Category Archives: Chicken

Inadvertently Authentic: Coq au Vin

I wish I could say that we are wine drinkers at our house. That every night begins in a civilized fashion with a neat pour of red into a stemmed wine glass, a toast, and a slow, languorous sip. But that would be a big fat lie. We’re beer drinkers through and through, and you’re more likely to find my husband and I kicking back a few locally-made IPAs or perhaps saison-style ales while we’re wrangling the kids and selecting which LP to spin for dinner.

In the end of September, we hosted a school meeting at our house for our son who is in first grade. Julian is part of an incredible home schooling collective and we had the parents and teachers at our house to plan the curriculum for the month. Over the course of three hours, we blew through a few bottles of white and red, some nice cheese, a baguette, and Christina Tosi’s candy-like compost cookies that I made from the new Momofuku Milk Bar Cookbook. I stowed the remaining half-drunk bottle of nondescript red in the fridge, top shelf, front and center, in the only spot where a tall bottle would fit.

For a few days, every time I opened the fridge, that bottle stared me down. I had to move it to get to the milk for morning coffee. I had to look up and around it to find the yogurt, locate the cream cheese, and pull out a bottle or two of beer. I started to feel immense guilt for not drinking it, for knowing that it would turn vinegary after just a few more days. Because several-day old wine is more appetizing to cook with than to drink, my mind turned to uses. I took out a chicken from the fridge, cut it into parts, threw it in a large plastic container, and covered it with the wine. I shoved the container back in the fridge where it sat for a few days until I remembered it was there. Then I cooked it. And it rocked.

Coq au vin is a true French country classic, and, despite what you might think, it can be made with any kind of wine: white, red, French, or otherwise. Traditionally the chicken is marinated in wine for a few days and then gets simmered in a pot with the marinade, some chicken broth, a piece of bacon, and aromatics such as an onion, carrot, and celery. Once it cooks for a good while (long enough to render the chicken super tender but not so long as it falls off the bone), sautéed onions and mushrooms are stirred in with perhaps beurre manié, a fantastic thickener made from soft butter and flour often added to sauces to give them a rich gloss and velvety finish.

I threw mine together a la minute, adding an onion to the marinade and not using the carrots and celery simply because I didn’t think of it. I let it hang out for two days in the fridge and then cooked it up with some chicken broth and a few generous lashes of super smoky thick-cut bacon. I sautéed onions, some garlic, and mushrooms with more bacon and stirred these into the chicken after it was done.

There was silence at the table. The kids wolfed their servings down—Julian even requested a bowl of sauce on the side to use for dunking bread. I left the beer in the fridge that night and instead opened a fresh bottle of red from our dusty cache, knowing there would be leftovers from the bottle, and knowing exactly what I would do with them.

 

Coq au Vin

Serves 4

You will probably have a few cups of sauce leftover after serving the chicken. I like to save it (or freeze it) and use it as a really intense and fantastic sauce for pasta.

3 1/2- 4-pound chicken, cut into 8 parts (if the breasts are big, halve them crosswise)

Kosher salt

Freshly ground black pepper

2/3 to 1 bottle red wine (a juicy hearty red, not a super dry one)

2 yellow onions, 1 finely chopped, 1 halved and thinly sliced lengthwise

1/3 cup plus 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour

2 tablespoons unsalted butter

3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

1 1/2 cups chicken broth

8 whole black peppercorns

1 large sprig fresh thyme (optional)

4 thick-cut bacon strips, 2 strips sliced crosswise into 1/2-inch pieces, 2 strips halved crosswise

2 garlic cloves, thinly sliced

2 cups chopped mushrooms (portobellos, creminis, white buttons)

Buttered egg noodles, buttered boiled potatoes, or good bread for serving

Place the chicken on a cutting board and generously season with salt and pepper. Set in a large Tupperware container or bowl, pour the wine over the top, and add the sliced onion. Cover and refrigerate for at least 24 hours or for up to 5 days.

Remove the chicken pieces from the marinade (save the marinade for later) and place them on a paper towel-lined large bowl. Blot the top side of the chicken with more paper towels and sprinkle with 1/3 cup flour, turning the chicken to evenly coat all sides. Set aside.

Place the butter in a small ramekin or bowl and cover with the remaining 2 tablespoons of the flour. Set aside.

Heat 1 tablespoon of the oil in a large heavy-bottomed pot over medium heat. Add half of the chicken pieces to the pot and brown on both sides, about 8 minutes total. Use tongs to transfer the chicken to a plate. Brown the remaining chicken and then transfer it to the plate with the first batch. Pour about 1 cup of the the reserved red wine-onion marinade into the pot stirring and scraping up any browned bits off of the bottom. Add the remaining marinade, the chicken broth, whole peppercorns, thyme sprig (if using), and halved bacon strips and bring to a simmer over medium heat. Reduce the heat to low (the liquid should bubble very gently), place a lid on the pot so it sits slightly askew, and cook until the chicken is ridiculously tender and the leg meat barely hangs on to the bone, 1 to 1 1/4 hours.

Meanwhile, cook the vegetables. Heat the remaining 2 tablespoons of oil in a heavy-bottomed skillet over medium heat. Add the thinly sliced bacon and cook, stirring often, until it just starts to get crispy around the edges, 4 to 6 minutes. Stir in the chopped onions, garlic, and a few pinches of salt and cook, stirring occasionally, until the onions are starting to turn deep yellow and brown around the edges, 5 to 6 minutes. Stir in the chopped mushrooms and cook until they shrivel and become glossy, 3 to 4 minutes. Reduce the heat to low, cover the pan, and cook until the mixture is dark brown, 8 to 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Turn off the heat and leave covered.

