Chocolate doesn't really qualify as an herb: green, leafy part of a plant or shrub; but I do think it would qualify as a spice: dried seed, fruit or bark, usually ground. If nothing else it's definitely a vegetable: cocoa beans. On the basis of 2 out of 3 I think Kalyn (of Kalyn's Kitchen) will accept this entry for Weekend Herb Blogging.
I have been making Coq au Vin for years. It's always been a delicious family favorite but never quite achieved the same wonderful glossy, rich sauce of the bistro.
This was brought home once more the last time we were in Paris. At Chez René we had the best Coq au Vin ever created by human hands; but how did they get the sauce so decadently rich? It glistened. It was so dark it was almost black; so intensely flavorful it defied description.
The quest was on. The first conclusion was that the sauce must be based on one of those slow reductions, you know the kind: reduce 5 quarts of flavorful beef stock down to a teaspoon then thicken with butter. On further investigation that fell to the wayside. The only liquid in Coq au Vin is the Vin.
Then I ran across a recipe in my 'Saveur Cooks Authentic French' that called for cocoa powder. Could this be it? Could I have discovered the ancient secret of the Bistro? Should I share this with the world? Upon reflection I decided it was my duty to share this incredible piece of cooking magic, since I am the only person in the world that owns this cookbook.
Coq au Vin
I try to get similar wines for this meal – a cheaper one for the pot – but still drinkable. One of my rules – never cook with something you can't drink!
1 whole chicken, cut up
3 cloves garlic, peeled
1 bouquet garni – or 1 bay leaf, 1/2 tsp rosemary, 1/2 tsp thyme, 1/2 tsp parsley
1 bottle red wine preferably a Bourguignon
2 tbs olive oil
3 slices bacon
4 oz mushrooms
pinch of nutmeg
1/2 tsp chicken base
1 tbs cocoa
2 tbs cornstarch dissolved in equivalent amount of water (you may not use it all)
I remove the skin from the breasts – it is entirely optional (the French would be abhorred at the thought!) but I think it makes the white meat moister. Roughly chop the onion and carrot. Smash the garlic lightly. Put the chicken, onion, carrot, garlic and bouquet garni in a deep bowl. Pour the wine over and refrigerate at least 4 hours or overnight.
Remove chicken from marinade and drain well (over marinade). Reserve marinade. Heat oil in heavy, deep pot over medium-high heat. Brown chicken on all sides, a few pieces at time, about 10 minutes. Return all chicken to pan and pour over reserved marinade and vegetables. Add nutmeg and chicken base. Cover, bring to a simmer, reduce heat and simmer for an hour and a half. Remove chicken from pan and set aside. Strain sauce, discarding solids. Return sauce to pan removing 1/2 cup. Bring sauce to a boil over medium heat. Put cocoa into a small bowl. Slowly whisk in 1/2 cup reserved sauce. Slowly whisk cocoa mixture into simmering sauce. Continue whisking until it returns to a boil. Continue to cook sauce at a hard simmer for another 15 minutes, until reduced to about 2 1/2 cups.
Clean mushrooms and shallots, leaving both whole. In nonstick skillet sauté bacon until crisp. Remove and crumble (don't eat!) Add mushrooms and shallots to skillet and sauté over medium heat until nicely browned on all sides, about 15 minutes.
When sauce has reduced, dissolve cornstarch in water. Use to thicken sauce to desired consistency if needed. (The cocoa will thicken it slightly.) I used about half – the sauce is supposed to be a bit thick but not gluey. Return chicken to pan along with mushrooms, shallots and bacon. Simmer, over low heat, 10 – 15 minutes. Arrange chicken, mushrooms and shallots on a small platter. Spoon some sauce over and serve the rest on the side.
I served this with Mashed Cauliflower and Potatoes – I was thinking ahead to the leftovers.
The next night I slivered the leftover chicken, heated it with the leftover sauce and served it on Mashed Cauliflower and Potato Patties.
I resisted the urge to just heat the sauce and eat it with a spoon….but only just….
How does the cocoa work this magic, transforming a merely good sauce to one fit for the gods? Are we mere mortals meant to know? Who cares, it works. It's sooo good it deserves my D.O. award! (digestive org*sm).
Speaking of awards, is anyone participating in the Bloggies? And, of course my favorite: The Darwin Awards.
Bon Week-end everyone and Happy Herb Blogging. Be sure to visit Kalyn's Kitchen for a roundup of all the wonderful recipes on Monday.