and pat the chicken dry. Season. Ad the remaining butter and the oil to the frying pan, add the chicken and sauté until golden. Stir in the flour. Transfer the chicken to a large saucepan or casserole dish and add the stock. Pour the brandy into the frying pan and boil, stirring, for 30 seconds to deglaze the pan (use the stock or marinade if you aren't using brandy). Pour over the chicken. Add the marinade, onions, mushrooms, bacon and tomato paste. Cook over moderate heat for 45 minutes, or until the chicken is cooked through.

5. If the sauce needs thickening, lift out the chicken and vegetable and bring the sauce to the boil. mix together the butter and flour to make a beurre manié and whisk into the sauce. Boil, stirring, for 2 minutes until thickened. Add the parsley and return the chicken and vegetables to the sauce.

6. Serve with a nice glass of wine and some torn baguette pieces to soak up the sauce. Make sure to have a victory laugh over the chicken who capitulated at your flavour onslaught ;)

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