Coq-au-vin

The very fact that you may have searched for, or indeed stumbled upon this post by accident, is an indication of the number of food blogs and recipe sites available on the net. However, it does not reach out as far as I can see as to have an explanation as to the origins of Coq au vin, that rich, satisfying, classic French peasant dish that is today’s dish. It is generally accepted that it has a long history as a rustic, rural, recipe, however, it only first appears in cookery literature in the late eighteen hundreds. The two most popular stories about the creation of the dish involve Napoleon and Julius Caesar, of the two, as a long-term Asterix fan I like the Caesar story.

Coq au Vin.jpg

After the conquest of Gaul, now part of modern-day France, the story goes that the natives presented the victor with an old gamey, rooster. The rooster is a tough proposition – excuse the pun and requires long, slow cooking. The rooster was cooked by Caesar’s chef simmered in wine ( a method of cooking extremely popular with the Romans, whatever else did they do for us ? ) and the end result was said to be very successful. Traditionally then, the rooster or any tough old bird benefits from first marinating in wine* then gently braising and the addition of the carcass adds a richness to the finished sauce.

A little Whine !

Again the Internet has failed to provide me the name of, at a cursory glance, the first person to say that if you would not drink a wine then you should not cook with it. I remember watching TV and the late, great and sadly missed Keith Floyd elucidating, sometimes less than clearly, that this indeed is the case. He certainly was a fan of checking the quality of the vintage he was cooking with at the time. Your Coq au vin does not need to be made with a first growth claret but will benefit from a full-bodied robust red. While it could be Australian or from Chile I am at heart a traditionalist and believe that a Burgundy is best.

Many regions of France have variants of Coq au vin using the local wine, such as coq au vin jaune (Jura) and coq au pourpre (Beaujolais nouveau). In some variations of the dish white wine is used, Riesling wine is popularly used in the Alsace region, with the addition of Morels and cream. In addition to the wine and chicken, Coq au vin is flavoured with the inclusion of fat bacon or salt pork, onion, garlic, mushrooms and a bouquet garni (thyme, bay leaf, parsley). The chicken is first marinated in wine, then seared in hot fat, this is essential to flavour and colour the finished dish. The meat, vegetables, and aromatics are then simmered in the wine marinade until the meat is cooked and tender.

* no jokes please

On a personal note, I find Coq au vin an ideal dish for the slow cooker. A good coq au vin improves immensely if you marinade the chicken overnight and improves further if you leave it when cooked, overnight, in the refrigerator. If you cannot get a piece of bacon try to use the thickest rashers you can find so the lardons will not break up during cooking. Celery is not a staple of many recipes for Coq au vin but I have stolen the idea from Nigel Slater and have included it below. If you want to peel baby onions you can but I find the result is in no way spoilt by using frozen baby onions. The dish is served in France with flat noodles or rice, it is equally appealing with steamed potatoes that you can crush in the gravy. Enjoy.

Coq au vin                    Serves 4

A large Chicken, jointed into 6 or 8 pieces, giblets and carcass saved

( ask your butcher if he can source a rooster and if he will cut it up for you )

For the stock

Saved Chicken giblets and carcass

1 onion, peeled and roughly sliced

1 carrot, peeled and roughly chopped

1 stick of celery, washed and roughly chopped

A bay leaf, a clove of garlic and a few peppercorns

For the Coq-au-vin

125 gr whole Pancetta or Unsmoked Bacon

2 medium Onions, peeled and finely chopped

2 large Carrots, peeled, halved lengthwise and sliced

3 sticks of Celery, washed and finely diced

3 cloves of Garlic, peeled and finely chopped

200 gr Button Mushrooms, washed and halved or quartered if required

75 gr frozen Baby Onions

A bottle of drinkable Red Wine, preferably Burgundy

2 tablespoons Plain Flour

75 gr Butter

4 tablespoons Cognac

A good handful of Curly Parsley, washed and picked and finely chopped ( keep the parsley stems )

