Coq Au Vin is really peasant food. Originally, it was made from an old chicken, and the wine was there not so much for flavor, but the soften the old bird up. It took a long time to cook, but the flavors were wonderful, so it became very popular. Of course, Julia Child made it famous. Her version was much simpler because people could buy a young chicken at the market, and did not have to wait until old Bessie was ready to kick the bucket.
I haven’t made this dish in years, not because it is difficult to make, but because I never seem to have all the ingredients together. It is actually pretty simple to make, just takes a little time because the flavors need to marry.
I had originally intended to make Boeuf Bourguignon, but we had Shepard’s Pie last night for dinner, so I was thinking I didn’t want to have beef again so soon. So, I actually went on Facebook and asked whether I should make Boeuf Bourguignon or Coq Au Vin. The consensus was chicken, so I started getting the ingredients together. The only thing I did not have was pearl onions, and not because I hadn’t tried to get them at the market, they just didn’t have any, so I used a regular onion and cut it into big pieces instead.
I like to make something special on Wednesday mornings because Spane goes to school late on Wednesdays. Spane wanted pancakes, and as I looked in the pantry to get the ingredients out, I spied a can of peaches. I love peaches, and I especially like them with rose preserve and Marsala.
Rose preserves are made from real rose petals and sugar. Roses taste like they smell, and they are very good for you. They have lots of vitamin C, so I try to cook with roses, or drink rose juice during flu season. I’m staying healthy! You can usually find rose preserves at Mediterranean markets, or you can purchase rose preserves on-line at Amazon or other food web sites. They are also delightful on ice cream and a variety of other desserts. Don’t be afraid pf eating flowers, they taste good, and they’re good for you!
When I first came to work in Glendale, California, I was introduced to two things I came to love, Porto’s Bakery, and their Cuban sandwiches.
What is a Cuban sandwich you may ask. Well, a Cuban sandwich has roast pork, ham, cheese, pickles and mustard on Cuban bread, which is similar to a submarine bread, but it is pressed in something similar to a Panini press without the ridges. If you have never had one, please find a Cuban bakery or sandwich shop and get one. You, too, will fall in love.
My mother used to make Monte Cristo sandwiches when I was particularly well-behaved, or turned in a really good report card. Monte Cristo’s are an older kind of sandwich, basically a ham and cheese sandwich that has been dipped in an egg wash, pan grilled and is served with currant jelly. They can be on any kind of bread, and very good.
When ever I have left over pork roast, I always try to make Cuban sandwiches. But, this time when I had left over pork, I had sour dough bread, which I also love. I decided to combine the two, and have a French Cuban Sandwich.
I have a friend who has a chicken, who I have named Coq Au Vin. She’s a big orange chicken, and she is going to live a nice long life in my friend’s yard, with plenty of food, water and melon treats. Coq Au Vin even recognizes me when I go and visit with her. Why did I name her that? Well, when she is quite old, and not laying eggs anymore, then she will have the glory of becoming a real Coq Au Vin. It will be a good day for her to die because she will know that she is going to make a wonderful dinner.
Well, until that time, I’m not waiting to eat chicken. I bought a chicken, some nice boiling onions, and large mushrooms, most of which became Bacon Spinach Stuffed Mushrooms. I buy most of my produce at the local Armenian store, and they don’t usually have the kind of wine I would need to make Coq Au Vin, but I did have some Marsala in the pantry. I also had some dried leeks in my pantry, which also went into my dish.
Whole vs Precut Chicken
A word about whole chickens vs precut chicken. You know, you pay more for the meat-packing company to cut the chicken, and you don’t even know if it’s all coming from the same bird. When you purchase a whole chicken, you know everything is from the same bird, and you save money by cutting it up yourself. It takes about a minute, and you can find plenty of videos on Youtube showing exactly how to do it. Here’s my chicken, all ready to go.
I have a wonderful friend, Nancy, who makes the best chicken, Garlic Parmesan Crusted Chicken. Nancy was a Pan Am stewardess, so you know that chicken had to be good. Now, Nancy is a member of Kiwanis. As part of her volunteer work with Kiwanis, she invited my son to help her be Guest Chef at Ascencia. My son was too interested in playing with the other children who had also been invited to help her. I don’t think the kids did much helping, they just did a lot of playing.
She made this moist, crusty chicken that everyone loved. I got to be on the clean up team, but I’m not a forensic chef, so I didn’t know quite how she made it. None of those children made any notes on how she prepared that chicken, either.
Nancy’s Recipe for Garlic Parmesan Crusted Chicken
Well, I saw Nancy a few days ago, and she wrote the recipe down for me. I asked her if it had bread crumbs, and she said no. Well, I decided to change the recipe, just a bit and add Panko bread crumbs. I like Panko bread crumbs because they stay nice and crisp, and they have very little flavor of their own.
My local corner store had some lovely fingerling potatoes at the counter when I was checking out a few days ago, and I picked some up. Potatoes go very well chicken, and these little ones will be done at the same time the chicken will be done. Tonight, when I was washing them, I noticed one of them had grown a few eyes. I put it back in the bag and put it in the dry goods drawer. It will be going out and living in the Apartment Vegetable Garden when its roots get a little longer.
Figs are amazing fruits. Figs are among the richest plant sources of calcium and fiber. They have been cultivated for thousands of years, even before wheat. Figs dated 9,200 years ago were discovered in the Jordan Valley in a house in the early Neolithic village of Gilgal I by a team of researchers from Bar-Ilan University in Israel and Harvard University.
Figs are mentioned in the Bible many times, beginning in Genesis, Chapter 3, verse 7 where Adam covers himself with a fig leaf. Jesus even curses a fig tree in Mark Chapter 11, verse 12 and Mathew Chapter 21, verse 19. I guess there was only one unfortunate fig tree, it has a bevy of other cultural and historical references. A whole chapter is devoted to it in the Qur’an. Sura 95 of the Qur’an is named al-Tīn (Arabic for “The Fig”), as it opens with the oath “By the fig and the olive.” Buddha achieved enlightenment under the bodhi tree, a large and old sacred fig tree. In Greek mythology, a crow angers Apollo having been tempted by a fig. In modern times, we have wonderful Fig Newtons.
The journey to this tart was one of discovery. I had not cooked with figs before, let alone made a fig tart. My only exposure to figs was the ubiquitous Fig Newton cookie. With that in mind, I wanted something that was sweet, but not too sweet, and with a cookie type crust. I also found a French Tart Dough recipe to which I made major changes, and my Stove Top Cooked French Sweet Tart Dough turned out to be perfect for my Blue Cheese Stuffed Fig Tart with Balsamic Honey Glaze.