Coq au Vin

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At our house, we do a lot of adapted recipes, even the most traditional ones. We substitute a little of this, add a little of that, combine these two ideas, or even entirely make stuff up. (See the entire tag on our blog – Twisted Traditions). But sometimes you just can’t do that. Coq au vin literally just means “cock {rooster ⇒ chicken} of wine,” which, if you were speaking French, you’d understand to mean chicken cooked in wine. So you’d think this would be wide open for interpretation. But hearing the phrase ‘coq au vin,’ doesn’t just make most people think vague thoughts of wine + chicken; it makes most minds immediately jump to this specific dish, Julia Child, and her famous cookbook. So for this, we went to the penultimate source: Julia Child’s Mastering the Art of French Cooking. The recipe we’re sharing is 99% true to hers – with two differences. One, we skipped the cognac and lighting it on fire, solely because I didn’t feel like going out and buying some. We’ll definitely do it next time, because I really want to light cognac on fire. And two, instead of portioning the mushrooms like Julia instructs, I chopped them fairly finely, because I don’t really like the texture of mushrooms, although I do love their flavor.

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Coq au Vin

(Recipe from Julia Child’s Mastering the Art of French Cooking)
Ingredients: 
  • Chicken
    • 3-4oz bacon, sliced into lardons
    • 2 + 2 tbsp butter
    • 2 1/2 – 3 lbs bone-in, skin-on chicken
    • Salt & pepper
    • 3 cups dry, full-bodied red wine
    • 1-2 cups beef stock
    • 1/2 tbsp tomato paste
    • 2 cloves minced garlic
    • 1/4 tsp thyme
    • 1 bay leaf
    • 3 tbsp flour
  • Mushrooms
    • 2 tbsp butter
    • 1 tbsp olive oil
    • 1/2 lb mushrooms
  • Onions
    • 20-25 pearl onions, peeled
    • 1 1/2 tbsp butter
    • 1 1/2 tbsp oil
    • 1/2 cup beef stock
    • 1/4 tsp thyme
    • 1/2 bay leaf
Instructions: 
  1. Bring 2 quarts of water to a simmer and submerge the lardons of bacon. Simmer for 10 minutes.
  2. In a large dutch oven, heat 2 tbsp butter until melted.
  3. Once bacon has simmered, transfer it to the dutch oven. Saute for a few minutes over medium heat until lightly browned, then remove to the side.
  4. Pat chicken pieces dry. Top with 1/2 tsp salt and a few turns of pepper. Brown each piece on all sides in the hot butter/bacon fat.
  5. Return the bacon to the dutch oven and cook over low-medium for 10 minutes, flipping the chicken once.
  6. Pour wine into the dutch oven. Scrape the bottom of the dish to remove any stuck brown bits.
  7. Add additional stock until the chicken is just covered. Stir in the tomato paste, garlic, and herbs.
  8. Cover and simmer for ~30 minutes.
  9. While the chicken is cooking, prepare the onions and mushrooms.
  10. For the onions: In a skillet, heat butter and oil together over medium heat. Once warm, add the onions. Saute for 10 minutes, rolling the onions around frequently. Pour in the stock and add herbs. Braise, covered, simmering lightly for ~40 minutes.
  11. For the mushrooms: In a skillet, heat butter and oil together over medium heat. Once the butter has foamed and subsided, add the mushrooms. Saute for 6-8 minutes, shaking the pan frequently. Once lightly browned, remove to the side.
  12. After 30 minutes, remove the chicken from the dish.
  13. Increase heat and boil the braising liquid until it has reduced to ~ 2 1/4 cups. [Julia’s very specific suggestion, not mine.] Discard the bay leaf and adjust salt and pepper as needed. Remove from heat.
  14. In a small bowl, whisk together the remaining 2 tbsp butter and flour. Once combined, whisk into the braising liquid.
  15. Return liquid to a slow simmer. Return the chicken to the dish, along with the mushrooms and onions.
  16. Simmer for just a few additional minutes, basting the chicken.
  17. Julia would serve with potatoes, but you can do whatever you want 🙂