A small bunch of Thyme

3 Bay leaves

Sea salt and freshly ground Black Pepper

Butchers string

For the marinade

This is pretty important as it helps give the chicken the deep colour you are looking for. Place the chicken pieces in a glass bowl and add half of the crushed garlic. Make a bouquet garni – take one stick of celery and cut in half, into one-half place 5 or 6 stems of thyme, the bay leaves, and the parsley stems. Sandwich the herbs with the remaining half of the celery stick and tie tightly together with string. Add to the chicken and cover with the wine. Seal bowl with cling film and place overnight in a refrigerator.

For the stock, place all of the ingredients in a large heavy bottomed pan, cover with water and bring to the boil. Turn down the heat to a simmer and cook for three hours at a gentle simmer, then set aside to cool. Remove the chicken pieces from the marinade and drain thoroughly. Reserve the marinade. Cut the pancetta into chunky lardons or short strips, they need to be thicker than a match but not quite as thick as your little finger. In a large thick-bottomed casserole melt one ounce of the butter over a moderate heat and gently sauté the lardons until crisp and light brown. Remove using a slotted spoon leaving the excess fat in the casserole dish.

Season the chicken pieces with salt and pepper and place them in the hot fat in the casserole, so that they fit snugly yet have room to colour. Sauté the chicken pieces and turn them over when the colour is a nice clover honey brown. It is this colouring of the skin, rather than what wine or herbs you might add later, that is crucial to the flavour of the dish. Remove the chicken and set aside with the bacon lardons. Do not clean the casserole dish as the fat and juices in the dish are important to the finished flavour of the coq au vin.

Add the onions and carrot to the pan and cook slowly, stirring from time to time, until the onion is soft and translucent. Add the remaining garlic, stir and then return the chicken and pancetta to the pan, stir in the flour and let everything cook for a minute or two more before pouring in the cognac and marinade including the boquet garni. Strain the stock and pour into the casserole until all the chicken is covered. Bring to the boil, then turn the heat down so that the sauce bubbles in a gentle simmer. Cover partially with a lid.

Melt the remaining butter in a small heavy bottomed pan and saute the mushrooms. Let them cook until they are golden, then add them to the chicken with the baby onions and a generous pinch of salt and pepper. Check the chicken after 40 minutes to see how tender it is. It should be soft but not falling off its bones. It will probably take about an hour, depending on the type of chicken you are using. Lift the chicken out onto a large plate and keep warm.

Turn the heat up under the sauce and simmer vigorously until it has reduced by about a fifth and become shiny and glossy. Divide the chicken into serving dishes and cover with sauce, garnish with chopped parsley and serve.

Allergens in this recipe are;

Flour  Celery  Milk

Please see the Allergens Page

 


Beef Bourguignon

Here in Jersey, we are proud to be part of the British Isles, but we are exceedingly close to France and have many French influences on everyday life from the street names to our culture and our cooking. There are probably several dishes that come to mind in mainland Britain if you are asked to think about French cuisine, Onion Soup, Coq au Vin and Moules Marinière are some of the most popular as is today’s classic recipe, Beef Bourguignon. This is a classic French recipe that comes from the Bourgogne or Burgundy region of France and is traditionally made using Charolais beef.

Today restaurants serve far more elaborate versions of the dish which was originally a simple stew. Traditional the beef was threaded or larded with bacon fat and it was marinated in red wine for up to two days for extra flavour before being cooked with the marinade, vegetables, and a bouquet garni. Bacon is still added to give the sauce extra flavour and makes up the traditional bourguignon garnish with button mushrooms and baby onions or shallots. Many of the recipes have changed from Auguste Escoffier’s recipe of 1903 and now use cubes of beef such as chuck steak, I am sticking to the single piece of beef in Escoffier’s recipe but using a slightly unusual cut, beef cheek, which cooks down into the sauce and makes the best bourguignon I have ever tasted. The dish is very rich so one cheek will feed two people.

