Monthly Archives: May 2013

Coq Au Vin

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One of my earliest cooking memories revolves around a very old set of cookbooks.  I want to say they were Time Life’s World Cookbooks or something like that.  These cookbooks seemed so much fancier than our trusty red and white checkered Better Homes and Gardens’ New Cookbook.  So, of course I poured over them more.  The red checked book seemed so, well, American.

The cookbooks were divided by country and there was an entire cookbook dedicated to French Cooking.  As a child who’s most exotic meals were tacos or spaghetti, these cookbooks seemed other worldly.    So, one night I asked my mom if we could make something out of the French cookbook… and I kept asking for a while until she finally relented.  The most exotic recipe to me (I was probably all of 8 or 9 years old) was Coq Au Vin.  Chicken in Red Wine.  To go with it, Chocolate Mousse.  I’d never had chocolate mousse, but had heard of it.  I had chocolate pudding, but was pretty sure mousse was somehow better. My parents were beer drinkers, so we got cooking wine for the red wine…  I know, stop laughing.  But this was the 70s and, well, we didn’t know.  Why would they sell it if it wasn’t good?

So, that was my first foray into French cooking:  making a recipe from Time Life with supermarket cooking wine.   We weren’t exactly well to do, and, at the time it was a fairly expensive meal.  So, my parents were very kind to indulge me.   For the record, the chocolate mousse was amazing.  To this day I remember that meal.  I was so proud to make it.  I felt truly grown up.

In the many years since then, cooking Coq Au Vin, made famous in the States by Julia Child, seems odd and quant.  Like a 70s fondue party.   I’m almost sheepish about telling people I eat this dish, much less make it.   This is another recipe like my 40 Cloves of Garlic Chicken that really should be in the rotation.  It deserves a spot in your repertoire!  While it is an old dish, and old dishes are not fussy.  There’s no crazy ingredient you’ll only use one and rue the rest of the time it’s in your pantry (looking at you walnut oil!).  The ingredients are fairly cheap and easy to come by, depending, of course, on the type of wine you use.

Coq Au Vin is normally made with a tough, old bird.  It’s rare to come across those nowadays, although my farmer’s market does have a great guy that sells “stewing hens”.  So, I use chicken thighs.  Today’s chicken breasts get woefully overcooked in this dish and can’t really stand up to the red wine.  You also don’t have to simmer the chicken as long, because the chicken isn’t really “old” anymore and becomes tender rather quickly.

I will admit to a cheat. Julia Childs starts this recipe off by rendering the fat off of carefully sliced lardons. As someone who is always looking to maximize my food use, I fastidiously save the bacon fat every time I cook bacon. So, I can skip the rendering step and shave about 20 minutes off the cook time.  If you don’t have bacon drippings, please render away!
Coq Au Vin
Serves 6

1/4 cup rendered bacon fat (may substitute any vegetable oil that can handle high heat, like canola)
6 chicken thighs
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
3 stalks of celery, coarsely chopped
2 carrots, coarsely chopped
1 small onion, small dice
3 cloves of garlic, minced
3 cups of red wine
2 bay leaves
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
1 cup of water or chicken stock
2 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons flour

Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.

Heat bacon fat in an enameled dutch oven over medium high heat. Sprinkle chicken thighs with salt and pepper and place in the pan skin side down when fat sizzles on contact with chicken. Cook chicken until the skin is a golden brown and flip over. Cook the other side until golden as well. Remove the chicken to a platter and set aside.

Saute celery, carrots and onions until the celery is soft. Reduce heat to medium. Add the garlic, stirring to prevent it from burning. When the garlic becomes fragrant, add the red wine, bay leaves and dried thyme and bring to a simmer. Return the chicken to the pan. If the wine does not almost cover the chicken, add the water or chicken stock. Otherwise, you can omit. Cover and place in the oven to finish cooking the chicken through, about 40 minutes.

Remove the chicken from the pot, cover and set aside.  Combine flour and butter together.  Whisk into the red wine sauce and cook until slightly thickened and glossy.  Serve chicken with sauce.

