Sunday, November 28, 2010

Sully’s Test Kitchen – T Day Edition

Hello! I’m back, and just in time to report on some T Day cooking!

“Sully, where the F you been??”

I been busy. Deal with it.

So it was Thanksgiving the other day and I wanted to create an epic dish. There’s something incredibly satisfying about cooking a meal that takes longer to finish than a “Godfather” Movies Marathon. So I started reflecting on my options and decided to do a Coq au Vin, or, literally “Rooster in Wine” (I’ll be using a chicken though). S’French and junk.

Now, you may be saying, “Wait a sec Sull, you’re not going to do a turkey??” And to that I respond, Fuckin’ A right I’m not doing a turkey. Turkey can kiss my ass. The End.

At its core, this dish is a chicken stew, probably a descendant of peasant cooking. The main ingredients are first sautéed in the mother of all flavorings, The Holiest of Holies, Saint Bacon Fat. (I know it seems like cheating but why else do you think French food tastes so Goddamn awesome?) Then, it’s marinated in wine and cooked slowly over low heat for several hours. I mean, unless you do this with piles of shit, it is impossible to screw up. Heck, even with actual shit it would probably still taste decent because… bacon fat.

So: start with a hunk of this stuff called salt pork. It’s similar to bacon in that it’s usually from the pork belly but it’s not smoked or cured, which you don’t want anyways because you want to keep the flavors clean. You then have to blanch the stuff (boil in water for a few minutes) to draw out the salt so you can be in charge of your own seasoning destiny. So right there, with just this first ingredient, you have to subject it to a 4 step process (boil water, blanch, remove and shock in cold water and dry off) before you can even start using it. Oh, and it has to be cut in lardons (1 inch by 1/8 inch strips). And we haven’t even done any cooking yet! Jesus Christ.

The lardons get sautéed to render their love juice, until they’re nice and brown and crispy. Remove from the pan. FOR THE LOVE OF GOD DO NOT THROW THEM AWAY! If you do, I will feel it deep in my heart and a piece of my soul will die. Plus, they’re going to come in handy later on.

The rest of the prep work isn’t all that exciting. You gotta peel some pearl onions (which are tiny, white, round, pains in the ass to peel – if you give ‘em a quick blanch it will help loosen the skin), quarter some mushrooms and chop up your standard mirepoix – carrots, onions, celery. Season the chicken and lightly dust with flour. The ingredients then get divided into 2 camps: those that get the glorious bacon fat treatment and those that are added to the marinade for flavor. They breakdown thusly:

Glorious Bacon Fat Treatment (of love):

Pearl onions



Flavor Department (necessary, but boring):




Garlic (few cloves)

6-7 thyme sprigs

1 bay leaf

The boring stuff can be rough chopped and thrown in your Dutch oven. Yawn.

The other stuff gets sautéed, in the order listed above, in magic flavor juice until golden brown and delicious. You may have to intermittently add more fat to the pan, like a pat of butter, or bacon fat, if you happen to have any lying around, which I do, because that is how I roll. You also need to be aware that every time you lift the lid off the pan, it’s going to be like ‘Nam, if ‘Nam was fought on a battle field of molten hot grease spitting everywhere. And don’t even THINK about cleaning up until you’re all done. As long as frying is going on, your stove top is going to be coated in more oil than the Deepwater Horizon. Except way tastier.

When all the frying is done – and this step is crucial, listen up - deglaze that pan with about a cup of grandma’s brandy. Scrape up those burnt bits on the bottom, kids; that there is the money shot. It may look like scorched crap but that crap is the stuff of pure flavor concentrate. It’s the point of doing all of this and if you throw it away, another piece of my soul will die and let’s face it; I don’t have much left of my soul to throw around, so please remember to deglaze. It also makes cleaning the pan easier.

Chicken goes in the pot. Pearl onions and mushrooms get stored with the lardons in a separate container – that is going to be the garnish. Dump a bottle of wine in the pot (pinot noir, preferably), add chick stock until everything’s submerged and cover. Refrigerate. You are now 75% done with this ridiculous dish. Open another bottle of wine for imbibing but leave grandma’s brandy in the cupboard. That shit is vile.

Day 2 – The Reckoning

Pre-heat oven to 325. Place the Dutch oven in your (wait for it)… oven for 2 – 2 ½ hours. Go watch the Lions get their asses handed to them. Again. Pull pot out of the oven. Remove the chicken to a heat safe container. At this point it will be completely falling apart and tender as hell. Cover and place in the still-warm oven until the sauce is done. Strain out the rest of the crap and retain the braising liquid in a sauce pan. Reduce liquid to about 1/3 and throw in your lardon/onion/mushroom garnish to heat through. The liquid should, by this time, taste absolutely incredible; an intense combination of chicken, roasted veggies, bacon and wine. Add a nice sized pat of butter if you want to feel extra French and pour everything over the chicken. Serve with egg noodles. Accept ravishing praise and blow jobs for the awesome food you have just prepared. You’ve earned it.

Notes to Self Section

This is a really fantastic holiday dish as long as you have time to prep the night before. The flavor is deep and complex, and it frees you up during the day to do other important things, like drink, and watch your boyfriend cook all the other courses. I can’t think of anything to substantially change about this recipe; those wily French pretty much have it down: brown in bacon fat, marinate in wine, cook low and slow, reduce to condense and then punch yourself in the face with the rich, silky flavors. Ain’t no turkey that can pull off this shit.

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