Bourguignon.jpg

Beef Bourguignon

2 Beef Cheeks

200 gr diced Pancetta or Smoked Streaky Bacon, cut into slices

200 gr Button Mushrooms, cut into quarters

1 bottle Red Burgundy

300 ml quality Beef Stock

14 Shallots, peeled and halved lengthwise if very large

1 large Carrot, peeled and cut into chunks

3 cloves of Garlic, peeled and very finely chopped

3 tablespoons Olive Oil

2 tablespoons Plain Flour

A large knob of fresh Butter

1 Bouquet garni

Sea Salt and freshly ground Black Pepper

Freshly chopped Parsley

Preheat your oven to 150°C / 300°F / Gas Mark 2. Heat a large, heavy-based ovenproof casserole dish on a medium heat and add the oil.  Season the beef cheeks with sea salt and black pepper and fry until brown, for three to four minutes, on each side. Remove the beef and set aside on a plate and add the butter to the casserole then add the shallots, bacon, mushrooms, and carrots, and cook until lightly browned.

Beef Bourguignon Veg..jpg

Then stir in the garlic, tomato puree, and plain flour and cook for two more minutes, stirring constantly. Return the beef cheeks and any beef juices to the pan and pour in the wine and stock. Put on the casserole lid and cook very gently for three to four hours. Alternatively, you can cook in a slow cooker following the manufactures instructions. Check seasoning and serve topped with plenty of chopped parsley.

The traditional accompaniment is Boulangère potatoes, but I like Celeriac or Parsnip mash.

Allergens in this recipe are;

Celery  Milk

Please see Allergens Page


National Sandwich Week – Croque Monsieur Monte Cristo

Croque Monsieur Monte Cristo

It is apparently National Sandwich Week and not surprisingly bacon and chicken feature at the top of all the polls for people’s favourite sandwiches. I am sure you are aware that the sandwich was created by a gambling-obsessed Earl who asked a servant to put meat between two pieces of bread to enable him to continue playing cards and eat. Interestingly his direct descendants founded a chain selling guess what?

Now I like a bacon sandwich as much as any person, it is almost the chef’s staple diet but my favourite is a little different. At the simplest level, the Croque Monsieur is a French grilled ham and cheese sandwich. One of those all important combinations where the sum of the parts, in this case, ham, cheese (typically Emmental or Gruyère), white bread and butter transcend their humble origins and make a perfect match. Golden brown, crisp toast with a blisteringly hot creamy, melted cheese and slightly salty ham filling. C’est Magnifique as the French would say.

Unfortunately, for the French nation, there is no accurate record where or when the first Croque Monsieur was made and who was the unrecorded creator, they first appear on a Parisian café menu in 1910 and in literature in Proust’s Remembrance of Things Past in 1918. The rise of the Croque Monsieur is such it is now offered in Paris branches of McDonalds as the Croq McDo. C’est horrible. So for a classic Croque Monsieur, I am going to offer you the recipe of a magnificent pair of redoubtable chefs who should know their classic toasted French ham sandwich, the Francophile Julia Child and the even more actually French Jacques Pepin.

Croque Monsieur

This recipe below is directly from Julia and Jacques Cooking at Home


Julia’s Croque Monsieur – 
One sandwich

2 slices fresh, reasonably soft home-style White Bread,

removed from the loaf in sequence for accurate reassembly*

1 tablespoon Mayonnaise, preferably homemade

½ teaspoon Dijon-style prepared Mustard

2 or more slices Swiss Cheese (Gruyère or Emmental )

3/16 inch thick and large enough to cover each bread slice.

1 slice excellent baked or boiled Ham,

3/ 16 inches thick, trimmed of fat, and same size as the cheese

2 tablespoons clarified Butter

Preheat the oven to 300F / 150C / Gas mark 2. Assemble the sandwich as follows, on one piece of bread spread the mayonnaise and a thin smear of the mustard top with one piece of cheese. Add the ham the second piece of cheese and the second piece of bread. Gently push down on the fresh bread. Using a very sharp knife remove the crusts. Wrap in cling film until required.

