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!
It makes me sad to say it, but with this week’s recipe for French Fridays with Dorie, we begin the countdown of the final 10 recipes in the book. I won’t get overly reflective yet, but it is hard to believe the end of this journey is in sight.
This week, spring’s been in the air. There are still huge mounds of melting filthy snow, but the air is different. I think I can smell the lovely scent of dirt. In the transition from winter into spring, a bowl of stew can still be satisfying if it’s not too heavy or light. Veal Marengo fits that bill.
Marengo is an old French classic, created by Napoleon’s chef to celebrate victory in the Battle of Marengo. It might be classic, but I’d never had it before. I made some adjustments to it to suit our tastes, but I think it probably tastes close to the original.
We seldom eat veal, so first thing, I swapped out the veal, using chunks of pork tenderloin instead. I also thought the recipe was stingy on the vegetables. Come on, 12 pearl onions, 8 mushrooms, and 8 potatoes for a dish that serves four? I added about a pound of onions, a pound of mushrooms, and over a pound of fingerling potatoes.
To start, the meat is tossed in seasoned flour and browned in oil. Then, onions are sautéed then simmered briefly with diced tomatoes, tomato paste, white wine, and a bouquet garni. The meat is added back and cooked in a low oven until the meat is tender.
In the meantime, the onions are glazed in butter, the mushrooms are sautéed, and the potatoes are boiled, then glazed in butter. Finally the onions and mushrooms go into the skillet for the flavors to meld for a few minutes.
The Marengo is served with potatoes on the side (or in our case, around), sprinkled heavily with parsley.
We both enjoyed this meal. Howard said it reminded him of something else I’d made, but couldn’t remember what. Maybe he was thinking of the osso buco, which was tomato-based, though had different seasonings and vegetables?
To see how the other Doristas interpreted this recipe, check out their recipes here. You can find the recipe in Dorie Greenspan’s book Around My French Table. If you haven’t bought the book yet after all this time, what are you waiting for?