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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
Roast chicken is always a winner in my book. It’s only downside is that in most recipes the chicken takes over an hour to cook, not quite a weeknight dinner. This week’s recipe for Cook the Book Fridays, Chicken Lady Chicken from David Lebovitz’s My Paris Kitchen, solves that problem. The trick? Spatchcocking!
What’s that? Spatchcocking? you say. It’s simply a whole chicken with the backbone removed and flattened out. Not nearly as complicated as its name. When the chicken is flat, it cooks much faster. Just 45 minutes. The only advanced planning is preparing the marinade and letting it sit for a day or two.
The marinade is quick to mix up. A garlic paste is dissolved into garlic, white wine, soy sauce, olive oil, lemon juice, Sriracha, mustard, and honey in a Ziploc bag. It smells wonderful! Pop the chicken in the bag and rub the marinade all over the bird.
Roasting a flat chicken takes less time than a whole bird. It gets a head start with a stovetop sear to burnish the skin then finishes in a hot oven.
My chicken didn’t come out quite as well I as I hoped, but I blame it on the cook (that’s me) falling down on the job. The first problem was that when I seared the chicken in my new cast-iron grill pan, the skin stuck to the pan and burned. In an essay in My Paris Kitchen, David Lebovitz raves about the skin, but my chicken didn’t have that much left after flipping it over.
My second problem was that I overcooked the chicken. My chicken was a little bigger than the recipe called for and was cold from the fridge when I started cooking it. I roasted it for the 25 minutes called for without checking the temperature at all as I assumed it would take a bit longer. When I did take its temperature when it came out, it was 20+ degrees higher than it needed to be. No wonder it was dry.
The taste of the marinade lives up to its aroma, so I do plan to give this another try, using a regular cast-iron skillet without ridges and testing the chicken’s temperature partway through its time in the oven.
I served the chicken with roasted potato salad and grilled asparagus. Leftovers made a delicious chicken salad too.
To see if my “Cook the Book Fridays” friends had better luck with their chicken, check out their posts here. To try it yourself, you can find the recipe on Serious Eats or on page 173 of David Lebovitz’s My Paris Kitchen.
Since our last post for Cook the Book Fridays, I had the pleasure of sharing dinner with Katie of Prof Who Cooks while she was on the East Coast last week. As with so many Dorista meet-ups, even though it was our first meeting, we met as old friends and talked (and ate) the night away.