Thursday, November 18, 2010

Beaujolais Nouveau!

final coq au vin in all its glory.
By law, the third thursday of November every year is Beaujolais Day. To celebrate, we decided not only to crack open the new 2010 vintage of Beaujolais Nouveau, but as a testament to our love for France, decided to make coq au vin. 
First things first, coq au vin is usually made with an aged hen or rooster, but 2L year, who really has time to go get an aged hen or rooster? Not me. So a whole chicken from Trader Joe's will have to do. Second thing, we broke down the chicken ourselves: it's cheaper, fresher, and definitely better eats if you do it yourself. A tutorial via Alton Brown can be found here (fast forward to 05:15). 
This dish is usually eaten with some kind of starch, potatoes, egg noodles, or crusty French bread traditionally; however, we made garlic mashed potatoes (use Russet potatoes - we roast with the skin on). But we might do it with noodles next time - potatoes...not so good. 

The key to making this dish spectacular is taking the time with each little step: making sure the bacon is crispy, caramelizing the onions and mushrooms, using the right stock, and even serving the wine at the right temperature (cooler than you think...55˚...Beaujolais is younger so you treat it almost like a white wine.)

To finish off our über-French meal, we had macaroons and espresso. Job well done France, job well done. Enjoy!

Coq Au Vin
yields: 4-6 servings
now playing: Phoenix - Wolfgang Amadeus (to keep things French)
now drinking: Mommessin Beaujolais Nouveau 2010
inspired by Thomas Keller's "Braised Chicken" in Bouchon

1 whole chicken
3 oz. thick cut bacon
1 bottle of Pinot Noir (that you would drink)
1 cup organic chicken stock (we use Swanson which is pretty reasonable and good, sometimes we use homemade stock...but that's another entry)
1 whole onion
3-4 carrots (unpeeled and whole)
1/4 teaspoon of freshly grated nutmeg
10-12 peppercorns
10 springs of thyme
2 springs rosemary
5 springs tarragon
2 bay leaves
8 oz. baby bella mushrooms
18 pearl onions
3 cloves garlic
butter as needed

Preheat oven to 275˚

1. Take out your bacon (preferably thick cut and uncooked - super fatty). Take your boning knife (or sharpest knife you have) and cut the bacon into lardons. Put pieces into a hot dutch oven, and render for 10 minutes, until bacon is crispy. Remove the bacon and place onto a paper towel, but leave the rendered fat in the dutch oven. 

2. Break down chicken (see video). Salt, pepper, and flour each piece - enough to coat. Sear each piece (skin side down) in bacon fat until golden brown (about 5 minutes on each side). You might need to do this in batches depending on how big your dutch oven is. Remove chicken from dutch oven and set aside for time being.

3. Slice onion into large chunks. Cut carrots into large chunks as well. Add onions and carrots into dutch oven (with remaining bacon fat), and cook for 1-2 minutes until it becomes coated with the bacon fat. Add a splash of coganc (we use inexpensive, but still tasty cognac, you can use brandy instead, but use something's France day anyways), let cognac coat vegetables for about 10 seconds, and then flambée (watch your eyebrows!). 

4. Once the alcohol burns off (the flame subsides), add the chicken - dark meat on the bottom, light meat on the top. Add the whole bottle of wine, as much stock as it takes to barely cover the meat, the freshly grated nutmeg, the peppercorns, and the bouquet garni (we usually just twist together the sprigs to keep them together). Bring to a boil.

5. Once the mixture comes to a boil, remove from heat, cover, and place into a 275˚ oven for about an hour. In about 45 minutes, remove the lid, and let it continue to simmer, uncovered, for the remainder of the time.

6. After an hour, remove from oven. Take chicken pieces out and put them in a metal bowl. Strain sauce into a sauce pan. Disgard the carrots and the onion, and reduce the sauce until it can coat the back of the spoon (usually about 20 minutes). If it isn't thick enough, add arrowroot, or a beurre manié

7. While the sauce is reducing, cook mushrooms and pearl onions* in about 2-3 tablespoons of melted better  (or as needed - the butter can vary, in keeping with the French theme, err on the side of more rather than less). Cook until mushrooms release liquid and absorb butter (about 7-10 minutes, so they're not spongy anymore). Cook in batches - don't crowd the pan. Add onions and mushrooms to the chicken.

8. To plate, place your starch first (or if you're using bread place to the side of the plate), and then put chicken, mushroom, onion mixture on top of that, and then spoon your reduced sauce on top - remembering that you eat with your eyes first. 

9. It sounds like a lot of steps, but it's not that bad. Most of it is idle time. After you plate, crack open your Beaujolais and enjoy!

*to easily peel your pearl onions, score the root end, drop in a pot of boiling water for 1 minute, after that they should jump right out of their skin.
palette satisfied + belly full = job well done. 


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