Saturday, December 4, 2010

Pre-Thanksgiving Goings-On

No, my friends, I haven’t been away for the week (unfortunately). We just had a wonderfully busy, company-laden Thanksgiving with lots of cleaning up, clearing up and catching up.

My greatest piece of Thanksgiving advice was always this: Turn your turkey upside down to rest after it comes out of the oven. Finishing the cooking upside down is also great, but THAT really is difficult to accomplish, so aim for resting Tom in the prone position.

I have a new piece of advice. Don’t serve Coq au Vin the night before Thanksgiving. (My actual Thanksgiving post is coming soon, by the way.)

Maybe IF you do your planning properly and have it made a month before Thanksgiving and then freeze it, fine; but, do yourself a favor and don’t get involved in the marinating (and turning) of large amounts of raw chicken in a huge bowl of wine and vegetables when you have a refrigerator full of food. And sautéing lots of chicken in a house that you’re trying to keep clean for guests isn’t the smartest strategy either.

My reasoning WAS partly sound. I wanted something that I could take out of the fridge and put on the stove and be done with on Wednesday night. It WAS already cooked and just had to be heated up. BUT I didn’t take into the account the mountain that had to be climbed to get all that stuff cooked and into the pot (and how many pots that would require).

THIS was the recipe I used. It looked good and, gosh, was it complicated.

The first step is to marinate the chicken with tons of vegetables and seasonings in a bottle of wine. The longer the better.

Then I fried up some bacon and moved it out of the pan.

Next, I removed the chicken from the marinade and browned it. The chicken came out of the pan and into a clean bowl.

Now things get complicated. You strain the marinade from its vegetables and add JUST the vegetables to the pan and get them browned.

Then you add flour and cook it slowly for a few minutes.

Meanwhile, here are the mushrooms and shallots, which are ready to be added to a separate pan. There were a lot of meanwhiles in this dish; so many steps upon steps that had to be done, that it was hard to keep it all straight.

You add in the marinating liquid, fresh herbs, shallots and garlic.

Add stock and the chicken back in the pan. The recipe call for 2 cups of stock, I added 4 cups (and an additional tablespoon of flour a few steps back). I simmered that for 45 minutes. The recipe said to turn over the chicken after half an hour. Maybe I did, maybe I didn't. I'm not telling.

Then I had to remove the chicken from the pan and strain all the cooking liquid as I sautéed the mushrooms.

To be honest, I was getting a bit bleary-eyed. You can see why below.

I stopped caring what the recipe said. I just did what I wanted to as I finished up the dish. I added the onions to the mushrooms to cook them. (I used Ina's trick of frozen pearl onions.) And after I strained the cooking liquid, I reduced it a bit and then added back in the chicken, bacon, mushrooms and onions. That got cooked for a bit and then, whew! All done!

IF I made it again, I would probably simplify things a bit. I loved the marinating, but I’m not sure all the bit and pieces had to be sautéed in separate pans.

Probably I would marinate the chicken; cook the bacon; remove; brown the chicken; remove; brown the mushrooms then the onions; add the flour to THAT; add the strained marinating liquid with stock (I would skip cooking the marinated vegetables); boil it up; add back in the chicken with the bacon. Cook for awhile. Serve the friggin’ thing.

That MAY not sound much simpler, but, actually, it is. The key is marinating the chicken. And getting a good color on everything is a good idea too. That's probably a good rule of thumb in any sautéed dish.

Oh, I forgot one thing. It was absolutely, positively, completely and totally the BEST coq au vin I’ve ever made AND ever eaten.


Sheila said...

Looks DELICIOUS! I love the tip on using pearl onions from the freezer. I checked out the recipe and it does look awfully time consuming! I'll have to wait until this child-o-mine is big enough to help to do this one. :-)

Hope you had a great Thanksgiving!

Sue said...

Hi Darling Sheila!
Using those pearl onions was a huge time saver.

Let's be realistic and say that when the beautiful baby boy is about 18, THEN you'll have time to make this.

I hope your first Thanksgiving with Adam was awesome!

The Short (dis)Order Cook said...

Well, if it tasted good enough to be worth the effort, then I guess you did the right thing. I think if I were having guests over the night before Thanksgiving, I'd do something stupid-easy like lasagna or baked ziti or else just do take out! You should be commended for the effort.

Coq au vin scared me because my husband was so NOT enthused by the effort I made the first time I made it. Then he ate it in Paris, so I don't know if I should ever give it another go or not.

Emily said...

I've never made coq au vin before. Well, or eaten it either. You're amazing! This looks so good.

Sue said...

If you start right this minute, maybe you could have the coq au vin ready by Christmas.

You'd like it. It's just a (really) winey stew.

Anonymous said...

I'm intrigued! Coq au vin is my annual Valentine's Day dish. I haven't tried marinating the chicken (I only use thighs so they don't dry out), but I cook the wine and chicken stock together ahead of time so that they develop more flavor before I put everything in. Frozen pearl onions are great, but I brown them within an inch of their lives (I save some of the chicken fat/bacon grease for this and browning the mushrooms rather than using more butter). It's still ambitious for a weeknight, but I double the recipe and have lots of leftovers.