Commonsense cooking, 384pp.
edited by Jane Price
Murdoch Books Australia, Millers Point NSW, 2010
Cooking on page 132
We’ve had a few cold summer days so I went searching through my cookbooks to find something easy-to-make and warming, and that would make use of the ingredients I had on hand.
This book of more than 400 easy everyday recipes (it says so on the cover) was just the thing. Moreover, it’s a great book for a beginning cook. The first 51 pages are devoted to the basics of cooking and ingredients. Page 32 shows how to fillet a fish.
So let’s see what’s on page 132.
Coq au vin
2 sprigs fresh thyme
4 sprigs fresh parsley
2 bay leaves
plain flour, for coating
2 kg (4 lb) chicken pieces
3 tablespoons oil
4 rashers bacon, sliced
12 pickling onions
2 cloves garlic, crushed
2 tablespoons brandy
1 1/2 cups (375 ml/12 fl oz) red wine
1 1/2 cups (375 ml/12 fl oz) chicken stock
1/4 cup (60 g/2 oz) tomato paste
250 g 8 oz) button mushrooms
fresh herbs, for serving
To make a bouquet garni, tie together the thyme, parsley and bay leaves with string, or tie them between two short lengths of celery.
Season the flour with salt and pepper. Toss the chicken in the flour to coat well, shaking off any excess. Heat 2 tablespoons of the oil in a heavy-based pan and brown the chicken in batches over medium heat. Remove all the chicken from the pan and drain on paper towels.
Heat the remaining oil in the pan. Add the bacon, onion and garlic and cook, stirring, until the onions are browned. Add the chicken, brandy, wine, stock, bouquet garni and tomato paste. Bring to the boil, then reduce the heat and simmer, covered, for 40 minutes.
Stir in the mushrooms and simmer, uncovered, for 10 minutes, or until the chicken is tender and the sauce has thickened. Remove the bouquet garni, sprinkle with fresh herbs and serve with crusty French bread.
How it played out
It’s been years since I made a recipe of coq au vin, but with a whole chicken and mushrooms in the fridge, this was a perfect choice for a chilly night. The only things I didn’t have on hand were pickling onions and bay leaves. So I used three medium brown onions instead and grabbed a couple of fresh bay leaves from the neighbour. The herbs came from my garden.
Used six slices of short-cut bacon that I had on hand. Most Americans would know it as Canadian bacon.
I then followed the recipe with the exception of creating a bouquet garni. I figured that the herbs add so much flavour and there was no need to fish them out at the end of cooking, so instead I stripped the leaves from the thyme and finely chopped the parsley. I left the bay leaves whole so they were easy to avoid/fish out when serving.
Served this batch of deliciousness with mashed potatoes.
As an aside, I made this recipe at our beach house. I’ve included a pic of one end of the kitchen there. It’s not as well-equipped as my kitchen in Canberra (must do a post about that great kitchen one day), but it works well enough. I’ve made heaps of page-32 recipes there, including Barney’s breakfast beans.
By the way, the spice rack you see in the background is one that I bought for $1 at the local recycle centre at the tip (rubbish dump). My dear friend, Maggie, painted it in her folk art class. There are cute chicken faces painted down the sides. I liked it so much that I went back to the recycle centre and bought another spice rack. One day, I will do a post on Maggie’s artistic folk art creations.
This is an excellent version of coq au vin. If you don’t already have a favourite recipe for this classic French dish now you do.
The brandy was a clever addition, and one that I’ve never seen in a coq au vin recipe. I couldn’t detect the taste in the final dish. Was also pleased with the amount of wine added. Too often recipes call for too much wine and the telltale wine-y taste is still hangs on in the finished recipe. This dish had a perfect balance of flavours.
P.S. This is the second Jane Price recipe I’ve made. The first was for cucumber and salmon bites.
P.P.S. If you’re interested in more things French, check out some of my travel blog entries on France. Here’s one about the food market in St Tropez.