Melt half of the butter in a medium sized heavy bottomed, ovenproof frying pan over a medium to high heat. When very hot but not browning, lower heat to moderate and lay the sandwich in the pan, pressing down several times as the sandwich browns rather slowly on the bottom, for around two minutes. Add the remaining tablespoon of clarified butter to the pan, then turn and brown the sandwich on the other side, pressing down upon the sandwich several times until its bottom, too, is lightly browned. Place the frying pan into the oven and bake for 7 to 8 minutes, until the cheese is fully melted.[Child, Julia and Pepin, Jacques. 1988 Julia and Jacques Cooking at Home, Alfred A. Knopf, New York, New York.] 

*Very Precise instructions for sandwich making.

The Next Level

The Croque Monsieur has been adapted both successfully and perhaps not quite so, I leave you, dear reader, the pleasure of deciding which, from the selection below;

Croque-madame with a fried or poached egg served on the top

Croque provençal with the addition of sliced tomato

Croque auvergnat with the substitution of bleu d’Auvergne cheese

Croque gagnet with sliced Gouda cheese and cooked Andouille sausage

Croque norvégien with smoked salmon instead of ham

( I would go so far to add a little sprinkling of dill )

Croque tartiflette with sliced potatoes and Reblochon cheese

Croque bolognese / croque Boum-Boum with Bolognese sauce

Croque señor with a tomato salsa

Croque Hawaiian with a slice of pineapple

But now we get into the territory of the serious sandwich maker, traversing from the original fast-food snack served in Parisian cafés and bars to grand, elaborate creations some coated in a Béchamel or Mornay sauce, the use of eggy bread ( Pain Perdu or French Toast ) and Montecristo – the sandwich not the Count or cigar. This sandwich varies across the world and in particular across the United States and many include sliced turkey as well as cheese and ham. They may be open or closed, grilled with extra cheese on top, mustard mayonnaise or Thousand Island dressing and even dredged with icing sugar.If you feel inspired may I suggest to you the one and only Grilled Cheese Invitational for those of a seriously competitive nature? I am working on a few ideas already – see you there.

The Grilled Cheese Invitational for the cheese sandwich enthusiast.

My Croque Monsieur Monticristo – One sandwich

2 slices fresh, thick sliced White Bread

1 slice of good Smoked Ham

2 or more slices Swiss Cheese, enough to cover bread twice

20 gr Baby Spinach leaves, very thoroughly washed

½ oz strong grated Cheddar cheese or Cheddar and Parmesan

4 tablespoons single Jersey Cream

1 fresh free-range Egg

½ teaspoon Dijon-style prepared Mustard

A good pinch of Cayenne Pepper

Sea salt and freshly ground Black Pepper

2 tablespoons Clarified Butter

Preheat the oven to 300F / 150C / Gas mark 2. Press the washed baby spinach between two layers of kitchen paper to completely dry it. In a medium sized bowl whisk together the cream, eggs, cayenne and a good pinch of salt and pepper. Create the sandwich as on one piece of bread spread a thin smear of mustard and top with one piece of Swiss cheese. Add the ham, the spinach and a second piece of cheese and the remaining slice of bread. Gently push down on the fresh bread. Using a very sharp knife remove the crusts. Dip the sandwich in the seasoned egg mix, allowing both sides to soak up the liquid.

Melt half of the butter in a medium-sized heavy-bottomed, ovenproof frying pan over a medium to high heat. When very hot but not burning, lower heat to moderate and lay the sandwich in the pan, gently press down several times as the sandwich browns rather slowly on the bottom, for around two minutes. Add the remaining tablespoon of clarified butter to the pan, then turn and brown the sandwich on the other side, pressing down upon the sandwich several times until its bottom, too, is lightly browned. Remove from heat and sprinkle with the grated cheese. Place the frying pan into the oven and bake for 7 to 8 minutes, until the cheese is fully melted.

