23 February 2011

Coq Au Vin

My mom came to visit this weekend and since she and Shawn had Monday off (I did not), we decided to make a nice Sunday dinner in honor of her visit. As you may have noticed, I like to shop the sales at New Seasons. Whole chicken legs were on sale and after some searching through Cook's Illustrated, I settled on a classic recipe I'd never attempted--coq au vin. Although there is another recipe on the cooksillustrated.com website for a so-called modern version that cuts the time in half, it used boneless, skinless chicken thighs--much more expensive than the legs. 

Serve over egg noodles--this is supposed to serve only 4. Um...4 giants?
After spending 2 1/2 hours in the kitchen Sunday afternoon and picking out chicken skin from the dish, I can understand the updated recipe. I also made a seemingly large error right in the beginning. The instructions said to simmer the wine and chicken broth together until it is reduced to 4 cups. Well, earlier in the same step, it says to generously season the chicken legs. Set aside. See, those two little words get lost in the page of instructions that went along with the recipe! Cook's Illustrated--would it kill you to add a step? This is not the first time I've missed something like that. I thought it was odd to be boiling the chicken, but it was my first time making it and I was trying to install Office onto our new iMac (eeee!) at the same time. Lesson learned... 

Shawn and mom waiting for me to stop taking pictures and dish it out already. Notice the beautiful tablecloth my aunt sent us for our wedding (made by my grandmother).

Those French really know how to cook...just keep adding butter. Look how shiny!

Coq Au Vin
If you have the time to blanch and skin them, fresh pearl onions are terrific. Simply cut an “x” in the root end, blanch them in boiling water for 30 seconds, remove them with a slotted spoon, and refresh them in a bowl of ice water. Then slice off the very tip of the roots with a paring knife and squeeze the onions gently from the blossom end. They will pop right out of their skins.

4 chicken leg quarters (about 3 pounds), carefully trimmed of all fat, cleaned, dried, and thighs and drumsticks separated
1 bottle fruity, smooth, medium-bodied red wine (750ML), such as Oregon Pinot Noir, Zinfandel, or a light Rhone valley wine
2 1/2 cups chicken stock or low-sodium canned chicken broth
6 ounces bacon (preferably thick-cut), cut crosswise into 1/4-inch pieces
6 - 7 tablespoons unsalted butter , at room temperature
1 large carrot , roughly chopped
1 large onion , roughly chopped
2 medium shallots , peeled and quartered
2 medium cloves garlic , skin on and smashed
1 teaspoon dried thyme
10 parsley stems
1 bay leaf
1 1/2 teaspoons tomato paste
24 frozen pearl onions (evenly sized), thawed, or fresh pearl onions
1/2 pound white mushrooms (small), washed and halved if medium sized, quartered if large
2 - 3 tablespoons unbleached all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons minced fresh parsley leaves

1. Generously sprinkle chicken pieces with salt and ground black pepper; set aside. Bring red wine and chicken stock to boil in large, heavy saucepan; reduce heat to medium-high and simmer until reduced to about 4 cups, about 20 minutes.

2. Meanwhile, fry bacon in large Dutch oven or deep, heavy-bottomed sauté pan over medium heat until fat has rendered and bacon is golden brown, about 5 minutes. Remove bacon with slotted spoon to paper towel-lined plate to drain; set aside. Heat 1 tablespoon butter with rendered bacon fat; add carrot, onion, shallots, and garlic and sauté until lightly browned, 10 to 15 minutes. Following illustration 1 below, press vegetables against side of pan with slotted spoon to squeeze out as much fat as possible; transfer vegetables to pan with reduced wine mixture (off heat) and discard all but 1 tablespoon fat from Dutch oven or sauté pan.

3. Return Dutch oven or sauté pan to burner over medium-high heat and add another 1 tablespoon butter. When butter is melted, add chicken (in batches if necessary to avoid overcrowding) and cook until well browned all over, turning once or twice during cooking, 12 to 16 minutes. Remove chicken to a plate; set aside. Pour off all fat from Dutch oven or sauté pan; return to heat and add wine-vegetable mixture. Bring to boil, scraping up browned bits from bottom of pan with wooden spoon (see illustration 2, below). Add browned chicken, bouquet garni (thyme, parsley, and bay leaf tied together), and tomato paste to boiling wine mixture; return to boil, then reduce heat to low and simmer gently, partially covered. Turn chicken once during cooking, until tender and infused with wine flavor, 45 to 60 minutes.

