Sunday, September 7, 2008

Coq au vin & Ratatouille

I was excited to finally get back to the kitchen and cook again. Our recent visit to Petit Robert Bistro made me want to learn how to make Coq au vin, so, with Julia's Mastering the Art of French Cooking in hand, I made my way to the grocery store. While browsing the produce section, I noticed that there was a special on these beautiful local red sweet peppers. They were, like, $1.50/lb; I just had to get some! Right next to those, were some nice green sweet (bell) peppers--also local. I immediately thought of making a nice ratatouille, which is one of my favorite summery Provençal dishes. That was a perfect way to support local farmers and make a great seasonal side dish to go along with my coq au vin. (By the way, at the meat counter, there was no coq (rooster), so I opted--as I assume most American cooks do--for chicken (hen). I saw that they were running a special on pre-cut chicken, so I purchased a large amount of that instead of a whole chicken. It worked beautifully, plus I didn't have to do the butchering myself.
The Ingredients for Coq au vin are:

3-4 oz. lean bacon
2.5-3 lbs. chicken, cut-up
0.25 cup cognac
3 cups red wine
1-2 cups chicken or beef stock
0.5 Tb tomato paste
2 cloves garlic
.25 tsp thyme
1 bay leaf
beurre manié (2 Tb softened butter & 3 Tb flour)
12-24 1" diameter onions, which have been braised in butter
0.5 lbs sautéed mushrooms

For the Ratatouille, I used:

4 red sweet peppers
2 green sweet peppers
3 6" zucchini
3 6" italian eggplant
1 large can of chopped tomatoes, drained (Of course, fresh tomatoes would be best, but they had absolutely nothing at the grocery store, so I got canned tomatoes instead. For this recipe, it was just fine.)
olive oil
salt & pepper

The first thing I did was my mise en place. I cut up my veggies for the ratatouille, and got the onions ready. I put the peppers in a roasting pan with some olive oil and let them get started in a meduim oven while I let the sliced eggplant give off some of its water by salting it and putting it between paper towels.
Next, I parboiled the bacon so I could make some lardons. Then, I fried the lardons in my dutch oven and set them aside.
Back to the ratatouille, I cut-up my zucchini and drained eggplant and added them to the peppers mixing it all and making sure there was enough olive oil to lightly cover everything

Next, I browned the chicken in the dutch oven with the residual bacon grease and some added butter. The next part is quite fun if you've never done it before--although be careful! Pour the cognac in the pot over the browned chicken and ignite. Let the flames subside and then, add the broth and the wine, along with the herbs and seasonings. The liquid should almost cover the chicken--as Julia calls it on her boeuf bourgignon eposide, à fleur. This should simmer for about 30 minutes or until the chicken's internal temperature lets you know it's done.

While that's cooking, I stir my ratatouille some more in the oven. Then, I prepare the onions and the mushrooms--sautéeing them, separately, until they are nicely browned. Set those aside.

Once I see that the veggies in my ratatouille are close to being done, I add the tomatoes. And cook the ensemble until everything is done--adding more olive oil if needed.

Make the beurre manié by mixing the flour into the softened butter. A rubber spatula is helpful.

Once the chicken is finished cooking, remove it from the pot. Reduce the liquid a bit, then introduce the beurre manié to the liquid and cook until thickened. Once the sauce is thick, put the chicken back into the pot and heat through. Add the onions and mushrooms before serving and garnish with the lardons.

Traditionally, coq au vin is served with parsleyed, buttered potatoes, but it would go well buttered noodles as well--or even rice.. (I did serve it with my ratatouille, and that went really well, too. I, personally, didn't miss the starch this time.)

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