Saturday, June 23, 2012

Friday Dinner: Grilled Steak, Potatoes and Salad with Corn, Tomatoes and Avocadoes

Nothing new or difficult here (except that I added the final butter to the sauce too soon so it was a little 'broken' by the time we served), but just want to memorialize a fun dinner where everything tasted delicious from appetizers through the salad course.

Acme baguette slices spread with Heidi Swanson's, "Parmesan Cheese Spread" (left side of the plate) or misozuke tofu (right side of the plate) and garnished with sun dried tomato, quick preserved lemon, roasted red pepper, confit garlic and caper relish - this recipe is at the bottom of the post. It is delicious and could top anything from a baguette to fish or chicken.

Grilled steak with Marchand du Vin sauce, No-Name Potatoes garnished with creme fraiche. However you cook your steak, take it out of the refrigerator at least 30 (I prefer 60) minutes before  cooking. After patting them dry, we generously season with salt shortly before they go onto the grill or into a smoking hot pan on the stove top. Lynn reigns as the steak grilling chef supreme - she has the mojo.

Baby greens with grilled corn, cherry tomatoes, avocado and red onion, dressed in a red-wine vinaigrette.


 + Quick 'Preserved' Lemons
 + Confit Garlic

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Friday Dinner: Coq Au Vin - Chicken Stew, to You

In the days of Yore (you know "Yore", it was before your parents' parents were born), when your rooster was too old to chase the hens, you cooked it. Old roosters make for a difficult chew so roasting was out of the question. Tough meat = braise, so maybe you dumped the dregs of your wine barrel (depending on where you lived, the wine might be white or red), some onions and mushrooms (or celeraic or carrots) cooked in the rendered lard of a hunk of salt pork into the pot and cooked Monsieur le Rooster (a 'coq') having been separated into his component parts, until the meat was edible and, "mon Dieu!", you have a sauce. Serve some chicken with a ladle of sauce on top, break off a hunk of bread to sop up the sauce and you have a tasty, filling meal.

One of the first published recipes for coq au vin was in Edmond Richardin's, "La Cuisine Française: L'art du Bien Manger" where he calls for mushrooms AND truffles, in 1906. I'd wager that as long as there has been wine, folks have used it to cook a hearty meat stew, using whatever vegetables were handy to extend the dish as well as for flavor. The preparation for coq au vin is similar to boeuf bourguignon. To thicken a stew, if flour wasn't in your pantry, you used blood from the former Monsieur le Rooster, at the end of cooking.

Nigel Slater wrote, "I once worked in a restaurant that, at the time, was considered to be the best in the land. At least several of the guides thought so. The chef patron had learned to make this dish in France, he understood its roots. We made coq au vin every week (believe me when I say that this is one of those dishes that improves, rather than deteriorates, after a few days in the fridge). I have never made it better than I did under his beady eye, but then we made it with the dregs of the glasses and bottles from the customers' tables. So whether it was the quality of the local birds, the excellent wines or that soupçon of saliva from each glass that made the difference I will never know."

Modern recipes can be tortured and time consuming. We have made it previously, using Julia Child's recipe - actually two recipes: one a "master" recipe for a ragout of chicken and onions in red wine, and the recipe for coq au vin. Not too long ago, we tried the version from America's Test Kitchen, "Modern Coq au Vin" and it was delicious.  The ATK recipe takes less time, but for us, it provided all of the flavor components from a traditional rendition and suits another Nigel Slater quote, "The sort of good-natured food that will fit in with us rather than us having to plan our day around it; the sort to eat off plain white plates on a paper tablecloth. The sort whose juices you mop up with bread and a plain, garlic-scented salad. In other words, a sound recipe that makes all the right noises." Mr. Slater's Coq au Vin recipe can be found here and if I ever run across an old rooster, that's the one I'll use.

We served our coq au vin with a spinach salad with raisin bread croutons, egg, toasted pecans, red onion and avocado and a red wine vinaigrette. Oh yeah, and bacon.