Saturday, March 20, 2010

An ancient dish with a memory and a twist

When I was growing up, my mom often made large batches of one or two dishes that she put in the freezer and served up over the course of a couple of weeks in rotation. She used to make this chicken stew over rice with chunks of vegetables and we ate that so often that we sometimes complained about it - unfairly of course. Recently, bakerbiker made a similar sort of dish - Coq au Vin - that made me remember those times, sitting around the table with my family eating chicken stew. Coq au vin is a traditional french dish of rooster slowly braised in a red wine sauce with lardons and butter so that the tough meat becomes juicy and tender. Most coq au vin recipes have you use chicken and add in mushrooms, carrots, and onions to the stew, but ask you to remove the vegetables to finish the dish. bakerbiker made a variant of this dish with boneless, skinless chicken breasts. He kept in the veggies to give it some body and texture and served it over egg noodles (taking a page from his doppelganger, Alton Brown). We really liked the earthiness of the dish and the crunch of the veggies kept it from being too "stewlike." And every bite reminded me of my mom's chicken stew, which I remembered fondly and certainly wasn't complaining about, at least this time!

COQ AU VIN for 3-4
2 lb chicken (here, boneless skinless chicken thighs, but anything would probably work)
4 strips bacon (turkey or pork)
1-2 onions, chopped
3-4 carrots, chopped
2-3 celery stalks, chopped
8-12 oz white or crimini mushrooms, roughly chopped
1 c stock (chicken, veggie, etc) or water
1 750ml bottle of red wine (preferably lightly oaked if at all, french is "most traditional")
2 T tomato paste
2 cloves of garlic, peeled
1-2 bay leaves
1 t thyme leaves

Set aside a 6-8 qt dutch oven to build the dish in. In a large (12" or bigger) saute pan set to medium heat, cook the bacon until its fat has mostly rendered, then roughly chop and toss into dutch oven.

In the fat (or if you've used turkey bacon, add a bit of olive oil or butter), saute the veggies (not mushrooms yet) until starting to brown, then toss into the dutch oven.

Toss the chicken in a bit of flour, then (adding fat if necessary) brown it in the pan on both sides. You might need to do this in 2-3 batches - it'll brown more easily if not crowded. Toss into the dutch oven.

Finally, saute the mushrooms for about 5 minutes, until they give up their liquid. You know what to do with them.

Last, pour 1c of the wine into the pan and deglaze it over medium high heat (i.e., cook for a few minutes, scraping up the browned bits in the pan, until it's slightly thick). Pour into the dutch oven.

Then, add the stock, garlic cloves, bay leaves, thyme, tomato paste, and salt and pepper (start with 1-2 t of salt, and add to taste). Add the rest of the wine. In an oven set to 300 or on the stove, simmer the mixture on low for 90-120 minutes (or longer if you've really gone and shot a rooster!). I partially covered the pot, but it probably isn't necessary.

Serve over egg noodles and with a rich bread, like brioche, to sop up the stew. Yum.

Saturday, March 6, 2010

A summer breeze in the middle of winter

Just the thought of fresh peaches brings me back to the summers of my youth, when my family made a yearly road trip from DC to Hilton Head, South Carolina. Driving along the southeast coast in the middle of July, you'd feel the hot, muggy air and wish you were anywhere but in your car. Back then, though, being in the car also had its perks. Namely, one could find all kinds of yummy treats, right there for sale on the side of the road. Fresh corn, boiled peanuts, and best of all, juicy, golden southern peaches. We used to pick them up by the bagfuls and eat them in the car, swatting away the fruit flies that gathered around right there with us. That's why, when we saw this recipe for brandied peaches last summer in the New York Times, we jumped for joy. New England peaches are no match for the peaches of the South. But that's why they're the perfect candidate for canning - they still have that wonderful peachy flavor but the temptation to eat them raw isn't as great. We canned these over the summer and saved them for times like this, when even the idea of summer makes us warmer. We recently tried them on french toast with blueberries and caramelized bananas. And boy were they tasty!


3 pounds ripe peaches

3 cups sugar

About 1/2 cup brandy

1. Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Using the tip of a paring knife, make a shallow “X” in the bottom of each peach. Add the peaches, one at a time, to the boiling water and cook for 1 minute. Remove the peach from the water and plunge into a bowl of ice water. Repeat with the remaining peaches. Peel off the skins, then pit the fruit and quarter the flesh.

2. In another large pot, combine 3 cups water and the sugar and bring to a boil. Add the peaches and simmer until just soft.

3. Have the jars, bands and new lids scalded and ready. (To scald, dip the jars and rims in boiling water. You don’t need to sterilize the jars, as you will be processing them for more than 10 minutes.) Simmer the lids in hot water to soften the rubberized flange. Gently pack the peaches into the jars.

4. Boil the leftover syrup until it thickens slightly, then spoon it over the fruit, filling the jars ¾ full. Use a butter knife to release any air bubbles caught in the jars. Pour in enough brandy to fill the jars, leaving ¼ inch of headroom. Wipe the rims, cover with the lids and screw on the bands fingertip-tight. Place the jars on a rack in a big pot and cover with 2 to 3 inches of water. Cover the pot and bring to a boil over high heat, then lower the heat to medium and gently boil for 20 minutes. Remove the cover and then, after about 5 minutes, remove the jars. Allow them to cool, untouched, for 4 to 6 hours. Check the seals and store in a cool, dark place for up to a year. Refrigerate after opening.

Makes 2 pints.

Recipe courtesy of The New York Times

Monday, March 1, 2010

Top of the morning to you!

I've been meaning to write about my new favorite cocktail for a while now. Tried first at #9 Park now nearly three weeks earlier, the Morning Glory Fizz is one of those drinks that just doesn't sound like it should work... plus, it has an egg white, which freaks out nearly everyone I've mentioned it to. But it does. I should know - I've had several. Including one made with the white of an egg laid maybe an hour before it became a cocktail - if you have access to a chicken like we did when we first gave this drink a try, I heartily recommend egg-based cocktails as a way to get through all those amazing fresh eggs!

2 oz scotch - I've used both Lowland and Islay whiskeys to good effect
1/2 oz lemon juice
1/4 oz lime juice
1/4 oz absinthe
3/4 t turbinado sugar or syrup
1 egg white
splash carbonated water/soda

Dry shake the egg white with sugar and juices, then add the remaining ingredients (not the soda water) and hard shake again with ice. Strain and top with a splash of soda.

I hear this is an excellent morning cocktail; I'll leave it to you all to decide...