A Temporary Resolution and The World's Best Coq Au Vin

Despite the short holiday that my husband and I just had off work and the not insubstantial amount of time spent cooking, I feel that I didn’t really produce anything that was worth writing about, other than the Key Lime Pie and the Coq Au Vin (and I’m not too modest to announce that the recipe I use for that most famous of all French dishes is superlative, albeit untraditional).
I spent much time over the weekend cooking and I now have a freezer and cupboards stuffed with new ingredients, cuts of meat and snappily fresh vegetables but sometimes you just hit a slump. My last such lapse was on return from America when I was heavily jetlagged but since I regained those lost hours, I haven’t stopped cooking (or writing) since. My husband summed up this latest fug quite succinctly when he noted that his stomach had stretched from eating so much food and even when it’s empty it feels full. Aha! So, we’ve reached that point. We’re overfed like the 40lb Thanksgiving Turkey that my mother-in-law prepares each year, carrying around our bloated bellies stuffed with rich carbohydrate-laden foods. Take last night’s supper for example: Goulash. A simple, Hungarian peasant dish, I hear you cry. But no. We diced potatoes up and threw them into the meat stew for bulk. We added flour and egg dumplings because they’re traditional but mostly just because we like them. We served the Goulash on a (large) bed of fluffy white rice. We used Paul’s homemade trefoil milk rolls to mop up any stray sauce that had escaped the prying grains of rice. We then dolloped tablespoons of sour cream atop the whole sorry plateful, which really was an insulting imitation of the original dish. We ate, and then ate some more and then complained because our stomachs were in deep, deep pain from the constant onslaught of meat, potatoes, rice, bread, dumplings. It is more than any human stomach should be expected to consume in a lifetime and we ate it in one sitting.
Now, I know that you’re thinking “well, everyone overeats from time to time” and you’d be right. But remember that I’m a food writer so my ability to write is based on my ability to eat and therefore to cook. My husband is an innocent, who used to have a waistline, caught up in my obsession (which I think he secretly enjoys and even covets for himself). And, with Christmas looming at a terrifyingly rapid pace, we need to reign in our appetites (and hopefully our belts) to prepare ourselves for the festive onslaught, which will no doubt include puddings, pies, cakes, sweets, nuts, roast meats and sandwiches.
Don’t misunderstand me. This isn’t a call to arms. I’m not laying down my butter or other saturated fats without a fight, I’m just cutting down the portion sizes and the calorific intake. It will be an interesting exercise just to see quite where we can reduce the fat and replace with healthier options. Sounds boring but I will ensure it will be far from it.
Tonight we start with Miso Soup with Silken Tofu. A yummy, nourishing broth that is as life-giving as it is soul-soothing.
I shall keep you posted.