Julia Child’s recommends serving this dish with braised mushrooms and brown braised onions. I made those by sautéing the onions in butter and adding quartered mushrooms and cooking them over medium heat for about 20 minutes. In the pictures, the vegetables in the back are roasted carrots and parsnips. I just heated the oven to 375, roughly chopped the vegetables, covered with oil olive and salt and pepper, and roasted for 20 minutes until browned. I shook the pan occasionally. All told, the dinner took about 90 minutes, but most of that was the chicken cooking in the oven, not active prep time.

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Breakfast Sausage

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAFor those of you who have read my rib trimmin’ post, I have my follow up on what to do with all those meat scraps. We like to use everything we can here, so we turned these scraps into INCREDIBLE breakfast sausage.   We ended up with several pounds of trimmings to repurpose.  If you don’t have pork scraps, you can still make this recipe with a pork butt (aka Boston Butt or Pork Shoulder).

One of my favorite breakfast sausages is made by Bob Evans. All things considered, the ingredients aren’t horrible:

Ingredients (7):
Pork, Ham Fresh, Pork Tenderloins, Water, Salt, Spice(s), Monosodium Glutamate

However, the treatment of the pigs and the use of MSG (monosodium glutamate) are highly controversial. The animals are frequently given feed that includes antibiotics that cause antibiotic resistant bacteria as well. To avoid all of this, we tried MSG-free breakfast sausages made with more humanely treated animals that were free from antibiotics. They tasted, well, off. None had the sagey goodness of Bob Evans. The motto in our house is if you want something, you make it. So, my husband did. We wanted wonderfully sagey, MSG-free breakfast sausage made from humanely raised animals that weren’t treated with hormones or antibiotics. He delivered.

My husband came across a great recipe from Alton Brown simply titled “Breakfast Sausage“.  The recipe combines sage, rosemary and thyme.  Alton adds brown sugar, nutmeg and a dash of heat with cayenne and red pepper flakes.  The sausage is really amazing.  We alter the recipe to suit to our taste, and the fact that we have nearly 6 pounds of pork trimmings from our ribs.  If you decide to give this a go, you will never go back to store bought again, I promise.

As a bonus, we made 3 racks of ribs and converted the trimmings into 6 pounds of breakfast sausage, all for under $30.    You can barely get 2 racks of ribs for that price.  Quite amazing when you cut out the middleman and do things the old fashioned way!

The special piece of equipment you will need is a grinder.  We got a grinder attachment for our kitchenaid mixer.  It does a fairly good job, if not overly taxed.  Keep meat in small dice and not too frozen and usually the mixer can keep up.

The key to great sausage texture is keeping the meat cold.   Alton recommends stirring all the ingredients together, then chilling for an hour, then grinding.  We usually have “not quite thawed” pork that we stir the other ingredients into, then grind.

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Sage Sausage (rib trimmings version)

6 pounds of rib trimmings
4 teaspoons kosher salt
1 tablespoon freshly ground black pepper
2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh sage leaves
2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh thyme leaves
1 1/2 teaspoons finely chopped fresh rosemary leaves
3 tablespoons light brown sugar
1 teaspoon fresh grated nutmeg
1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
water

Sage Breakfast Sausage (pork butt version)

2 pounds pork butt (2 1/2 pounds with bone), diced into 1/4-inch pieces
1/2 pound fat back, diced into 1/4-inch pieces
2 teaspoons kosher salt
1 1/2 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper
2 teaspoons finely chopped fresh sage leaves
2 teaspoons finely chopped fresh thyme leaves
1/2 teaspoon finely chopped fresh rosemary leaves
1 tablespoon light brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon fresh grated nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
water

Directions for both:

Thoroughly combine all the ingredients except the water in a large bowl and chill for at least an hour.  The mixture should be very cold, almost frozen.

Grind the meat mixture and return to the bowl.  Add enough water to make the mixture sticky, about 1/4 to 1/2 cup.

Form into patties.  In a lightly greased fry pan over medium high heat, cook until completely done, about 15 minutes.   Otherwise, wrap in wax paper and aluminum foil and freeze until ready to use.

