Well, hello there friends!
It’s been awhile since I’ve posted anything here. Okay, that’s an understatement – it’s been over a year!
Most of you know that I was diagnosed with cancer in February, right about the time most of us first learned about the coronavirus. I’ve written at length about my illness over on the site called Caring Bridge (in hindsight I wish I had just written all of that here, but that’s hindsight for you) so I won’t go into detail now. Suffice to say that for several months I was barely doing any cooking. I’m very happy to be back in the kitchen! While I don’t have the same level of energy as I used to, it still gives me great joy to cook for my family.
In fact, I would say the biggest surprises for me regarding the pandemic are the feelings of loss. Not being able to gather people together, to hug them and to cook for them has been surprisingly (why I don’t know – I guess because I never had to think of it before) devastating for me.
I believe we will get this under control though, and I’m so looking forward to happier times ahead when we can be together and I can feed people. Then I’ll be whole again.
Meanwhile, I cook for my little family. One child is living under his own roof in Portland, but the other two are here with Rob and me. We have often remarked what a godsend it is to have them at home during this time. Not only have they helped with my care, but they’ve been a source of much joy in these otherwise lonely – and sometimes dark – days.
I didn’t cook harvest dinner for our winery crew this year, which also felt like a significant loss to me. But I did roll out a few of the harvest favorites. It’s that time of year and we crave them.
The other day I decided to make the very classic Coq Au Vin, and I thought you might like the recipe. By the way, if you’re on Instagram, you can catch a video of me making this in the R. Stuart Stories. That’s if you’re quick. Stories only stay up for 24 hours. We’re working on a way to find a longer term home for the videos. Meanwhile, here’s my recipe for this comfort food classic.
Classic Coq Au Vin
- 4 strips thick cut bacon
- 8 chicken pieces, I use all thighs
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
- 10 ounces cremini mushrooms or use wild mushrooms if you have them
- 1 medium onion, chopped
- 3 medium carrots, chopped
- 3-4 cloves garlic, chopped
- 2 cups hearty red wine this can be an less expensive cooking wine, like a red Zinfandel
- 1 cup beef stock
- 1/4 cup whiskey or brandy optional, use an equal amount of stock if you don't want to. use alcohol
- 1 bay leaf preferably fresh
- 5 or 6 sprigs fresh thyme
- 2 tablespoons unsalted butter at room temperature
- 2 tablespoons all purpose flour
- 2 tablespoons fresh Italian parsley, chopped
- In a Dutch oven or large skillet over medium heat, cook the bacon pieces until almost crispy. Transfer the bacon to a paper towel to drain, leaving the bacon fat in the skillet. Meanwhile, season the chicken pieces well with salt and pepper. Brown the chicken in the bacon fat left in the pan. Start them skin side down, without crowding. When they're golden brown on one side, turn them over and brown the other side. Take your time with this step, a nice brown crust adds tremendous flavor. As the pieces brown remove them to a plate or a sheet pan and add the others, until all the chicken is browned and set aside.
- To the same pan, add the onions and carrots and cook, stirring regularly, until the vegetables are beginning to brown. A little bit of caramelization is a good thing here - again, it adds flavor. Then add the garlic and stir for about 1 minute until fragrant. Now pour in the whiskey or brandy to deglaze the pan. As the whiskey is bubbling, scrape up any browned bits on the bottom of the pan. Once the whiskey has mostly evaporated, add the mushrooms and stir them into the other vegetables. Then add the bay leaf and thyme.
- Preheat the oven to 300 degrees.
- Add the stock and the wine and nestle the chicken pieces down into the liquid, mostly covered but not submerged.
- Cover the pan and put it in the oven. Let it cook undisturbed for an hour. Remove it from the oven and refrigerate over night.
- On the day you'd like to serve it, remove the pan from the fridge and with a spoon remove any fat that has hardened over the chicken and sauce. Remove the chicken pieces from the sauce and place the pan over medium heat on the stove.
- Combine the room temperature butter and flour in a small bowl and mash with a fork until the two are mostly incorporated. Stir this mixture into the stew and let it come to a simmer. Cook for a 5 - 10 minutes to cook the flour and thicken the juices. Return the chicken pieces to the pan and simmer until they're warmed through, about 30 minutes. Taste for seasoning and add salt and pepper as needed.
- Serve over polenta or noodles, as mentioned above, and garnish each serving with chopped parsley.