Once the chicken is tender, transfer it to a large plate. Bring the remaining sauce to a simmer over medium-high heat and concentrate it until it reduces by one-third, about 15 minutes. Use a fork to mash the butter-flour mixture in the ramekin turning it into a smooth paste. Add it to the sauce and whisk until smooth. Cook over medium heat for 2 minutes. Stir the mushroom-onion mixture into the sauce and pour over the chicken. Serve the coq au vin over buttered noodles, buttered boiled potatoes, or with some really delicious fresh bread.

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Unleash Your Inner Butcher: Spatchcock a Chicken

I like hearing bones crunch. I like to pop things out of sockets, crack ribs, and pound on meat to make it flat. Before butchers became the new rock stars, after my stint in bakeries, and before I had kids, I fantasized about being a butcher, clad in blood-swiped whites, carrying a cleaver and getting intimate with a side of beef. There’s something carnal and pleasurable about getting to know the anatomy of your food. Which is why I like to spatchcock chickens.

Spatchcock is a funny word for taking the backbone out of a bird. You do this so the breast, legs, and thighs are of a somewhat even thickness, so theoretically all of the meat cooks at the same time with nothing overcooking while your waiting for other appendages catch up. You can take out the wishbone too—that’s like the collarbone in a chicken. Do this and the chicken breasts will be pretty much on par with the height of the legs.

During my first grill post Hurricane Irene, I picked up the grill bag only to have the bottom of the paper bag start to give—the paper was weakened what with all the moisture and rain. The charcoal started to spill out of the bottom, so I did what anyone would do—caught it in my arms. And then came the millipedes. All over the bottom of the bag and yes, now my hands. I flipped out, screamed, and sent charcoal flying halfway across Clinton Hill and into Bed-Stuy. My coal-heavy beer can chicken plans quickly changed into coal-lite spatchcock chicken.

To make a spatchcock chicken you need a hot side of the grill for searing the skin and a cool side to roast the bird. While the chicken is roasting on the low-heat side, take advantage of the hot side for cooking the rest of your meal. Grill up some corn (I like to peel away the tough outer husk, bend back the tender green husk, remove the silk, and then refold the tender husk back around the corn), asparagus (make a grill pan out of heavy duty foil folded up around the edges to make a rim), or a pizza. I’ve even been put cookie dough balls on a double sheet pan (two sheet pans to insulate the bottom of the cookies from too high of a temp) to bake up for dessert (you may need to either remove some coals or spread them out to do this so the heat under the pan is blazing hot).

Spatchcock and Spice Chicken

Serves 4

3- to 4-pound chicken rinsed and patted dry

2 tablespoons your favorite spice blend such as herbes de Provence (scroll through kebabs for recipe at the bottom), garam masala, Cajun seasoning, etc)

1 tablespoon kosher salt

2 tablespoons neutral oil (canola/grapeseed/vegetable)

Heat one side of a charcoal or gas grill to medium (you can hold your hand 5 inches above the grill for 3 to 4 seconds) and the other to medium-low (you can hold your hand 5 inches above the grill for 5 to 6 seconds). If using charcoal, bank most of the hot coals to one side and keep the other side relatively lean. Set the grill grate on grill and let it heat up, then use a grill brush to scrape away any bits attached to the grates.

Place the chicken on a cutting board. Turn it upside down so the legs point away from you and the neck opening faces you. Position poultry shears to the right of the backbone—that’s the knobby looking bit on top of the neck cavity. Slice all the way down to the tail, staying as close to the spine as possible. Do the same on the other side.

Remove the backbone (save in a freezer bag for chicken stock).

Turn out the legs so the entire cavity is exposed.

Turn the chicken over. If you are going to remove the wishbone, locate it at the top of the neck cavity. Feel for the arch shape and then run your finger down to locate the tip of the wishbone near the wing joint. Snip it out using the poultry shears (removing the wishbone is optional).

Staring at the top of the breast, run your fingers under the skin separating the skin and sticky membrane from the meat to create a pocket. Do the same where the thigh connects to the lower part of the breast-area, sliding your finger up and over the thigh and under the skin. I like to keep wiggling my fingers down the leg and jostle it a bit to loosen the skin around the drumstick too.

Spoon some of the spices in each pocket you just made—some spices under the skin of each breast, and some in the thigh/drumstick pocket. Use your fingers to rub the spice over the meat. Tuck the wings behind the breasts (so the chicken looks like its reclining with its hands behind its head for a nice rest).

Pour the oil into a ramekin or small bowl. Fold up a few sheets of paper towels and use tongs to dip the paper towels into the oil. Wipe the oil across the grill grates on both sides of the grill. Place the chicken skin-side down on the hot side of the grill and cook until the skin is golden brown and nicely marked, 3 to 5 minutes. Use tongs to flip the chicken over and place it bony-side down on the cool side of the grill. Cover (make sure the vents are open in the lid if using a charcoal grill) and grill until cooked through and the juices at the thigh joint run clear, 25 to 40 minutes depending on the heat of the grill and the size of the bird. Remove the chicken from the grill and rest it for 10 minutes before carving.

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