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Kale and Andouille Soup

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Here’s a quick post about a soup recipe that my family loves.  Even the kids!  We got this from adapting Emeril Lagasse’s recipe:  http://www.emerils.com/recipe/3934/Kale-and-Andouille-Soup.   I am a huge Emeril fan from way back.  I went to law school in New Orleans in the 1990s, and because you can’t have too much graduate school loan debt, I also got my MBA.   My graduate school debt will be paid off in 2028.  I kid you not.  I will have retired before then.  But, I’m not bitter.  🙂

Anyway…. At the same time I was in grad school, Emeril was on this little network called the Food Network.  You remember that network? The Food Network used to show viewers how to cook food, with chefs like Mario Batali, Emeril Lagasse, Sara Moulton.  Of course, that before the network became reality TV food programming.  Seriously, can Chopped be on more?

But I digress, Emeril was also chef and proprietor of a couple of restaurants in New Orleans.  Whenever my parents came down to visit (which was surprisingly often…), they always wanted to eat at Emeril’s.  And why not?  The service was amazing and the food was outstanding, plus the chef was famous.  Way back then (GET OFF MY LAWN!!!!), the “famous chef” just wasn’t the norm as it is now.  One night, my dad and I were eating at Emeril’s and we asked if they had any signed cookbooks we could buy for my mom’s birthday.  Emeril himself came to our table with one of his cookbooks!  He chatted with us for a bit and then signed the book for my mom.  AMAZING.  He was very nice and it was just such an incredible moment.

New Orleans is an fantastic city and just a complete culinary extravaganza.  My mother and I were really inspired to cook by the city.  You just can’t find New Orleans-type food here in Maryland.  So if you want gumbo, étouffée, dirty rice, or bread pudding, you need to make it yourself.

Needless to say, we have all of Emeril’s cookbooks.  Some recipes are crazy fussy and you won’t see me do them here.  Real and Rustic  and his holiday cookbook-ette are the most used.  But this recipe makes a really quick, easy and superbly good meal.  The recipe is especially useful if you have lots of kale on hand to use.

I made a few adjustments, however.  As we made the soup as part of our regular menu, we realized that not many of us actually ate the potatoes Emeril includes in his recipe.  Also, sometimes we don’t want the spiciness of the andouille and sub out kielbasa for the sausage.

Kale and Andouille Soup
Serves 8

1/4 cup high heat fat (lard, bacon drippings, vegetable oil)
1 medium onion, diced
3 stalks of celery, sliced thin
3 cloves of garlic, minced
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
2 bay leaves
2 pounds of smoked sausage (andouille, kielbasa, chorizo, etc.), sliced into rounds
3 quarts of chicken stock
4 cups of kale, rinsed, stemmed and torn into manageable pieces
Salt and Pepper

In a large pot suitable for soup, heat the fat over medium heat. When heated, sauté the onions and celery until translucent, but not browned. Add the garlic, thyme, and bay leaves and cook until fragrant (1-2 minutes). Add the sausage and cook another minute.

Add the chicken stock. In thirds, add the kale, stirring between additions, and let boil. Reduce heat and let simmer for 20-30 minutes, until the kale is sufficiently tender. Taste the soup and add salt and pepper as necessary.

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Pie or Pastry Crust

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Behold my flaky layers!

There’s nothing that seems to scare the crap out of people more than flour, salt, solid fat (butter, lard, shortening), and cold water.  In other words, pastry.   When I bring pies to places people cannot believe I have made my own pie crust.  It’s like a bucket list item:  Climbed Everest, Visited Easter Island, made own Pie Crust.  Done.

The Food Industrial Complex has made people so complacent that most don’t see the need to make their own crust.  Just unroll the crust from the refrigerated section of your grocery store and BAM! pie crust.  But is it really?  Gummy, lacking any snap or palpable flakey layers, is it really pie crust?  Or something lesser.  Let’s look at the competition.

Pillsbury Rolled Pie Crust ingredient list:

Wheat Starch, Lard Partially Hydrogenated, with BHA and, BHT To Protect Flavor, Wheat Flour Bleached, Water, Sugar, Rice Flour, Salt, Xanthan Gum, Potassium Sorbate Preservative, Sodium Propionate Preservative, Citric Acid, Color(s), with Yellow 5 and, Red 40

My ingredients?  Seriously: flour, sugar, butter, lard, salt and cold water.  No competition.  I’m not even sure what Wheat Starch is and why it is the largest ingredient on the list.  Flour is a distant third.  What’s wrong with their ingredients that they need to add food coloring?  Oh, that’s right, there’s no butter to give the “pie crust” a warm golden color.

