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Coq au Vin. Ish.

October 18, 2011
This is not a recipe for Coq au Vin.
Coq au Vin uses pearl onions and a lot of time, neither of which I have. (Honestly, the thought of cutting X’s into the ends of 20 pearl onions, blanching them, and peeling them individually makes me twitchy. If you’re into pearl onions, PEACE TO YOU, but I am way too lazy to peel 20 vegetables when I could just peel one. But I digress.)

I don’t have pearl onions, but chicken legs were on sale at the Western and I did have some leftover red wine and some regular, non-miniature vegetables, so I thought I’d give a nod to the concept of Coq au Vin for our dinner tonight. So, here’s what I did:

1. I rendered some duck fat. Keep reading; this step is optional. 🙂 I happened to have served slices of smoked duck breast at our fossil-hunting picnic Saturday. Before slicing it, I ripped off its lovely layer of fat, stuck it in a baggie, and tossed it in the fridge. I figured it would come in handy sometime. I mean, some ideas are just obvious. Tonight I threw that fat in my Le Creuset French oven and rendered it over low heat, then removed and tossed out the solid parts.

2. I diced a purple onion into small dice and sliced 2 cleaned ribs of celery into 1/4 inch slices.

3. I cut 4 well scrubbed carrots into bite-size chunks.

3.5. I preheated the oven to 325F.

4. I cooked all the vegetables in some fat in my French oven … duck fat, bacon fat, olive oil … whatever good fat you want to use is fine with me. Then I scooped them out of the pot and set them aside in a bowl.

5. I seasoned 7 chicken legs with kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, put them in a big zipper bag with about a quarter cup of flour, and tossed the coat them in the flour. I used 7 chicken legs because they were on sale and that’s how many there were in a “family pack.” Chicken thighs would work too, or a combination of legs and thighs. Definitely use dark meat though. I wash my hands of you if you try to use boneless skinless chicken breasts for this.

6. Then I added some bacon fat, butter, and olive oil to the French oven, heated it over medium  heat, and browned the chicken legs well on all sides in two batches. Then I set aside the chicken legs. At this point, there was a lot of black stuff in the bottom of the pot; I thought it looked sketchy, so I wiped it out with paper towels. No sense dirtying another pot.

7. I returned the vegetables to the French oven and added a pint of homemade turkey stock, about half a bottle of red wine, and about 2/3 of a small can of tomato paste. In retrospect, I don’t think there would have been anything wrong with adding the whole can. Go with your gut on this one. I assume that canned chicken broth would also work here, but in the interest of disclosure, I used true stock — the kind made by slowly simmering bones — the kind that turns into turkey gelatin in the refrigerator. I don’t always have this lying around (because The Bean “doesn’t eat soup”), but I did have a pint in a freezer and it seemed like the thing to use. The wine was left over from a previous meal. I store leftover wine in screw-cap bottles in the fridge for just this sort of thing. My current wine-storage vessel is a swanky bottle from some swanky bottled water we purchased for a dinner party. Some bottles are just too swanky NOT to store leftover wine in.

8. I stirred the veggies, tomato paste, and liquids all together, added the chicken legs, brought the whole business to a simmer, then covered it and put it in the oven for about two hours, turning the chicken pieces over after an hour.

9. Real Coq au Vin is served with noodles. To me, that seems about as silly as peeling 20 pearl onions. We are Southern, and we  know the value of grits with a good tomato-and-meat based gravy, so I hauled my three children to the nearest grocery store for grits (because *gasp* I was out of grits), cooked them up, and poured them into an 8 x 8 casserole dish.

10. Fifteen minutes before dinner, I put the grits in the oven and took the lid off the pot-of-deliciousness that was NOT Coq au Vin. At this point, grab a spoonful of the gravy, let it cool, taste it, and adjust the seasonings accordingly.

11. I served the grits and NCaV with some leftover arugula salad and … some red wine. Here is an unretouched, non-fancy photo of my dinner of not-Coq-au-Vin served on my awesome Corelle dinner plate on a completely pedestrian placemat:

Not Coq au Vin, grits, leftover arugula salad, and a glass of pinot noir.

So, let’s go over the ingredients here one more time:

7 chicken legs (a “family pack” that cost about $3.50; you could use thighs too)

1 purple onion

2 ribs of celery

4 carrots

1 small can of tomato paste

1 pint of turkey broth

1/2 a bottle of red table wine

Various kinds of fat (duck fat, bacon fat, butter, olive oil)

Salt and pepper

Grits

I’m not going to tally up the cost here, but this was pretty cheap. Also, most of the work was done in the early afternoon, before the children went totally bonkers and I lost my will to cook, so BONUS. I am calling it a win; I hope you enjoy this recipe sometime!

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