Friday, February 24, 2012

Coq au Vin

Coq au Vin


For this dish I remain in Europe, but go west to France. With Mardi Gras having just past (and New Orleans cuisine heavily influenced by the French), I wanted to get in the spirit by cooking this dish. It's also a dish that has been on the To Cook list for a while now.

The Challenge

Using some advanced techniques in a braised chicken dish such as building flavor with a mirepoix, and using a roux to make a slurry.

The Source

I chose to replicate Marc Matsumoto's dish off of his site, No Recipes, partially because he created this dish from leftovers. I'm not good enough yet to be able to do this but I have taken steps towards this goal.

The only omission I made from the original was cipollini onions simply because the supermarket was out of stock when I went shopping for ingredients.

Ingredients

1/3 pound extra thick cut bacon cut into batons
8 skin-on bone-in chicken thighs
1 large onion, chopped
1 stalk celery, chopped
4 cloves garlic sliced thin
1 splash Cognac or Armanac
2 cups red wine
2 cups chicken stock
1 or 2 bay leaves
6 sprigs thyme
3 tablespoons tomato paste
2 tablespoons flour
8 ounces button mushrooms, quartered
8 ounces cipollini onions, peeled
1/3 cup flat leaf parsley, roughly chopped

Method

1. In a large chef’s pan or dutch oven, fry the bacon over medium heat until most of the fat has rendered out (but not until the bacon is crisp). Remove the bacon with a slotted spoon to a paper towel lined plate to drain. Generously salt and pepper the chicken thighs and place in the hot pan, skin side down. Leave undisturbed for 6-7 minutes or until skin is golden brown, then flip allowing to brown lightly on the second side. Transfer to plate.

Chicken Sauté

2. Remove 2 Tbs of fat from the pan and set aside in a small bowl. Add the onion, celery and garlic and saute until soft, scrapping the fond off the bottom of the pan so it doesn’t burn. Hit the pan with a generous splash of Cognac to deglaze the pan. Allow most of the liquid to evaporate, then add the red wine, chicken stock, bay leaf, thyme, and tomato paste. Return the bacon and chicken to the pan and turn several times to make sure they are well coated and submerged in the liquid. Cover with the lid slightly askew (so steam can escape) and simmer over medium low heat until the chicken is tender 35 to 45 minutes.

Reserved Fat
Deglazed mirepoix
Chicken and Bacon Added Back to the Braising Fluid

3. Add 2 Tbs flour to the fat you’ve reserved and stir until there are no lumps. When the chicken is tender, transfer to a plate and tent with foil. Add the mushrooms and onions to the pan and turn up the heat to medium, simmering uncovered for about 15 minutes or until the onions are cooked and the sauce has reduced a bit. Add a few tablespoons of sauce to the fat/flour mixture and stir to make a slurry. Add the slurry to the sauce in the pan one spoonful at a time, mixing well after each addition to make sure there are no lumps. I don’t like my sauce too thick, so I stopped about 2/3 of the way through, but if you like a very thick sauce, you can add all the roux. Salt and pepper to taste, then return the chicken to to pot to reheat and coat with the sauce. Serve over mashed potatoes, egg noodles, or as a stew with a crusty baguette. Garnish with the parsley.

Flour Added...
...to Form a Roux
Braising Fluid Added to the Roux to Form a Slurry
Mushrooms Added to Finish the Sauce

Successful?

Yes, the slurry made the sauce rich with depth of flavor that is difficult to describe.

Monday, February 13, 2012

Bucatini all'Amatriciana

Bucatini all'Amatriciana


Over this past weekend, the third season of Worst Cooks in America premiered. In order to build a following, Food Network ran repeats of season two on Saturday afternoon. In one of the episodes, the contestants were challenged with repeating several skills they had learned earlier in the season in one decathlon (e.g. julienning carrots or filleting fish). They were timed, but accuracy was just as important. In watching the contest, it occurred to me that, while I consider myself a knowledgeable cook, I'm a little slow in the completion of tasks.

