Saturday, January 15, 2011

suddenly, last Summer

Friday, January 14, 2011

The cardinal rule of color

Who makes the most accurate cardinal red?

Red Hook New York 
January 7, 2011

Thursday, January 13, 2011

pure as New York snow, from 1981

Her hair is Harlow gold
Her lips a sweet surprise

Her hands are never cold
She's got Bette Davis eyes

She'll turn her music on you
You won't have to think twice

She's pure as New York snow
She's got Bette Davis eyes

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Heaven in the Bronx

Plain old roast chicken again?
It’s so easy to toss one into the oven and then go do something else we all tend to roast this simple bird. But in-pot recipes can impart flavors not available through the oven and the classic French Coq au Vin is just such a recipe. This is a timer-saver variation.

Mushrooms are traditional but I have a person in my life who does not care for mushrooms so when I’m cooking for the crowd I tend to leave them out. Sigh. (I can see the purists placing their palms alongside their cheeks as I type this. Mon dieu!) The things we do for love.

But onions are essential. The classic coq uses tiny pearl onions, each meticulously hand peeled. But busy lives demand expediency and so a large vidalia sliced the way you like it works just as well and adds a natural sweet note to the sauce.

At the moment, carrots are plentiful at the WesternBEEF; fresh, also very sweet and amazingly low priced, so I’m eating carrots. Instead of mushrooms, let’s do a carrot version of coq au vin.

Start with your stock. I had a bag of scraps in the freezer that had vegetable bits, a handfull of greenbeans and a bit of leftover red wine frozen in it, and the wine was the inspiration for this dish. 
Add water, herbs and get the stock going first. The chicken must be cut up for this recipe and I like to buy them whole and cut them up myself. 

They are less expensive this way and now I can add the back and the giblets to our stock mix…

...then the carrot peelings, too. It’s all flavor. Make the stock as rich as you are able, add peppercorns, bayleaves, parsley, even a bouillon cube or two for the added salt.

While the stock is simmering, put a half dozen strips of bacon into a heavy dutch oven that has a tight fitting lid and fry the bacon uncovered until it’s crisp. 

When it’s done sieve it out, drain on absorbent paper and add the chicken into the hot bacon fat, skin side down first.

Fry the chicken fairly hard, flipping it once.

Let’s open the wine. No reason not to taste it just to make sure it’s in good shape, right? 

When the chicken is well browned take it out and drain it on absorbent paper and pour off all the bacon fat, then throw the onions in and toss them around to soak up the remaining fat, then lift the onions back out and set them aside before the stuff on the bottom burns. Dump some stock on top of the stuff on the bottom to release all that flavor stuck down there. This is called “deglazing.”
Once the bottom is scraped and well deglazed, pour this enriched stock back with the rest to empty the dutch oven and then re-add the onions and garlic, but no more fat. The fat clinging to the onions will be just enough. 

This recipe calls for about half a dozen cloves of garlic. I added about 20 or so which may account for why my social life is so modest. :-)
Soften the onions and garlic over a fairly high heat, just keep stirring and breathe in the aromas.

Whoa, browned chicken and crisp bacon, the smell alone is amazing. While the onions are getting softer and start browning, toss in the carrots, too. Keep it moving at this point, you can keep the heat up and brown the carrots a little but stir and stir, don’t allow the onion to burn. 

At some point in 5 or 6 minutes the heat will grow to be too much and you’ll get the feeling the onions may begin to burn if something doesn’t change soon. Excellent. Don’t turn the heat down. Strain and pour the stock in instead and slow that pot to a crawl. Stir it all around. Smell that? Heaven in the Bronx.

Now add a good handfull of fresh thyme and grate in a lot of fresh ground pepper.
Let it return to a bubble while you nestle the chicken and bacon down into the stock. I started with about 2 liters of stock, but don’t worry about being exact, the red wine will make up the difference.

When it begins to boil again, add the wine, just pour it in and bring the level of the liquid up until it covers or almost covers the chicken. 

Mix it around a bit and put the lid on it then turn it down to a soft bubble and give it 20 or twenty five minutes to simmer. The chicken will soften, the carrots will cook, the bacon will begin to disintegrate.

Now I add a step that isn’t typical. I defat the sauce.

Take out the chicken, the vegetables, the bacon and save it all but strain out the thyme sticks and the bayleaves and then put the sieved sauce into the fridge for awhile so you can remove the final fat layer. 

See?, it rises to the top. I like my sauces defatted so I can finish them with a flour and butter roux in the classic French style. Reheat the defatted sauce, make the roux...

Pour the hot sauce into the roux, whisking constantly, then simmer it down a bit…

... and then pour it back over the chicken and return the whole thing to a simmer. 

Julia Child says she like peas with coq au vin and I don’t disagree. It’s also time to make potatoes again, maybe baked with Kosher salt this time?

Ha. 65million French cooks cannot be wrong.