* A Monti Cristo with Thousand Island dressing is I am reliably informed by Wikipedia called a Cumberland Head. Anyone know why? As well as dusting the savoury versions with sugar, sweet Monti Cristo sandwiches usually contain fruit, berries, sour cream, sugar and/ or Maple syrup.

Gazpacho

Trying to enjoy the not so sunny Jersey summer and dodging the thunderstorms I can at least celebrate some of the delicious produce available on the island, fragrant, ripe Jersey tomatoes and a host of salads, fruits, and vegetables. This simple version of classic chilled tomato soup is ideal as an appetizer or as a light lunch. Gazpacho is very popular across the Iberian peninsula and is believed to have developed from either a Moorish or Roman origins. It varies across Spain and Portugal from thick purées, almost the consistency of a dip, through to fiery peppery water with the addition of a selection of diced vegetables.

Gazpacho

A blended Gazpacho

I once had a disagreement with my then Executive Chef. Not a good move for your career to argue with an Executive Chef, on the authentic Gazpacho texture, rough or smooth, thick or thin. He was, of course, right because quite simply he was Chef and I was right because I am an annoying, know it all ( there I said it before anyone else ). Eventually, we came to an unusual and diplomatic compromise in a kitchen, especially between two opinionated individuals, we were both right. We did however totally agree on its early preparation to allow the flavours to fully develop and most importantly to ensure sufficient time in the refrigerator to completely chill. Quite a few years later, after a lot more research, as I tried to find out if I was right, I saw just how many varied recipes and what is a highly individual approach there is to making Gazpacho, there is no cookery book classic or definitive method. The texture and ingredients are different, region by region, family to family, person to person.

Chilled Spanish Tomato Soup

A Gazpacho amuse-bouche

Traditionally made in a pestle and mortar to keep it cool, the result is rustic, less than the smooth finish achieved in many modern recipes using a food processor. You may add green bell peppers which I omit on a purely personal basis ( I just don’t like them ), whilst stale bread soaked in a little water thickens and adds a silky texture. As a lunchtime dish, bowls of ham, egg, and almonds are served alongside the soup. I guess the key is to experiment and find your own personal preference. I have often used Gazpacho as a little amuse-bouche  ( see photo ) to get my customers taste buds tingling and this recipe is ideal. Modern Gazpacho variations can be made with cucumbers, avocados, and watermelons for different colours, flavours, and textures.

Gazpacho

serves a good 12 shots or 4 individual portions

1kg really Ripe ( Jersey ) Tomatoes, roughly chopped

1 small bunch of Spring Onions, washed, trimmed and roughly chopped

3 cloves of Garlic, peeled and chopped

1 Cucumber, peeled

2 roasted Sweet Red Peppers, peeled and de-seeded

A good pinch of Cayenne Pepper

75ml good quality Olive Oil

3 tablespoons Sherry Vinegar

1/2 teaspoon Celery Salt

Cracked Black Pepper to taste

To finish your choice of:

Finely diced Red and Green Pepper, Grated Egg, Air dried Ham, toasted Almonds, Pimento, extra virgin Olive Oil.

Put the chopped tomatoes, spring onions, garlic, cucumber, Cayenne, and celery salt in a blender and blitz until smooth. Pass through a fine sieve a couple of times to remove most of the pulped skin and seeds. Put the mix back in the blender and slowly add the olive oil and sherry vinegar and season well to taste. Chill thoroughly in the fridge. Serve as an appetiser or as a light lunch with a selection of toppings to spoon over your soup in the center of the table.

Wine

 

What to Drink? Serve your Gazpacho with a chilled Amontillado or Manzanilla over ice, a Picpoul de Pinet or the toasted, nutty flavour of a classic English Brown Ale.

 

Allergens in this recipe are;

Celery   Eggs   nuts

Please see the Allergens Page