Wednesday, May 23, 2012

The JC100: A Celebration of Julia Child {Recipe: Coq au Vin}

The JC100: Julia Child's Coq au Vin - Photo by Michelle Judd of Taste As You Go
Coq au Vin

When I think about Julia Child, the first two dishes that come to mind are her Boeuf Bourguignon and her Coq au Vin. And while I've eaten both dishes numerous times, I've never made either dish in my own kitchen. Not until this week, that is.

Thanks to the JC100, I can now say with satisfaction that I have successfully prepared Coq au Vin at home. And I didn't burn the joint down or lose any eyebrows to the cause when I flamed the brandy!

Bottle of E&J VSOP Brandy - Photo by Michelle Judd of Taste As You Go
Bottle of E&J VSOP Brandy

Bottle of Ravenswood Napa Valley Old Vine Zinfandel 2010 - Photo by Michelle Judd of Taste As You Go
Bottle of Ravenswood Napa Valley Old Vine Zinfandel 2010

Another Julia Child recipe meant another trip to our local liquor store to pick up a bottle of "good brandy" and a bottle of "young red wine" (Julia suggests a zinfandel, Mâcon, or Chianti type). Now, the brandy is listed as an optional ingredient in the recipe, so I could have saved myself the expense... But I wanted to go "all in" on this one. It's a classic dish, and I wanted to stay as true to Julia's recipe as possible.

After consulting with one of the shopkeepers, I purchased a bottle of E&J VSOP (on sale!) and a bottle of Ravenswood Napa Valley Old Vine Zinfandel 2010 and then headed to the market to procure the remaining ingredients. By the time I got back to the house, I was ready to dive in.

Blanched Slab Bacon - Photo by Michelle Judd of Taste As You Go
Blanched Slab Bacon

Pork Lardons - Photo by Michelle Judd of Taste As You Go
Pork Lardons

When trying any new recipe, it's important to read through the recipe several times before you begin cooking. You want to make sure you have the proper ingredients and necessary equipment (or suitable substitutes). But you also want to make sure a simple-looking recipe isn't hiding something like an unexpected multi-step process or ingredient preparation that will actually add an hour to your cooking time.

Reading through the recipe is vitally important when preparing Julia Child's Coq au Vin.

Before you really get going on the Coq au Vin, you need to prepare the pork lardons...

Bowl of Cipollini Onions - Photo by Michelle Judd of Taste As You Go
Bowl of Cipollini Onions

Braised Cipollini Onions - Photo by Michelle Judd of Taste As You Go
Braised Cipollini Onions

... and braise the onions...

Trimmed and Quartered White Mushrooms - Photo by Michelle Judd of Taste As You Go
Trimmed and Quartered White Mushrooms

... and saute the mushrooms...

At this point, it's not unthinkable that you've consumed half the bottle of red wine you bought for the chicken and have started to wonder why you decided to subject yourself to this special form of torture.

If you think this might happen to you, then go ahead and buy two bottles of wine.

The JC100 - Julia Child's Coq au Vin - Photo by Michelle Judd of Taste As You Go
Coq au Vin

But the effort was worth it to be able to put this on the table for dinner last night.

Okay... We ate in front of the television and not at the kitchen table. After cooking for what felt like forever, all I wanted to do was flop down on the living room floor and eat my painstakingly prepared and elegant meal like a savage. I don't think Julia would have minded.

Some notes:

  • Julia's recipe calls for "frying-chicken parts" but doesn't specify which parts. Based on my experience, I'd advise using chicken thighs and avoid using chicken breasts. The thighs stayed moist and tender throughout the cooking process, while the chicken breast I prepared wound up tougher and drier.

  • If you do decide to use brandy, pull the pan off the heat before you ignite it. And don't be afraid to let out a little "ooh" while you watch the flame dance.

  • While I prepared this dish on a weeknight, I wouldn't recommend attempting the same unless you have ample time make your way through each of the steps. I worked from home on Tuesday, so I didn't have to worry about making the Coq au Vin after spending 2 hours on a bus. 

Coq au Vin
For 4 servings

INGREDIENTS
  • 1/2 cup (4 ounces) lardons (see note)
  • 2 1/2 to 3 pounds frying-chicken parts
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil or good cooking oil
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 1 or 2 large cloves garlic, pureed
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1/4 teaspoon thyme
  • 1/3 cup canned Italian plum tomatoes
  • 3 cups young red wine (zinfandel, Mâcon, or Chianti type)
  • 1 or more cups chicken stock
  • Beurre manié for the sauce (1 1/2 tablespoons each flour and softened butter blended to a paste)
  • Fresh parsley sprigs or chopped parsley
  • 1/3 cup good brandy (optional)
  • 12 to 16 small brown-braised white onions
  • 3 cups fresh mushrooms, trimmed, quartered, and sautéed

INSTRUCTIONS
  1. Sauté the blanched bacon or salt pork and remove to a side dish, leaving the fat in the pan.

  2. [Season the chicken lightly with salt and pepper.] Brown the chicken in the pork fat, adding a little olive oil, if needed.

  3. Flame the chicken with the brandy, if you wish... it does give its own special flavor, besides being fun to do.

  4. Add the garlic, bay, thyme, and tomatoes. Pour in the wine and enough stock to barely cover the ingredients. Bring to a simmer and cover, and simmer slowly 20 minutes, or until the chicken is tender when pressed.

  5. Remove the chicken to a side dish and spoon surface fat off the cooking juices. Pour the juices into a saucepan and taste very carefully for strength and seasoning. Boil down rapidly if it needs strength, adding more of the seasonings if you think them necessary. [Julia is totally telling you to taste as you go!]

  6. Off heat, whisk [in] the beurre manié to make a lightly thickened sauce. Bring briefly to the simmer -- the sauce should be just thick enough to coat a spoon lightly.

  7. [Return the chicken to the pan you used to simmer the chicken with the wine and stock. Pour the sauce over the chicken.]

  8. Strew the braised onions and sautéed mushrooms over the chicken, baste with the sauce, and simmer a few minutes, basting, to rewarm the chicken and to blend flavors.

  9. Decorate with parsley and serve.

NOTE:
  • For the lardons: When you use bacon or salt pork in cooking, you want to remove its salt as well as its smoky flavor, which would permeate the rest of the food. To do so, you blanch it, meaning you drop it into a saucepan of cold water to cover it by 2 to 3 inches, bring it to the boil, and simmer 5 to 8 minutes; then drain, refresh in cold water, and pat dry in paper towels. [Then cut into 1- by 1/4-inch pieces.]

Excerpted from The Way to Cook by Julia Child. Copyright © 1989 by Julia Child. Reprinted with permission from the publisher Alfred A. Knopf, a division of Random House, Inc.

For more in The JC100 Series of Julia Child's Recipes, see:


If you liked this post, consider subscribing to Taste As You Go’s RSS feed or subscribing via email so you don’t miss a thing!