Friday, January 25, 2008

coq au vin

Coq au Vin

Hello, Friend! My heart leapt when a big box of culinary happiness was delivered to my doorstep on Wednesday. It was finally here! I carefully tugged my new cooking companion out of the box. Hefty, deep, shiny, and red. Even better than I imagined! It was love at first sight. La Cocotte love, to be precise.

La Cocotte 1I started shopping for a Dutch oven about three years ago. Williams-Sonoma (otherwise known as My Favorite Store On Earth) was naturally my first stop, but at the time, they only handled Le Creuset. Fantastic cookware, for sure, but something about the colors just didn't strike a chord with me. None of the Le Creuset colors were "me." So I kept looking...for about two years...and didn't come up with anything better. But last year I stumbled upon what is now one of my absolute favorite blogs, and this post in particular. What is that beautiful purple thing in the picture and, more importantly, where can I get something like it for myself?! The beautiful purple thing was a 7-quart, oval La Cocotte by Staub, and it was available from the cookware treasure trove that is (the only store that carries Staub's full line). I want to tell you that I went out (stayed in) and purchased a red one immediately, but if you're following the timeline here you know that isn't true. No, I waited very patiently for almost a year and Santa, in all his holiday splendor, brought it to me for Christmas. (Well, in his infinite wisdom, he gave me a picture of it for Christmas and said he would send it out to Seattle so I didn't have to pay to ship it. Great!)

La Cocotte 2La Cocotte and I cooked together last night as though we had been doing it for years. Unfortunately, only one of us had the ability to save this recipe...and it wasn't the pot. The recipe came from a book I received from The Athlete for Christmas. I was super excited to make something from it, and even though this dish didn't meet my standards, I'm still pretty enthused about the book so you'll definitely see other recipes from it in the future. Anyway, I'll spare you my complaints about the dish and skip right to telling what I will do differently next time:

1.) Cook, not just garnish, with a spice that pairs well with chicken. Thyme, tarragon, anything you want, really, because the curious list of ingredients doesn't demand a single one.

2.) Use smaller/thinner breasts of chicken. I'm always tempted to buy the big juicy pieces and throw them right in the pot, but the chicken doesn't cook long enough here for the sauce to penetrate thick pieces. They just end up being bland.

So, all in all, this is an interesting concept for a more healthful version of coq au vin, but it needs a little help to make a passing grade.

Coq au Vin
Adapted from Williams-Sonoma's Essentials of Healthful Cooking
Serves 4

16 pearl onions, about 1/2 pound
1/2 lemon
6 baby artichoke
2 slices preservative-free bacon
4 skinless chicken breast halves, about 5 ounces each
1 large shallot, finely chopped
1/2 pound cremini mushrooms, brushed clean, stems removed, and cut into slices
1 tablespoon flour
1 1/2 cups fruity dry white wine (Pinot Gris or White Burgundy)
1 1/2 cups reduced-sodium, fat-free chicken broth
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
Chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley for garnish

Bring a saucepan half full of water to a boil. Add the onions and boil for about 2 minutes. Drain, plunge into cold water to cool, and then slip off the skins. Cut a shallow cross into the root end of each onion to keep it from telescoping during cooking. Set aside.

Empty the saucepan and refill with the same amount of water. Squeeze the juice from the lemon half into the pan. Working with 1 artichoke at a time and using a sharp knife, slice off the top half or so of the leaves. Starting at the base, pull off and discard the tough outer leaves, then pull off the outside leaves until you reach the pale green inner leaves. Remove the tough outside flesh from the stem and drop the artichoke into the pan.

When all the artichokes are trimmed and in the pan, bring them to a boil over high heat and then reduce the heat to medium. Cook gently, uncovered, until tender, about 15 minutes. Drain well. When the artichokes are cool enough to handle, use a small sharp knife to cut off all the leaves. With a spoon, scoop out any prickly choke to expose the heart. Cut the hearts in half lengthwise and set aside.

In a large Dutch oven or other deep, heavy pot over medium heat, fry the bacon until it is crisp, about 5 minutes. Reserve the bacon for another use and remove all but 1 tablespoon of rendered fat from the pot.

Return the pot to medium heat, add the chicken breasts, and sear on all sides until lightly browned, 6-8 minutes. Transfer the chicken to a plate.

Raise the heat to medium-high, add the shallot, pearl onions, and mushrooms and saute until the mushrooms release their liquid and the onions have softened, about 5 minutes. Add the flour and stir for 1 minute. Stir in 1/2 cup of the wine, reduce the heat to medium, and scrape up all the browned bits from the bottom of the pot.

Return the chicken to the pot and pour in the remaining 1 cup of wine and the broth. Cover, reduce the heat to medium-low, and simmer until the chicken is very tender, 1 - 1 1/4 hours. Add the artichokes to the pot and cook until heated through, about 5 minutes. Season to taste with salt and pepper, remove from heat, garnish with parsley, and serve.

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