The competition is rather sad.  A pale imitation of real pie crust.  In The 1892 Boston Cooking School Cook Book by Fannie Farmer (yes, she was a real person), there is an entire chapter dedicated to pastry.   In this chapter Fannie Farmer divides pastry by duty.  Puff pastry was suitable for rims and upper crusts of pies, vol-au-vents, patties, rissoles, bouchees, cheese straws, and tarts.  But is never for lower crusts!!  Puff pastry is made exclusively with butter, according to Mrs. Farmer.   Plain paste, with a mix of lard and butter, was more suitable for lower crusts.  James Beard detailed various pastry in 9 pages of his American Cookery published in 1972.    Today, sadly, most people don’t make pies much less pie crust.   After reading these books, it is easy to see why.  The first few sentences of Mr. Beard’s introduction are flat out intimidating:

Flaky, tender pie crust must have a delicate balance of fat and flour and not too much liquid.  For this reason, measure the ingredients carefully. Too much flour can make a tough crust; too much fat, a greasy crumbly crust; and too much liquid will in turn require more flour and result in a tough crust.

But persevere!  Look at the Pillsbury ingredients.  There are no liquids.  What do you think you have there?  A tough, non-flaky mess.  That is your competition.   If your dough is “tough”, seriously, who’s going to know?  Few people expect a flaky crust anymore because most are used to the industrial stuff.  That’s the worse that happens.  You make a crust with no preservatives that is still better than what you can roll out of a package.  Fear not!

The recipe is super easy and if you have a food processor, it’s laughably easy.  You will scoff at yourself for ever being too intimidated to try.

My goal here is to get you to make a great crust.  Give it a go, so to speak.  You don’t have the time?   Is 10 minutes too long?  If you take out the time it takes to assemble the ingredients, it takes 2 minutes, tops to actually “make” the crust.  Then it rests.  Then you roll it out.  Done.  I make mine the day before I need to make the pie.

This recipe is adapted from Paula Deen’s Perfect Pie Crust.  It is a sweet, but not too sweet crust and very aptly named.

Perfect Pie Crust

2 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon fine salt
3 tablespoons granulated white sugar
1/4 cup lard, very cold (may substitute vegetable shortening)
12 tablespoons butter, very cold and cubed
1/4-1/2 cup ice water

Hand mixing directions:

Sift the flour, salt and sugar together in a large mixing bowl. Work the lard into the flour mixture with your hands. Work quickly so that the lard doesn’t get too warm. Add the cold butter and quickly work into the mixture until the flour is crumbly, like coarse cornmeal. Add the ice water slowly until the mixture comes together, forming a dough. Gently shape the dough into a ball. Divide the ball into two, shape into disks, wrap each disk in plastic wrap, and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes prior to use.

Food processor directions:

Place the flour, salt and sugar in the processing bowl, pulse until combined and aerated. Add the lard in pieces and pulse until incorporated. Add the cubes of butter a few at a time, pulsing between additions until the additions are incorporated. Slowly drizzle the water into the bowl and pulse. Stop adding water when the dough comes together in the bowl. Turn the dough out on a floured surface, gently shape into a ball, and divide the ball into two disks. Wrap each disk in plastic wrap and refrigerate for 30 minutes prior to use.

It’s really that easy.  Use for almost any recipe that requires a crust.  This recipe makes two 9 inch pie crusts.

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Not the course meal like texture already developing.

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Chicken Pot Pie

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It’s 5 o’clock and I’m staring the fridge, hoping for a revelation as to what to make for dinner.  I’ve got left over chicken thighs.  Every other protein source is froze solid.  So, I thought, what to do with you?  The kids can’t stand chicken salad.  So, I decided to make Chicken Pot Pie.  There were a variety of old recipes that involved the entire chicken being in the pot and covered with crust.  That seemed a little, um, rustic.

