Nourishing the Soul and the Belly {CtBF}

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If there was ever a week where I needed comfort food, this might have been it.  When the world as I’ve known it seems to be crumbling around me, cooking is a welcome distraction, and the results offer a modicum of comfort and nourishment to our table. This week’s recipe for Cook the Book Fridays, Coq au Vin, a hearty braised chicken dish, fit the bill.

I’ve probably eaten Coq au Vin in a restaurant.  I don’t think I’ve ever made it myself.  When I visualize it, I imagine chicken cooked in white wine.  I was surprised to see that in this recipe, from David Lebovitz, the chicken is cooked in red wine.  A little planning is required as the chicken along with some herbs and chopped vegetables needs to marinate overnight in a full bottle of wine.

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Our chicken part of choice are chicken thighs.  Rather than enjoying our favorite pieces during one meal and less favorite parts for subsequent meals of leftovers, I opted to use 8 chicken thighs instead of a whole chicken cut into 8 pieces.

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When it’s time to cook dinner, first the chicken is browned.  Then, mushrooms and lardons of bacon are crisped.  Then the herbs and chopped vegetables from the marinade get a turn.  Finally, the wine is poured into the pot and the chicken simmers for an hour.  In the meantime, pearl onions are simmered separately.

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According to David Lebovitz, classic coq au vin is thickened with chicken blood, an ingredient that probably isn’t easy to find at your local grocery store.  Not at mine either.  The alternative offered, cocoa powder whisked into some of the cooking liquid, makes a more appealing addition.

I served the chicken in wide shallow bowls over egg noodles with a full complement of silverware.  Forks and knives to eat the chicken and a soup spoon to catch every last drop of the flavorful sauce.

Coq au vin hit the spot as comfort food.  I will double the mushrooms and onions if I make it again.  Though I cooked this on a weeknight, I’d say that coq au vin is more of a weekend meal.  It would also be better shared with company than reheated for several nights in a row.

Check out what the other bloggers from Cook the Book Fridays thought about coq au vin.  You can find the recipes in David Lebovitz’s cookbook My Paris Kitchen on page 177.

As one more effort towards distraction, yesterday I helped raise the relocated hoop house at Lexington Community Farm, my happy place.  After we moved and set up the hoops, I held the ridge pole up until the farmer could tie it in place while we bolted it in place.  I can’t wait until next month when I can start working in the greenhouse again, as the seasonal cycle repeats.  What fun!

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Sunshine in a Jar

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In 2016, I became mildly obsessed with fermentation, mostly cucumbers and cabbage, but also sourdough bread.  Kitchen experiments are my idea of a good time.  When I saw that Marisa McClellan at Food in Jars was hosting a Mastery Challenge of food preservation in 2017, I signed on.  Each month will focus on a new preservation technique.  I’m excited to practice and learn how to extend the seasons with some new tricks.

First up for January is Marmalade.  I’ve made my own jams and jellies from summer fruits, but marmalade is something I always purchased.  I was excited to experiment.

Marisa’s post on how to make small-batch marmalade starts with a ratio.  I love ratios.  It allows you to create your own recipes confidently.  I liked the idea of whole fruit marmalade, where the entire fruit is used (rind, juice, pulp, membranes, everything except for the seeds).  The ratio for whole fruit marmalade is 1:1:1 (fruit, sugar, water).

I was hoping to make marmalade with Meyer lemons, but I couldn’t find them, so I started with organic lemons instead.  The first step is to cook the fruit until it is tender, then let it cool in the cooking water.  Once cooled, the fruit is halved and the pulp is scooped from each half into a bowl, discarding any seeds.  A grapefruit spoon does a thorough job at this step.  The empty halves are quartered (through the ends) and each wedge of rind is thinly sliced and added to the bowl.

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Time to cook it all into marmalade.  Based on the 1:1:1 ratio, equal weights of prepared fruit, sugar, and cooking water are combined.  I also added some elderflower cordial that I made this summer because I like the way its floral notes complement the tart lemon flavor.  The mixture is brought to a boil, then simmered until the marmalade reaches a temperature of 220F and passes the cold plate test.  In a wide sauté pan, it took about 25 minutes to perfection.  And while the marmalade cooked, I sterilized my jars.  When the marmalade was ready, I ladled it into the hot jars and processed for 10 minutes.

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The cheerful yellow color of the marmalade is the perfect antidote for raw and gloomy cloudy winter day.  The contrast of the sweet and tart flavors help too.  I made a batch of lemon-ginger scones to enjoy with the first jar.  My batch made 4 half-pint jars so I’ll share one or two.

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Whole fruit marmalade is only one style.  In addition to keeping my eye out for interesting winter citrus to further my experiments, I also want to try the less bitter cut rind style.

Lemon-Elderflower Marmalade

  • 1 lb lemons, preferably organic, scrubbed well
  • Water
  • 2 cups sugar
  • ½ cup elderflower cordial

Place the lemons in a medium saucepan, and cover them with water (4-6 cups).  Bring the water to a boil, then reduce the heat to low, cover the pot, and simmer until the lemons are fork-tender, about 35-45 minutes.  Remove from heat and let everything cool.

Once cool, remove the fruit from the pot.  Reserve 2 cups of the citrus cooking liquid.  (DO NOT DRAIN THE POT WITHOUT SAVING THE LIQUID YOU NEED.)

Cut the lemons in half through their equators.  Use a grapefruit spoon to remove the pulp, and add it to a large bowl.  Discard any seeds.

Cut each lemon half into quarters (through their poles).  Thinly slice each wedge and add to the bowl.

Start sterilizing your jars in a water bath.  I like to add an extra jar plus a 4-oz jar just in case the yield is higher than expected.  Place a couple of small plates in the freezer.

Transfer the bowl of pulp and rind to a wide, deep skillet.  Add sugar, elderflower cordial, and reserved cooking water and stir to combine.  Bring to a boil, then lower heat a bit, but make sure the mixture is still boiling steadily.  Cook, stirring frequently, until the mixture reaches 220F, about 20-25 minutes.  As a backup, remove from the heat and do the cold plate test to verify doneness.

Remove the jars from the water batch.  Drain the water back into the pot.  Fill them with marmalade, leaving ½-inch headspace.  Wipe the rims with a damp paper towel, and put on lids and rims.  Return the jars to the water bath, bring the water back to a boil, and process for 10 minutes.  Start timing when the water returns to a boil.

Remove the jars to a cooling rack.  You should hear the lids pop to seal.  As the jars cool, be sure to check the seals.  Refrigerate any unsealed jars.

Yield: 4 half-pint jars