4. While chicken and sauce are cooking, heat another 2 tablespoons butter in medium skillet over medium-low heat. Add pearl onions and cook, stirring occasionally and reducing heat if butter starts to brown too fast, until lightly browned and almost cooked through, 5 to 8 minutes. Add mushrooms, season with salt, cover, increase heat to medium, and cook until mushrooms release their liquid, about 5 minutes. Remove cover, increase heat to high, and boil until liquid evaporates and onions and mushrooms are golden brown, 2 to 3 minutes more. Transfer onions and mushrooms to plate with bacon; set aside.

5. When the chicken is cooked, transfer to serving bowl or platter; cover with aluminum foil to keep warm. Following illustration 3, below, strain sauce through fine mesh sieve set over large measuring cup, pressing on solids with wooden spoon to release as much liquid as possible; sauce should measure 2 to 3 cups. Return sauce to pan; skim as much fat as possible off surface. Counting 1 tablespoon each of butter and flour for each cup of sauce, mash 2 to 3 tablespoons each butter and flour in small bowl or plate to make a beurre manié, as shown in illustration 4. Bring sauce to boil and whisk in beurre manié until smooth. Add reserved chicken, bacon, onions and mushrooms; adjust seasoning with salt and ground black pepper to taste, reduce heat to medium-low and simmer very gently to warm through and blend flavors, about 5 minutes. Check seasoning one more time and adjust with additional salt and ground black pepper if necessary; add parsley. Transfer chicken to serving platter; pour sauce over chicken. Serve immediately.

17 February 2011

Thai Coconut Chicken Soup

What's better for a cold, winter night than soup? I've been getting a little tired of the old standby soups and have had a couple of cans of coconut milk sitting in the cupboard for a while, so I went in search of a coconut milk-based soup. I found one on Cooksillustrated.com, but it felt like too much work (sorry Test Kitchen, but you didn't feel worth it this time). After a little searching on Epicurious, I found something easy and that didn't require a lot of extra ingredients. The serrano chiles also helped clear out any remaining ickiness from my cold.

Makes great leftovers! If you use noodles, be careful that they don't absorb too much liquid
(like rice noodles) or you'll end up with mush if you try to use as leftovers.
 The only unfortunate part about this recipe is that it seems to have left out an ingredient....like say 75% of the liquid... My gut reaction was of disbelief that the only liquid was the coconut milk (14 oz.) and the fish sauce (5 T). That seems pretty thick and not enough to cover the chicken. Turned out I wasn't the only one with that feeling--there were plenty of reviews recommending the addition of chicken broth. I didn't have any chicken broth on hand, but did have some "chicken" broth powder that I mixed up with a quart of water. Definitely made a difference. I also reduced the fish sauce, on other people's recommendations, to 3 T--didn't want it to overwhelm the coconut flavor. It's also very important that you do a good job crushing the lemongrass and make sure to make big enough slices of ginger that you can fish them out before serving. Shawn wasn't terribly happy to chew on a big chunk of ginger.

Coconut Chicken Soup
Epicurious (with revisions)
  • 1 quart low sodium chicken broth
  • One 14-ounce can coconut milk
  • 6 thin slices fresh galangal or 4 slices fresh ginger
  • 2 lemongrass stalks, tough outer portion removed tender portion only, chopped and crushed in mortar
  • 5 fresh kaffir lime leaves, torn inhalf, or 1 tablespoon grated lime zest
  • 3/4 pound boneless and skinless chicken breast, thinly sliced
  • 3 tablespoons Thai or Vietnamese fish sauce
  • 2 tablespoons palm sugar or granulated sugar
  • 1/2 cup fresh lime juice
  • 1 teaspoon Thai red curry paste
  • 1/4 cup coarsely chopped cilantro (fresh coriander)
  • 25 fresh green bird's-eye chiles or 15 fresh green Thai chiles or 8 green serrano chiles, crushed in a mortar with the pestle
1. In a large pot, combine 1 cup of the coconut milk with the galangal, lemongrass, and lime zest and bring to a boil. Add the chicken, fish sauce, and sugar, reduce the heat to medium, and simmer until the chicken is white and firm, about 4 minutes. Add the remaining coconut milk and heat to just below boiling, about 3 minutes. Stir in red curry paste and noodles, if using.