Bay Scallop Risotto

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Dinner tonight was basically fate. The universe aligned and all of that. I, unlike every other human being I’ve ever met, greatly prefer bay scallops to their larger, more popular big brother, the sea scallop. Neither are cheap, and we really just don’t think about buying them a lot on our grad student budget. But just the other day, I was reading these articles about how Rappahannock River Oyster is trying to reestablish the bay oyster population my beloved Chesapeake Bay, prompting me to think about those sweet, delicious little guys. And then when we were in the grocery store earlier, there were ridiculously marked down [read: probably about to go bad] bay scallops just begging to be bought! Which brings us back to our fated dinner 🙂

Back before Selim & I started dating, we were coworkers and friends. Have you ever tried to make the shift from co-worker/friend to more than that? It’s hard! The entire time you’re going back and forth between, “I mean, I definitely think we like each other…” and “OMG if I’m wrong, I’m going to have to quit my job…” Luckily, we successfully made the transition! I made this dinner for Selim the first night that I was fairly sure we were having a “date” instead of a night of friends hanging out and having dinner. I was clearly trying to impress him, and this was the fanciest dish I could think of that also didn’t give away that I was trying to be fancy. (Related note, I’m glad I’m past that stage in our relationship… over-analyzing things is tiring!) I don’t necessarily think my risotto sealed the deal for me, but it’s a special dish in my head no matter what.

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Bay Scallop Risotto

(The recipe originates with Michael Symon, but I personally first found it at Stirring the Pot. My recipe is adapted from what I found there.)
Ingredients: 
  • 2 strips of bacon
  • 1 small onion, diced
  • 5 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 1/2 cups arborio rice
  • 1 cup white wine
  • 4+ cups chicken stock
  • 1 bay leaf
  • Fresh ground pepper
  • 1/2 lb bay scallops
  • 1/2 tbsp butter
  • 3/4 cup shredded Parmesan cheese

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Instructions: 
  1. Slice the bacon into small lardons. Place in a large pan over medium heat, top with 2 turns of pepper, and cook for just 1-2 minutes, until the bacon begins to release its fat.
  2. Now add the diced onions. Cover the pan and sweat for 3 minutes. Remove lid, add the minced garlic, and cook for another 3 minutes.
  3. Pour the arborio rice in with the bacon, onions, and garlic. Toast for just 1-2 minutes, stirring occasionally so the rice doesn’t burn.
  4. Meanwhile, heat the stock. You can either keep the stock in a small pot on low on an adjacent burner or microwave it.
  5. Now add the wine. Lower heat of the burner to just under medium. Cook stirring almost continuously*, until all of the wine has been absorbed by the rice.
  6. Add the bay leaf.
  7. Now add the warm stock, one ladle-full at a time. Continue stirring until all is absorbed. Repeat this pattern until the rice is softened, but still slightly al dente. [This will take at least 30-45 minutes.]
  8. Toss the scallops into the pan, along with a double ladle-full of stock. Cover and cook for 3 minutes.
  9. Stir, add another double ladle-full of stock, recover, and cook another 3 minutes.
  10. Turn heat down to low. Remove the bay leaf. Add the butter, cheese, and another 3 turns of black pepper. Stir a few more times until the butter and cheese are well-incorporated.
  11. Serve with a bit more cheese on top, plus additional salt and/or pepper to taste.
*You may have heard or read that to make a good risotto, you have to stir without taking a second of a break, until you have a perfect risotto or your arm falls off. I’ve found that toning it down a bit works just fine. This is what I do: put a ladle-full of stock in the pan, stir for 20ish seconds, turn around and wash a dish, or shred some cheese, or throw some trash away, or something else that takes <45 seconds (I never leave the kitchen), turn back around, stir until its ready for the next ladle of stock. Nonna may disagree with my technique, but it’s worked for me thus far.
Serves 4.