I’ve made Coq au Vin before. In fact, I had a recipe that was my go-to for a year or so. Coq au Vin is my favorite Sunday dinner. I put on a movie or some music and pour a glass of wine and cook for a couple of hours. Everyone (read: Husband J and son j) leaves me alone and I stir, sip and gasp (I never watch a brand new movie – I watch one I’ve seen a million times. Usually in the Marvel universe. Or Ghostbusters- Holtzman is my role model). But about November of last year I found a recipe that changed my life.
No seriously! My previous recipe for Coq au Vin was good, but ridiculously complicated and it took hours. As in more than 3-ish. Now, I don’t mind spending that time if it makes a difference. I once spent about an hour hand dicing raw beef for steak tartare. Totally worth it. But a recipe that delivers a dish every bit as good as a more complicated one? Yeah, sign me the fuck up.
Enter Sean Taggart’s Coq au Vin. Ok, the recipe name isn’t actually “Sean Taggart’s…” but that’s the general spirit of it.
I’m a reader. I’m so much a reader that I majored in English Lit in college and about 15 years later got a Master’s in Library Science. As a reader I’m a huge fan of Lexi Blake. Her writing makes you feel for her characters, almost instantly. Relatable, real, flawed in that way that all human beings share, oh, and funny as all hell. And did I mention that the woman writes some of the best sex scenes?
Want to know one of the things that really endeared me to her writing? The role that food plays. She understands food. She understands how important it is. One of the characters, one Sean Taggart to be exact, owns a restaurant, and the people in and around the restaurant play their own roles in the evolving story. Her descriptions of food and wine are simple and to the point but make you understand the role that food has in life.
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again – food bring us together. Sometimes it’s the only thing we can agree on.
So Ms. Blake has an entire series based around group of characters, some having to do with a restaurant, and so what’s next…a cookbook! A cookbook of the recipes that are briefly mentioned in the books and others. (In a nod to the main character, there’s lots of lemon.)
Master Bits and Mercenary Bites by Suzanne M. Johnson and Lexi Blake. A blend of recipes (created by Ms. Johnson) and short vignettes. Totally NSFW (not safe for work) vignettes, you’ve been warned. And the best and easiest dam Coq au Vin recipe you’re going to find.
When I go through the line at the store and the checker asks what I’m making and I say “Coq au Vin” they’re always so impressed. If they only knew how easy it was. This is one of those dishes where the sum is greater than the parts.
The entire house smells like thyme, so when Husband J walked in tonight he knew instantly what was for dinner. Also, when he walked into the kitchen he saw, sitting on the kitchen counter, this
Looks fancy, don’t it? The recipe calls for Pinot Noir, but I have a strange prejudice against Pinot Noirs. Oh, wait, not so strange at all, I just don’t like them. I tend to use Cabernet Sauvignon (in the fall I’ll use a Beaujolais Nouveau). But this bottle came from a friend, who happens to be a rep for a few wineries and distributors. When she has too much at home she hands off a box or so. Husband J had a glass of this and he said it was very fruity. Dry probably would’ve been better, but who’s to argue with free French wine? Not me, that’s for damn sure. I’m probably going to freeze the rest to use in a later dish (don’t be appalled, oh, go ahead and be appalled).
While cooking, I actually drank this:
Murphy-Goode 2015 Sauvignon Blanc. I buy the split because it’s just enough. I love to cook with red wine, but drinking it makes my rosacea flare up, so it’s sauv blanc for me.
If you know me then you know I rarely follow a recipe to the letter. Yeah, this is no exception. In fact this is one dish that I go with my intuition more than any other. If I want it saucier I add more wine and chicken stock and use less chicken. Want to make it even easier? Use boneless chicken (I like thighs because they add a richness that breasts don’t have). Vidalia onions aren’t available year round where I live, so I use shallots, which are milder and sweeter than regular yellow onions. Also, shiitake mushrooms seriously creep me out (I have a weird mushroom phobia) so I use regular old white button or brown crimini mushrooms.
I serve this with a gratin, courtesy of an amalgamation of several potato gratin recipes from Patricia Wells. Honestly the only thing I have EVER used my mandoline for is potatoes.
It’s fast, the slices are even, and you pop it in the dishwasher to clean. I fail to see a downside here. I splurged today and got real Gruyere (I usually just get Jarlsberg).
I also got Creme Fraiche instead of heavy cream, because I can use the creme fraiche in leek soup next week.
It all just…works. Together. No it’s not a Sunday, but I have a rare weekday off and I decided to celebrate by cooking a favorite. (And the weather decided to cooperate, it’s just cool enough for a stew-ish dish to be appropriate.) This is comfort food at its finest – warm, nourishing, abso-freaking-lutely delicious. I don’t know if it’s the conditioning of always having this on a Sunday, and my mind automatically slipping into that mode, but it made a Wednesday night more relaxed. A deep breath in the middle of the week with a new favorite.