I remembered the pies of my childhood.  You know the ones in the box of the freezer section.  Crust, bits of chicken and random veggies with a creamy broth in a pie shape.  As a kid, these things are amazing.  As an adult, well, here’s the ingredients for Swanson’s Chicken Pot Pie:

Ingredients (75):

Water, Flour Enriched (Wheat Flour, Niacin, Ferrous Sulfate, Thiamine Mononitrate (Vitamin B1),Riboflavin (Vitamin B2), Folic Acid (Vitamin aB)) , Chicken Cooked (Chicken Meat Dark, Salt, Soy Protein Isolate, Carrageenan, Food Starch Modified, Sodium Phosphate, Spice(s) Extract) ,Carrot(s), Potato(es), Sodium Pyrophosphate, Shortening (Lard, Lard Hydrogenated,Soybean(s) Oil Partially Hydrogenated) , Chicken Cooked Mechanically Separated, Food Starch Modified, Chicken Base (Wheat Flour Bleached Enriched [Barley Malted Flour,Potassium Bromate, Niacin, Iron Reduced, Thiamine Mononitrate (Vitamin B1), Riboflavin (Vitamin B2)] , Salt, Maltodextrin, Whey Powder, Whey Protein Concentrate, Garlic Powder, Soy Lecithin, Yeast Extract, Onion(s) Powder, Annatto, Spice(s), Turmeric Extract, Xanthan Gum) ,Contains 22% or less Peas, Chicken Fat, Dextrose, Flavor(s) Natural and Artificial Chicken(Salt, Chicken Powder, Chicken Fat, Yeast Extract Autolyzed, Water, Flavor(s) Natural & Artificial, Sugar Invert, Chicken Broth, Onion(s) Powder, Flavor(s) Grill [Soybean(s) Oil Partially Hydrogenated, Cottonseed Oil Partially Hydrogenated] , Cottonseed Oil Partially Hydrogenated, Soybean(s) Oil Partially Hydrogenated, Tocopherols) , Salt, Dough Conditioner(s) (Sodium Aluminosilicate, Salt, Wheat Gluten Vital, Enzyme(s), Soy Protein Flour,Ammonium Sulfate, Fumaric Acid) , Caramel Color, Annatto for color retention

Oh my.

So, I gathered my ingredients on hand and transformed tired leftovers into something that used to be quite common place, but is now very exotic:  a chicken pot pie.  The kids were amazed at the transformation of such humdrum ingredients.  In going through the historic cookbooks, “pot pies” were rather common place.  I find them to be an efficient use of leftovers!! I’ll put measurements on here, but really, it’s all about what you have on hand.

Chicken Pot Pie
Serves 6

1/2 recipe Pie Crust, or a 9 inch pie crust

1/4 cup high heat tolerant cooking fat (lard, bacon drippings, vegetable oil)
3 carrots, sliced thin
3 celery stalks, sliced thin
1 medium onion, small dice
1 8 ounce container of mushrooms, sliced
1-2 pounds cooked chicken, cubed
1/2 teaspoon dried sage, crushed
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme, crushed
2 tablespoons flour
2 cups heavy cream
Salt and Pepper

1 egg
1 tablespoon water

Preheat oven to 350 degrees fahrenheit

Place the cooking fat in a sauté pan over medium heat. When heated, add the carrots, celery, onion and mushroom. Sauté, stirring occasionally, until the carrots and celery are soft (or the texture you like them), about 15-20 minutes.

Add the chicken, sage and thyme, cook until fragrant. Add the flour and cook for a bit until the raw flour taste is cooked out.

Add the heavy cream and cook. The sauce will thicken. You want the sauce to continue to thicken as it cooks, about 5-10 minutes. Taste and season with salt and pepper as needed.

Place the mixture in a oven proof pan (I used a large soufflé dish) and smooth the top.

Roll out the pie crust and drape over the top of the baking dish. Pinch the crust over the top of the dish to hold the crust firm.

In a small bowl, beat the egg and water together and brush on pie crust.

Cut a vent slit in the crust, and place the dish on a cookie sheet. Bake until the crust is golden brown, about 30 minutes.

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