The Challenge

What this challenge boils down to is preparing a quality mise en place quickly. I can't rush the process of cooking the dish and Chef Chiarello went to a lot of trouble adjusting the dish appropriate for a weeknight. First, the recipe as it appears in the book followed by the time elapsed to complete each task.

The Source

Page 110 of Michael Chiarello's Casual Cooking by Michael Chiarello with Janet Fletcher

Ingredients

1/3 pound pancetta in one piece, partially frozen (freeze for about 30 minutes to make it easier to slice)
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 onion, thinly sliced, onion-soup style*
3/4 pound spaghetti or bucatini
Scant 1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1 tablespoon fresh Italian (flat-leaf) parsley, chopped
1 1/2 tablespoon red wine vinegar
3/4 cup tomato pureé
Freshly grated Pecorino

Method

1. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil over high heat.

2. Meanwhile, unroll the pancetta. Cut into 1-inch-long chunks, then slice each chunk thinly across the grain.

3. Heat the olive oil in a large skillet over moderately low heat. Add the pancetta and cook until it renders some of its fat, about 5 minutes. Do not allow it to crisp. Add the onion and cook until soft, about 10 minutes. While the onion is cooking, add the pasta to the boiling water.

Onions Added

4. Add the red pepper flakes and parsley to the onion mixture and cook briefly to release their fragrance. Add the wine vinegar and simmer briskly until it evaporates, then add the tomato pureé and 1/4 cup of the pasta water. Simmer briefly to blend.

5. When the pasta is just shy of al dente, drain it and return it to the warm pot over medium heat. Add the sauce and cook briefly so the pasta absorbs some of the sauce, then transfer to a warmed serving bowl and shower with the pecorino. Serve immediately.

*Onion-soup style: Slice off both ends, then halve lengthwise and peel. Now slice thinly lengthwise (from stem end to root end), not crosswise. This method gives you shorter, more even slices instead of long, stringy slivers that can be unpleasant to eat, especially in a soup.

Successful?

With the task of completing my prep work in a timely manner, the mise en place was finished in 44 minutes (which includes freezing the pancetta). Start to finish, it was about a ninety minute project, so I was successful from that standpoint. If I were to repeat this dish again, I'd use medium heat to render the pancetta and use more tomato pureé. Overall a good weeknight meal and, for two people, enough leftovers to brown bag it the next day.

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Spaghetti alla Carbonara

Spaghetti alla Carbonara


The Challenge

Uncommon cooking method. Can the heat from the pasta cook the eggs adequately?

The Source

Page 111 of Cook Like A Rock Star by Anne Burrell with Suzanne Lenzer

Mise En Place

Kosher salt
Extra-virgin olive oil
3/4 cup pancetta, cut into 1/4-inch dice
1 pound spaghetti
8 large eggs
1/2 cup freshly grated Parmigiano
1/2 cup freshly grated Pecorino
Freshly ground black pepper
4 scallions, green parts only, cut into 1-inch lengths on a severe bias

Method

1. Bring a large pot of well-salted water to a boil. Coat a large skillet with olive oil and bring it to medium heat. Add the pancetta and cook, stirring occasionally, until it starts to color and become crisp, 6 to 8 minutes; remove from the heat.

Rendered Pancetta

2. Add the pasta to the boiling water and cook for 1 minute less than the instructions on the package suggest. Taste it: It should be tooth-some with just a little nugget of hard pasta still in the center-this is al dente.

3. While the pasta is cooking, crack the eggs into a large bowl and add the grated Parm and Pecorino; season with salt and whisk vigorously until well combined. Season with black pepper.

Egg and Cheese Mixture

4. Bring the pan with the pancetta back to medium heat. Drain the pasta, add it to the pan, and coat it with any fat in the skillet. Remove the pan from the heat, add the egg mixture to the pasta, and stir vigorously to combine. Cover and let it sit for 1 to 2 minutes so the steam gently cooks the eggs. Uncover and stir again-the egg mixture will seem like a cream sauce. Serve immediately garnished with sliced scallions.

Pasta Coated With Fat

Successful?

Yes, the eggs cooked adequately from the steam.

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