Now we come to my favorite country of all- France.
It's no secret that I a serious case of Francophilia. I wear the label proudly, and ever since we spent the first three months after our marriage there, I think of it as another home across the sea. We've also been studying the language, and have rather slow, stilted conversations with terrible accents whenever possible. But we're getting there, and hopefully our efforts will result in being able to sound like our words are dancing, just like they do when you hear a French man or woman speak.
France is also internationally synonymous with fabulous food. But while some may associate French cuisine with fat chefs and stuffy, fancy eats, the reality is that most of their fare is quite simple and focused more on the quality and freshness of the ingredients, combined with practiced and perfected techniques.
Take Coq au Vin, for example. Chicken is marinated in wine, braised for flavor, and then slow cooked with vegetables and bacon in the same wine until it's so tender that it's falling off the bones. It's far from complicated or pretentious, but it makes for a filling, beautiful meal that could qualify as both fine dining and comfort food. That, in my opinion, is genius of some kind.
I'm going to be perhaps a bit obsessive with France, but I'm not really sorry. It's food that is good and beautiful, and worth a lot of attention.
As the French would say, bon appetit!
Coq au Vin
Based on a recipe from Saveur.com
- 5-6 lb. of chicken, either leg quarters or a whole fryer cut into 10 pieces
- 3 cups red wine (I used a merlot, and like the results)
- 3 cloves of garlic, chopped
- 2 ribs of celery, thinly sliced
- 2 large carrots, cut into 1 inch chunks
- 1 medium yellow onion, sliced
- 1 tsp. fine ground black pepper
- 8 thick-cut slices of bacon, cut into small pieces
- 3 Tbsp. olive oil
- 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
- 2 cups of chicken stock
- 10 sprigs flat-leaf parsley, plus more for garnish
- 2 bay leaves
- 2 sprigs of fresh thyme, or 1 tsp. dried thyme
Bring wine, garlic, celery, carrots, and onion to a boil in a medium stock pot. Reduce heat and simmer for 3-5 minutes, or until onions are beginning to get tender. Place chicken in a large bowl, and pour the wine mixture over the top. Drizzle with 1 Tbsp. olive oil and cover; marinate in refrigerator overnight.
The next day, preheat the oven to 325 degrees. Tie together parsley, bay leaves, and thyme (if using fresh) into a bundle. Remove chicken from marinade and pat dry. Sprinkle generously with salt and pepper. Heat 1 Tbsp. of olive oil in a large, heavy-bottomed pot and cook and brown chicken in two batches.
While chicken cooks, strain the vegetables out of the marinade, reserving both the liquid and solids separately. Once the chicken has finished browning, remove it from the pot and add the marinade vegetables, adding more oil if needed. Cook until soft, then stir in the flour and cook for 1 minute. Stir in the reserved liquids and bring to a boil. Simmer for 1 minute, then add chicken stock and salt and pepper to taste. Nestle in the chicken and herb bundle and bake covered until tender, about 1.5-2 hours.
Remove from oven and sprinkle in bacon. Remove chicken and serve on a platter, topping with sauce and garnishing with chopped parsley.