In the meantime, here is my wonderfully rich and artery clogging recipe for Coq Au Vin. Actually, this isn’t my recipe as per se, but one I tested for Cooks Illustrated some months ago. It really is very good and utilises a method for tenderising and bringing the optimum flavour to what can be sometimes bland chicken breasts – rapid brining.
COQ AU VIN – Serves 4 generously
Four Free Range Organic Chicken Breasts, sliced in cut into quarters. If the breasts come with fillets, leave those as they are.
Four Free Range Organic Chicken Thighs, skinned and bones (you can buy them ready prepared)
1 Bottle of a Light, Fruity Red Wine, my husband selected Pinot Noir - he’s the wine buff, not me!
2 Cups Chicken Stock (for a dish like this, I would strongly recommend using homemade stock and it is really easy to do with some a pack of cheap chicken wings and an onion, halved carrot, stick celery and bouquet garni)
Bouquet Garni, comprising about 10 sprigs Parsley, couple sprigs Fresh Thyme, Couple Bay Leaves
Fresh Chopped Parsley (for garnishing)
4 Rashers Unsmoked Bacon (don’t use streaky but don’t use one that’s really lean either as you need some of the fat), chopped
30g Butter
20 or so Shallots or Silverskin Onions (I seem to find it impossible to find these little onions outside of the pickling jar)
400g Small White Mushrooms, halved or left whole, up to you
2 Cloves Garlic, finely chopped
1 Tablespoon Tomato Puree
2 Tablespoons Plain Flour
Peel the little onions and put to one side.
Pour the whole bottle of wine (save a glass for cook if you’re feeling harassed or resentful about having to use ALL this wine) into a saucepan along with the chicken stock and bouquet garni. Bring to the boil then turn down to a medium simmer. You will need to reduce this down to about 3 cups. This will take roughly 25 minutes whilst you prep the chicken and other vegetables.
In a plastic bag, pour half a cup of cold water, along with half a teaspoon of table salt (not sea salt) and shake well to dissolve the salt. Add the quartered chicken breasts to bag of briny water and seal. Squidge the chicken about in the bag, making sure all of it is has been coated with the brine. Refrigerate for between 30-45 minutes (basically until you need it).
In deep saute pan, fry the bacon over quite a high heat to brown it and render down the fat, about 6 minutes. Do not let it burn or else the fat will just evaporate.
Using a slotted spoon, remove the bacon to a plate. Turn the heat down to medium and, after seasoning the chicken thighs, fry them off, folded in half, in the bacon fat, until browned but not cooked, on both sides. Remove to a plate.
In the same pan, turn the heat up and melt a tablespoon of butter. Throw in the onions and mushrooms into foaming butter. Cook for 7-8 minutes until browned and the onions are starting to soften. Maybe 7-8 minutes.
Now turn down to medium and stir the chopped garlic into the mushrooms and onions. Cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Stir in the tablespoon of tomato puree, mix to coat everything then add the remaining butter and two tablespoons of flour. This will give you a thick and glossy sauce.
Now pour in the drained and reduced wine (discarding the bouquet garni), the bacon, the chicken thighs and a good, generous grinding of fresh black pepper. Stir well, cover and leave to simmer for 15 minutes.
After this time, remove the chicken breasts from the brine and add them to winey/chickeny/bacony/mushroomy/oniony brew and cook for another 10 minutes.
Using a slotted spoon, remove the chicken pieces and keep warm on a separate plate whilst you reduce the sauce. Turn the heat up and bring to a rapid simmer. Taste for seasoning. You may find it needs some salt, or more pepper. It might not need much reducing, anything between 5 and 10 minutes should be enough to give you a thick, glossy, unctuously savoury sauce.
Return the breasts to the sauce, strew over some chopped parsley and serve with Colcannon (mashed potato with cabbage and spring onion simmered in milk), Green Beans or Peas.


Kathryn said...

Yum - the coq au vin sounds sooooo nice. My father in law makes an odd but allegedly authentic version with a carcass that isnt cooked in the sauce at all and I find it less tasty than inauthentic versions! A request here Freya - can I see some pics? I'd love to see the key lime pie too. I like to see how people's dinner turns out (nosy me). And the diet - hmm. Please don't make me feel guilty:). Some indulgence with your temple food??? Oh and a tip - Bill Granger's books are very healthy-feeling, if you ignore the desserts.

Kathryn x

FreyaE said...

Hi Kathryn! Sorry for no pictures of the Coq Au Vin - my husband had served it up and it was being consumed before I had time to announce "say cheese!". I have got one of the Key Lime Pie that I haven't posted yet. My camera is very old so the pictures aren't very good - I'm hoping to get a new one for Christmas (or an Ice Cream Maker!). I'm not overly keen on Bill Granger (I didn't really like his TV show) but some of recipes do look yummy so thanks for the tip!

Anonymous said...

Toss-up! I love our ice cream maker. It's a Magimix, just a little one, and it is so much fun to play with.
I didn't care much for his TV show either but some of the recipes seem healthy... I made a damp almond, apple and cherry loaf that had no fat in it and was delish! I can give you the recipe if you want. Otherwise Jamie's black cod with miso felt a bit temple-food ish - the Japanese route might be good?

Kathryn x