I’ve been getting my cooking on these days it seems. I go through cycles between cooking up storms and, on the other hand, eating slapped together sandwiches or cans of soup directly out of the pan.
In any event, Sunday started early, before the roosters, before dawn, and cold at 10°F.
The sun shows its first sliver.
It was very cold and humid as well, so my car froze shut. It took me a good ten minutes just to get into it, which made my dash to church just a little faster than usual.
The rush was, however, rewarded. One of the altar boys gave me a picture that his little brother had drawn of him and… well..
These are among the best moments.
I had a Supper for the Promotion of Clericalism™ planned for the evening. Even though it was really the 24th and Last Sunday after Pentecost, in an ecumenical spirit – I’m nothing if not open and flexible… and merciful – I included the intention of celebrating Christ the King.
I don’t entertain as often as I would like, so I decided to pull out a couple of stops, and stoppers.
Inspired by my rooster meditation before dawn, the main event (after pre-prandial libations, with a dividend) Coq au vin, which I haven’t made for a while.
The recipe is in Julia Child’s indispensable Mastering the Art of French Cooking. HINT: Perhaps you could give boxed sets Christmas presents. [UK link HERE] Everyone should have at least the Volume 1. My set was, by the way, a gift from one of you readers. Thank you, again. They have given me a lot of good meals and great times with friends.
My copy is now annotated with my own tips and observations, rather like someone else’s copy of Advanced Potion Making in Rowling’s series. Also, the next recipe in the book, Poulet grillé à la diable, may be the next chicken concoction that I attempt. I am a bit limited in what I can work up by the simple fact that I have no oven. I have a large toaster oven which is serviceable for some things, but I can’t get the smaller of my Creuset French ovens into it. That restricts me to recipes I can prepare on a hot plate. Although, I did find a work around for the oven steps in the Boeuf Bourgignon recipe. But I digress…
I did the onions and mushrooms early in the afternoon. This is easy. I use the little frozen onions, thawed completely and then dried by running through them with paper towels. Braise them in butter and stock with thyme.
As I worked I plugged my older gen Kindle into speakers, switched on the text-to-speech, and listened through to the end of the second of Rowland’s Sano Ichiro murder mystery series set in 18th century Japan, during the time of the Tokugawa Shogunate. The first book is Shinju. [UK link HERE] Lots of twists and turns! You have to skip a couple pages here and there, however. One of the things that really brings these books alive for me was a visit to the Edo-Tokyo Museum and to the Zojo-ji Temple complex during my last trip to Tokyo. At the museum there were recreations of houses and streets from this precise era as well as the remnants of a famous bridge which is mentioned. The Temple complex is referenced in the books and it the site of the tombs of some of the Shoguns. Also, there are some fascinating insights into the lives of women in that culture. But I digress. Back to braising onions….
Meanwhile, mushroom prep. Always them off. You really don’t want to ingest what they grow in. Believe me. You just don’t. You don’t even want to know what they grow in. I have a couple 1″ paint brushes for cleaning mushrooms, coffee grinders, etc.
Some were sliced, some halved, some whole.
Lardons for the chicken. Side pork or thick bacon cut in pieces about 1/4″ x 1″.
Simmer them in water for a few minutes to get some of the fat out.
Brown in butter in the casserole or, in my case, french oven you’ll use for the chicken. Then extract them to a bowl leaving the butter and fat in the bottom for browning the chicken.
At the grocer I hunted up a large fryer. A whole fryer was over $14. However, right next to it, and from the same farm, were four quarters, thighs and legs, for $6. “Hmmm,” quoth I. Since this recipe really calls for an old rooster (thus the name – “Rooster in wine”) I opted for the cheaper dark meat (which I like better anyway).
Brown in the fat, and season.
Put the lardons back in.
Splash in some cognac, light it on fire, shake it around a bit as the alcohol burns off. I tried for a photo of that, but the flames weren’t highly visible with the lights on.
Add your garlic cloves, mashed and chopped, thyme, some tomato paste.
A bottle of wine… you can do with with a white wine if you wish, but the classic calls for red. In this case I used a Pinot Noir… which as everybody knows means “peanut of the night”*. Add stock, chicken, or brown, or even beef, to cover the chicken. And a bay leaf.
Raise the heat to get it moving and then simmer for about 30 minutes. After which time, extract your chicken to a side bowl and start reducing the cooking liquid.
As the liquid is reducing, prepare some beurre manié. This is a mixture of equal parts of flour and butter, mashed and worked together into a thick paste. You can do this with your hands or, as I did it here, with the back of a wooden spoon against the side of the bowl. You can make a lot of this stuff at once, form it into little balls and then freeze it. Use it in a pinch to thicken soups and sauces. Its a good alternative to making a roux.
Whisk it into your reduced liquid a bit at a time.
The sauce should coat and cling
Time to reassemble. Back in goes your chicken, with the mushrooms and the onions. Back it goes on the heat to warm up for the clerical arrival. You can make this way in advance.
I usually like to serve peas with this, but asparagus was on sale at an irresistible price. So, a whole bunch of asparagus, microwaved for 2.5 minutes and dressed with lemon juice.
Served with a sturdy Côte du Rhone and a baguette, this was the best Coq au vin I have ever made. As a matter of fact, it was the best I’ve ever had, either in these USA or in France. And I made it on a single hot plate with one frying pan and a large french oven. The total cooking and prep time was, added up, about 2 hours and I held it in suspense for about 2 hours.
For dessert, strong coffee and ginger cookies with a lemon creme, sort of like an Oreo but not, and Armagnac.
We had a lot of clerical talk, of course. Most of it revolved around the state of the Church and Pope Francis.
It is good to prepare a special meal on Sunday and share it with family and friends.
*For those of you in Columbia Heights, Pinot Noir does not mean “peanut of the night”. There is at present a funny TV commercial which uses that line.