2. Divide the lime juice and a touch more curry paste into individual serving bowls and ladle the soup over them. Garnish each bowl with the cilantro and crushed chile peppers. Serve immediately.

This soup is open to interpretation given that it's not really a tom kha gai recipe. I added cellophane noodles since we had half a package in the cupboard; other reviews recommended adding shiitake mushrooms. Overall, it was a very satisfying meal and got me out of my soup funk.

03 February 2011

Sea Salt Chocolate Chip Cookies

This weekend was our annual group trip to Mt. Hood. We had a record number this year of 10 people and a shorter weekend than usual, so meals were divided up further. We tacked on to Michael's delicious dinner of lamb and polenta lasagna (weighing in at about 8 lbs, not counting the pan!) and made caesar salad, bread, and dessert. But who cares about salad?? Let's get on to the dessert.

Since I knew we'd be out in the cold, snowy weather (ha ha...right), I thought we needed a warm dessert. And what's better than a warm chocolate chip cookie? So I went scouring the internet for a great chocolate chip and sea salt recipe and found an article from the NY Times about the perfect chocolate chip cookie. The article is actually pretty interesting if you're into that sort of thing, so I recommend reading it if you have time. I found a lot of other salted chocolate chip cookie recipes that were thin and crisp--they have their place too--but for a heaping scoop of ice cream and some Holy Kakow, you need a big, soft cookie.

Chocolate Chip Cookies
Published: July 9, 2008 in NY Times
Adapted from Jacques Torres
Time: 45 minutes (for 1 6-cookie batch), plus at least 24 hours’ chilling

2 cups minus 2 tablespoons (8 1/2 ounces) cake flour*
1 2/3 cups (8 1/2 ounces) bread flour
1 1/4 teaspoons baking soda
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 1/2 teaspoons coarse salt
2 1/2 sticks (1 1/4 cups) unsalted butter
1 1/4 cups (10 ounces) light brown sugar
1 cup plus 2 tablespoons (8 ounces) granulated sugar
2 large eggs
2 teaspoons natural vanilla extract
1 1/4 pounds bittersweet chocolate disks or fèves, at least 60 percent cacao content (Carmel's note: did not use disks and it turned out fine...the cacao content is VERY important, though)
Sea salt (Carmel's 2nd note: I bought a small amount of grey sea salt from the bulk spices section of New Seasons--economical and delicious!)

1. Sift flours, baking soda, baking powder and salt into a bowl. Set aside.

2. Using a mixer fitted with paddle attachment,** cream butter and sugars together until very light, about 5 minutes. Add eggs, one at a time, mixing well after each addition. Stir in the vanilla. Reduce speed to low, add dry ingredients and mix until just combined, 5 to 10 seconds. Drop chocolate pieces in and incorporate them without breaking them. Press plastic wrap against dough and refrigerate for 24 to 36 hours. Dough may be used in batches, and can be refrigerated for up to 72 hours.

3. When ready to bake, preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or a nonstick baking mat. Set aside.

4. Scoop 6 3 1/2-ounce mounds of dough (the size of generous golf balls) onto baking sheet, making sure to turn horizontally any chocolate pieces that are poking up; it will make for a more attractive cookie. Sprinkle lightly with sea salt and bake until golden brown but still soft, 18 to 20 minutes. Transfer sheet to a wire rack for 10 minutes, then slip cookies onto another rack to cool a bit more. Repeat with remaining dough, or reserve dough, refrigerated, for baking remaining batches the next day. Eat warm, with a big napkin.

Yield: 1 1/2 dozen 5-inch cookies.

*Given the very specific measurements of flour in this recipe, I highly recommend using a food scale if you have one.
**I don't have a paddle attachment for my (ahem) economical stand mixer, but a hand mixer works just fine. But be patient as creaming the sugars and butter may take a few extra minutes.