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Posts Tagged ‘red wine’

Just look at the list of ingredients:

Bacon.  Butter.  Mushrooms.  Wine.  Brandy.  Chicken.

Coq au vin basically sells itself.  Sure, I could rhapsodize about the melt-in-your-mouth chicken and seared mushrooms bathed in rich, tangy wine sauce.  But I trust you to recognize a good thing.  No hard sell needed.

Coq au vin is a classic for a reason. Ever since Julia Child ignited the craze for French food in the 1960s, Americans have greedily slurped up this heady stew and asked for seconds.  Yes, it is a bit labor-intensive, but the end result is completely worth it.  The next time you need an impressive dish for a dinner party or special occasion, think retro.  No, think classic.  Think coq au vin.

(Adapted from Nigel Slater)

-1 large chicken, cut into 6 or 8 pieces, or 1 small chicken plus two leg quarters (save back and innards if you intend to make your own broth)
-8 strips of thick-cut bacon, sliced into thick matchsticks, or 150 g. pre-cut lardons
-2 med. yellow onions, roughly chopped
-2 med. carrots, peeled and roughly chopped
-2 stalks celery, roughly chopped
-3 cloves garlic, minced
-3 Tbsp. flour, divided
-4 Tbsp. brandy or Cognac, divided
-leaves from 4-5 sprigs thyme
-3 bay leaves
-3/4 bottle red wine (approx. 2 1/4 c.)
-1 1/2 c. chicken broth, preferably homemade
-1-2 Tbsp. butter, if needed
-1 c. small “boiler” or “pearl” onions or small shallots, peeled
-1/2 lb. mushrooms (I used crimini), cleaned and halved if large
-salt and pepper, to taste
-chopped parsley, for garnish

1.  Rinse the chicken and trim of excess skin and fat.  Dry with paper towels and season with salt and pepper.  Now is a good time to make your chicken broth or bring some prepared broth to a bare simmer in a saucepan.

2.  In a large, heavy pot, fry the bacon pieces on medium heat until lightly golden.  Remove to a bowl with a slotted spoon, leaving the drippings behind.

3.  Put the chicken in the pot, skin-side down, and let cook undisturbed until golden.  Flip and brown the other side.  Remove to a plate, leaving the drippings behind.

color = flavor

4.  Lower the heat and add the carrots, celery, and onions, cooking until the onions soften. Stir in the garlic. Then sprinkle the veggies with 2 tablespoons flour and stir, cooking 90 seconds more.

5.  Return the chicken pieces and their juices to the pot.  Add the bacon, then pour over 2 tablespoons of brandy.

6.  Add the wine, bay leaves, thyme, and enough broth to barely cover the chicken.

7.  Bring just to a boil, then reduce to a simmer and cook partially covered for about 40 minutes, or until the chicken is tender.  Remove the chicken to a bowl.

8.  Raise the heat to high and begin reducing the sauce.  Use a spoon to (carefully) skim off the grease that accumulates around the edges of the sauce, discarding all but 2-3 tablespoons.  Put the reserved grease in a metal skillet or medium pot (do not use non-stick) and set aside.

9.  If desired, thicken the reduced sauce with a slurry of 1 tablespoon of flour whisked with 2 tablespoons of water.  Return the chicken pieces to the sauce, first removing the skin (if you like).  Correct the seasoning and keep warm.

10.  Heat skimmed fat in the pot/skillet on high.  If there is not enough fat to cover the bottom, add the butter.  Add the mushrooms and let brown undisturbed for 2 or 3 minutes.  Now add the small onions and sauté 2 min. more.  Season with salt and pepper.

11.  Have matches or a lighter handy.  Pour 2-3 tablespoons of brandy into a cup.  Very carefully, pour the brandy over the mushrooms and onions. Immediately set the mushrooms and onions on fire, averting your head for safety.  Shake the pan until the alcohol burns off and the flames die out. Continue cooking until the onions are just tender, adding a little water if needed.

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Should you ever find yourself with an abundance of venison on your hands (via a generous hunter or a murderous rampage against the buck raiding your flower beds), consider whipping up a batch of Hirschgulasch.  This recipe originates from an Austrian restaurant where I used to serve and bartend.  I met many a character there, including a cokehead bartender who claimed to have immortality and a kindhearted Turkish law student.  We slaved long hours together, hoping for big tips and generosity from chef Thomas, who would save us a portion of the venison Gulasch special when he was in a good mood. After a hard night’s work, there was nothing more comforting than a plate of tender wine-braised game over dumplings.  Years after leaving, the dish was still on my mind, so I contacted Thomas for the recipe.

I hope you find Hirschgulasch as memorable as I did.

-1 lb. venison shoulder, trimmed and cubed
-4 small onions, halved and cut into thin wedges
-4 shallots, cut into wedges
-1 Tbsp. flour
-3/4 bottle (450 ml) red wine (I used a light tempranillo)
-1 c. dark beef broth
-1 tsp. beef bullion (staying true to Thomas’ recipe)
-dash each paprika and cayenne
-a few sprigs fresh thyme, stemmed
-1 tsp. fresh minced rosemary
-1-2 cloves garlic, minced
-8 juniper berries
-8 peppercorns
-2 bay leaves
-1 Tbsp. lingonberry jam (or whole cranberry sauce), plus more for serving
-salt and pepper, to taste
-vegetable oil

1. In a large, heavy pot, heat a few Tbsp. vegetable oil until very hot.

2. Dry venison cubes on all sides with a towel. Season liberally with salt and pepper. Sear in batches in the hot oil to brown and develop a nice crust all over. Remove from the pot with a slotted spoon and set aside.

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The winemaker says:

“We admit it. We’re a little obsessed with terroir. Especially when it comes to Pinot Noir. Technically, terroir means the absolutely unique characteristics of a site – soil, wind, temperature, cosmic influences, neighboring lavender fields, nearness of the sea. For Pinot, it means that the subtle texture and flavors of one site cannot be duplicated anywhere else.

Los Carneros Pinot is a subtly complex masterpiece. The 2006 vintage gave us brooding, earthy aromas of cherry and forest floor, with touches of spice. Flavors are complex, full with cherry, coffee and molasses surrounded by a soft, velvety texture that ends in a fleshy, long finish. A gorgeous wine.”

I say: 

La Crema Pinot Noir ’06 is a soft, Old World-style red that complements a variety of dishes (especially the ones on this blog).  It’s great—and better yet—Target (of all places!) must have negotiated a great deal, the normally $26 bottle sells there for $16.  “Tar-jay” finally lives up to its name.

****Update: 3/1/09****: Target must have caught on.  La Crema is now $25.99/bottle. [tear]

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