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.

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