Monday, August 30, 2010

Half Coq’ed: Chicken and Mushrooms in Red Wine

I, like most foodies, speak of Julia Child only in hushed, reverent tones. I would venture to guess that most American food bloggers would list her as one of the culinary influences in their lives. (Do you think it’s mere coincidence that her initials are also J.C.?) Let’s face it, the woman is an icon. And I certainly appreciate her dedication to gastronomy – she was a consummate researcher. But be honest (and I swear, I’m whispering as I say this) – a couple of the recipes are a little overblown, don’t you think?

I have made her Coq au Vin recipe from start to finish a couple of times. It is absolutely out of this world! It also dirties almost every cooking vessel I own, takes hours, and completely tries my patience (seriously – blanching bacon and peeling pearl onions are some of the most tedious things I’ve ever done).

Now it’s confession time (Don doesn’t even know this one): I had avoided eating coq au vin since I was a child. If I saw it on a menu, I wouldn’t consider ordering it. I couldn’t believe someone would want to eat that concoction. Want to know why? Because I had no idea what I was talking about.

I guess I’d never seen an episode of The French Chef where she made the dish. I had never seen the name written down. The only thing I was able to pick up was that it was a chicken dish. Also, I don’t speak French. When someone says, “Coq au Vin,” it sounds exactly like “Cocoa Van. “ Putting together the little tidbits that I had gleaned, I couldn’t understand how anyone would want to eat chocolate covered chicken (that I assumed was somehow prepared in a moving car)! I won’t tell you how old I was, but you can not imagine how stupid I felt when I found out the truth (and never let on to anyone that I was so off-base.)

This is all by way of telling you about the dinner party I threw this weekend. My friend, Catherine, is great - a southern belle, through and through. She has this phenomenal home that looks like a French chalet from the outside. Inside, it’s decorated with wonderful French Provencal influences. The kitchen is a complete masterpiece (shameless self-promotion, since I’m the one who designed it). She is a Master Gardener, and has this weakness for all things chocolate. When I say that she’s a serious chocoholic, I’m not kidding. She once brought back cocoa hulls from Hershey, PA to use as mulch around her garden.

So when we decided to have an intimate birthday dinner for Catherine, what else could I make but French chocolate chicken? (OK, I’ve obviously figured it out by now, but this is still what I call it in my head). There was no way I was tackling the Julia Child method - I wanted to simplify it and make it a little less expensive to prepare. I got it all down to a single pot and about an hour’s worth of active cooking time. If you can taste the difference, more power to you – I certainly can’t.

I gave up on cooking with expensive wine long ago, but I still avoid anything labeled ‘cooking wine’ (yuk). I keep a $4 bottle of white wine on the fridge door that I cook with, and I picked up a $5 bottle of Zinfandel to make this dish this weekend. Honestly, you cook the bejeezus out of the wine for this dish, so I just can’t see spending $15 or $20 for something that isn’t recognizable in the end anyway. If you want to, have at it. I also dirtied only one pot for the whole meal, and skipped the stinking pearl onions.

The payoff was completely worth it. Catherine loved the meal, and I found a Chocolate Orange Cappuccino Cake from my buddy, Megan, over at Foodalution that is over the top stupendous! It doesn’t exactly fit into the category if Inexpensive Eating, but you have to splurge once in a while, right?

So I was able to cut out half the steps, ¾ of the pans, and about an hour’s worth of work. Not bad for going off half coq’ed.

Recipe: Chicken and Mushrooms in Red Wine

17 comments:

  1. Nice! Sounds like a perfect setting for this meal - what a great adaptation.

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  2. Wow! This looks and sounds great! I have printed it out and will try this week. Thanks so much!

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  3. Oh yeah - the mocking will begin tout de suite.

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  4. See, nothing like the unconditional support of your loved ones :)

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  5. I made this dish last weekend! It was A LOT of work but soo good. I like the idea of a quicker version though!

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  6. You crack me up! J.C! Ha! Never thought of that connection - and you are correct.... some of her recipes are very overblown... and dirting every dish in your kitchen pretty much sums up cooking a great meal! Fantastic post Scott! See you in foodland! Meg

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  7. A great classic--and perfect for fall!

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  8. It just so happens that I have a bag of frozen pearl onions in the freezer, so I'm blowing it all out and having my coq and eating it (with onions), too!

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  9. This sounds fantastic! Julia Child's version is too labour-intensive for me so I think I will try yours.

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  10. I love the title..and I love Julia!

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  11. Wait, there is no chocolate in this dish??

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  12. This looks and sounds amazing. Can't wait to try it. :)

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  13. Hilarious story about the Cocoa Van, and the chicken looks amazing!!!

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  14. I'm going to have my husband read this blog because he'll be rolling on the floor laughing like I was. Love your sense of humor!! We've done pretty much the same thing with coq au vin. Buy the frozen pearl onions, skip dirtying all the dishes in the kitchen, etc. And, I agree totally, you just cant' tell the difference in taste! Hope you enjoy Labor Day weekend!! Kate@kateiscooking

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  15. Loved this post! Too funny! I, too, like to simplify some of Julia's recipes (For example, I am not going to stand around peeling pearl onions!). I'll have to compare your "Half Coq'ed" to my coq au vin. I had the great pleasure of meeting Julia Child shortly before she moved to the West Coast full-time and then chatting with her on several occasions over the last few years of her life. She was very down to earth, and I'm sure she would be pleased to see you making the recipe your own--just as long as you're not being silly about the butter!

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  16. Wait, where's the recipe?!!! I wanna make chocolate chicken!

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