Sunday, December 27, 2009

Coq au Vin (PTC-DS)

There are, I'm sure, a ton of French chefs who would take a look at Personal Trainer : Cooking's recipe for the classic Coq au Vin, and blow a gasket. "Where are the lardons?" they might cry. "Are they so stupid not to tell the cook which wine to use? Where is the stewpot? How can you make anything good with this one?!"

Mind you, they'd probably say the same thing about Julia Child's recipe for coq au vin. Although she uses lardons, she omits the long marinade time that the classic recipe seems to want, and that PTC to its credit includes. And the results actually work pretty well.

Ingredients: The recipe called for whole chicken legs, which is good because that happens to be the best part of the chicken for stewing. I opted for thighs, with bones and skin on.

Although PTC doesn't get specific about the type of red wine to use, I opted for a Pinot Noir from the Burgundy region of France, from Bouchard Pere et Fils. 12 bucks Canadian a bottle, which is pretty good for French wine. (It's pretty drinkable too.)

PTC includes the classic mirepoix of onion, celery and carrot, along with garlic, bay leaf and thyme for the marinade, flour, butter (for cooking the chicken), broth (they recommend veal, I used a vegetable broth because I had it on hand), and of course salt and pepper.

My personal addition: the lardons those strawman French chefs would have been protesting about. I cut up a couple of slices of side bacon into matchsticks for that.

Techniques: I must say, the idea of a marinade strikes me as a pretty good one; a way to break down the proteins in the chicken meat. For the amount I made, it took half a bottle of the Pinot Noir, before the marinating bowl was full.

When it came to cooking the chicken, I used my 14" skillet to melt the butter and fry the bacon bits, then coated the patted-dry chicken pieces in flour. (PTC recommends using a deep dish for the coating step, which is actually known as dredging; I wound up using a couple of Ziploc freezer bags to do a shake-the-pieces job.)

Once again, I came across PTC's penchant for overestimating the amount of liquid used for stewing. But I've gotten used to this by now; my best bit of advice is, add what you think is right.

Results: Very nice. The thing about stews is that they're pretty much impossible to overcook; the thigh meat was tender without being stringy, and the resulting gravy didn't have the bitterness I normally associated with the wine-cooking process.

I don't think I'd recommend this one for the kids (the wine, you know), but I'd rank this one as one of PTC's better efforts. Not authentic? Pah. Give the cook confidence by making this a few times, and then they'll be ready to tackle authentic.