Outside the window, the trees are turning shades of gold and crimson and the leaves are starting to fall. It seems like it happens overnight; one day it’s cool, the next its chilly and overcast, then for days on end its cold and raining, and finally there are days when the sun tries to shine but only manages to peek through the thick blanket of clouds hanging just above the mountains across the valley from our house. I don’t enjoy the rain, but the drop in temperature is the worst part, and because we get around on two dutch bicycles without a car, we notice it more I suppose. But we have to eat, so I bundle up, put on a hat and pedal to the bakery to buy a loaf of fresh bread. On the way home I’m thinking about how it will compliment a bowl of something warm and hearty. It’s this time of the year when we crave simple, comforting dishes.
I’ve been taking this time to read my cookbooks as if they are the latest best-seller on the shelves. I think cookbooks tell a story, just like any other book. Whomever the author may be, they are telling us a story, where the recipes come from, whether they have been passed down from generation to generation or if they are the latest trend among stylinsh bistros.
Today I settled on Coq au Vin. It is a traditional, rustic dish that you will find in many bistros and restaurants across France, usually prepared following the traditional recipe. Whenever I cook traditional French, I like to reference the old classic recipes and cook alongside the master chefs who know what they are talking about, like Joël Robuchon, Patricia Wells, Éric Ripert, and of course the classic, Larousse Gastronomique. I’ve chosen Éric Ripert’s version, because I haven’t tried it before, and its the only one that calls for 2 bottles of wine to braise the chicken with. If it brings you to a halt to read that it requires TWO bottles of wine, I assure you, its not overwhelming in the least. After having made this dish many times according to several recipes, I found this one to be the tastiest and about as authentically french as you can get without a passport. I hope you enjoy it as much as we have.
1 large packages of chicken thighs and legs
½ cup all-purpose flour
½ cup sunflower oil (canola is what his recipe called for, sunflower is everywhere in Germany, so I used it)
3 slice smoked bacon
1 1/2 cup celery, diced
1 1/2 cup carrots, diced
2 large onions, diced
4 garlic clove, peeled and
12 ounces button mushroom,
washed and diced
1 cup brandy (you can substitute with either bourbon or cognac)
2 bottles red wine
2 tablespoons tomato paste
2 sprig fresh thyme (or 1 teaspoon dried thyme)
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 package egg noodles, cooked
Lay the chicken pieces on a baking sheet; season chicken with salt and pepper and lightly dust both sides, with flour.
Heat oil in a heavy bottomed stock pot, slowly add the chicken, skin side down, and cook over medium heat until the skin is golden and crispy. Try to only turn the chicken when you think the skin is brown (3-5 minutes). Turn chicken and continue cooking until the other side is golden brown.
Remove chicken from pan and discard all but 1 tablespoon of oil. Slowly cook the bacon until crisp and add the celery, carrot, onion, garlic and mushroom; cook until lightly caramelized.
Deglaze the pan with the brandy, add the tomato paste and combine. Add the red wine, browned chicken and thyme. Bring to a boil and simmer on very low heat for about 3 hours, until the chicken is very tender and starts falling off the bone.
Carefully remove the chicken from the sauce and reduce the sauce by half. Once the sauce had thickened, add the chicken and season to taste. Serve over egg noodles or mashed potatoes.