Coq au Vin

My mother moved in recently. It's a temporary stay and is working out well for everyone. She's got a little spot in the basement. It isn't as cruel as it sounds. My basement is partially finished, and she has a cozy little spot with her own washroom. It's not as if I've thrown her on the dirt floor with a sleeping bag and she has to catch rats to survive. She brought very little with her since she plans on moving back into her house in a few months. The one thing I asked her to bring was her Julia Child's cookbook, Mastering the Art of French Cooking. I'm not sure my request was a good idea.

Now I'm no Julie and Julia. I have no desire to put that much work into cooking just because I'm unhappy with my current job. I just thought I should have a peek into serious cooking and see what it's all about. I decided to try Coq au Vin. It is the classic French dish, or so I've heard. I have to say I felt like it took a lot of my time. Maybe it's just Julia's version that is excessive. If anyone has a shorter version I'd be happy to have it. It was tasty and a hit for all those involved, except for me. It was too much reading for me. I am one of those people who can't dine in a restaurant if their menu is too extensive. I get bored reading it, and I tend forget what all my choices are. And part of the joy of going out to eat is actually conversing with the person I'm dining with. This seems to be impossible if I can't order my food due to menu overload. I also have trouble using most of a bottle of wine to cook a dish. There should be more in my glass than in my pot.

After all my gripping I'm going to give you the recipe anyway, and hopefully you'll fare better than me. Maybe your attention span is longer than mine. I may give French cooking another try but if it doesn't work out my mom may be taking Julia with her when she moves back home.

Coq au Vin
from Mastering the Art of French Cooking

4 strips of bacon diced
3 lbs of chicken cubed (I used chicken breasts)
1/2 tsp salt
1/8 tsp pepper
1/4 cup cognac
3 cups either full bodied red wine or white
1-2 cups beef stock
1/2 tbsp tomato paste
2 cloves mashed garlic
1/2 tsp bay leaf
1/2 lb sauteed mushrooms
3 tbsp flour
lots of butter

Braised Onions
12-24 pearl onions
1 1/2 tbsp butter
1 1/2 tbsp oil
1/2 cup beef stock
salt and pepper to taste
medium herb bouquet: 4 parsley sprigs, 1/2 bay leaf, 1/4 tsp thyme tied in cheesecloth

Saute bacon slowly in butter until lightly browned in a casserole dish. Remove to side dish. Brown chicken in hot fat from dish. Season chicken with salt and pepper. Return bacon to casserole and cook in oven for 10 minutes at 300 C. Remove from oven and pour in cognac, and ignite with a lit match. Shake casserole back and forth until flames subside.
Pour wine into casserole. Add enough stock to cover chicken, and stir in tomato paste, garlic, and herbs. Simmer for 30 minutes, until chicken is cooked. Remove chicken to a side dish.
While chicken is cooking prepare onions and mushrooms. Saute mushroom in butter until tender. Set aside.
Peel the onions, and heat oil and butter until bubbling. Saute onions for 10 minutes, rolling onions so they brown evenly. Pour in stock, season and add herb bouquet. Cover and simmer for 40 to 50 minutes until onions are perfectly tender but retain their shape.
Back to the chicken cooking liquid. Raise heat and boil rapidly reducing liquid to 2 1/4 cups. In a separate bowl combine the 3 tbsp of butter and flour together into a smooth paste. Beat paste into the hot liquid with a wire whip. Bring to a simmer for a minute or two. Sauce should be thick enough to lightly coat a spoon.
Add chicken, mushrooms and onions to the sauce and serve immediately.

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