Quick Skillet Coq au Vin
I’m not really one to go to what is commonly thought of as stereotypical college parties. Especially those of a small, nothing-else-to-do town, where everyone from the small, nothing-else-to-do liberal arts college cram into one big house. People, it gets crowded in those houses, and by crowded I mean sweaty and gross and hot. I don’t mean to sound too lame, but just the thought of that gives my claustrophobic self some anxiety.
Considering this, it’s not like I was looking forward to turning 21 almost half a year ago and the freedom of buying alcohol as that big of a deal (not that it’s that big of a deal to underage students around here anyway, but I digress). I figured, eh, I’ve lived 21 years just fine without being able to buy it, not much is going to change just because all of a sudden, one day I can.
Oh, how I was wrong! Once I turned 21, I felt like a different person. A whole citizen, who could do whatever I wanted! No matter if I despised the idea of drinking by myself and the only form of alcohol that doesn’t taste like rubbing alcohol to me is wine and ciders—no, that doesn’t matter at all. The point is that I could walk into any store I’d like, and purchase whatever I wanted in it. I’d walk through the wine aisles in grocery stores and feel satisfied that nothing was out of reach for me. I don’t mean to sound over the top (even though I’ve probably already reached that threshold), but almost began to think in my head that my pre-21-self was a poor, lowly, marginalized person in America who wasn’t extended the full rights that I should be entitled to. It ended up being a very big deal to me, obviously.
Anyway, I buy alcohol sometimes now. Yeah, I’ve become not only the stereotypical college student that has some form of alcohol in the cupboards, I’ve become the greater-yet-stereotypical snobby, cultured college student that snubs my nose at almost all beer but will pretend to recognize different wines. Oh well, that’s how it goes. I like it, because instead of wishing I had some good beer for Waylon and I to drink with the homemade soft pretzels I made last spring, now I can make that happen. When I want to make risotto, I can use white wine, and not just chicken stock. When I want to make coq au vin, key word vin, I actually can. Can you see, now, why this is something of a slight revelation to me? Any recipe is accessible to me. Hopefully you guys will hold me accountable to that and make me actually try experimenting with new things.
Anyway, about this chicken that has vin. Yes, it’s a quick and dirty version of the classic coq au vin Julia Child made famous. I have yet to make or even try this classic version (though I’d really love to one day), so I can’t really accurately compare it to this dish. I’m guessing this one isn’t near as good, but that’s what one gets for having “quick” in the title. It is really easy, though, and I think it’s one of those weeknight dishes that are worth the slight effort you put in. It follows the simple steps of rendering the fat of some bacon until the pieces become crisp, then sauteing chicken breast cutlets in the drippings. Within minutes the chicken is cooked, and you remove it temporarily to brown up sliced cremini mushrooms and shallots. The shallots are sliced through the root end, so hopefully they won’t all fall apart, but we do the best we can with that. Then a fair amount of wine and chicken stock gets added, and that bubbles away until it reduces a bit. At this point, you add in flour to thicken the sauce, nestle the chicken back in amongst the vegetables to warm it back up again and soak in some juices, and before you know it, you have quick, skillet coq au vin.
For how simple and straightforward it is, I loved it. Juicy chicken, delicious sauce and drippings, and all good, classic flavors. It’s one of those things that I’d like to credit myself with knowing how to make, being able to fall back on it when I need a dinner fast (considering I have red wine on hand). This time, I served it with a simple potato gratin, which I loved if only because I find pleasure when all the food on my plate matches up cuisine-wise, but it’d be nice to serve with something to soak up all those juices better—maybe mashed potatoes, crusty bread, or even rice.
One Year Ago: Best Banana Bread
Quick Skillet Coq au Vin
Adapted slightly from Bon Appetit, October 2010
4 bacon slices, coarsely chopped
2 skinless, boneless chicken breasts, halved and trimmed to make 4 cutlets
6 ounces cremini mushrooms, halved or quartered
6 shallots, halved or quartered through the root end
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 1/2 cups dry red wine
1 1/4 cups low-sodium chicken broth
1 heaping tablespoon all-purpose flour
fresh italian parlsey, chopped, to garnish (optional)
Saute bacon in a large skillet over medium-high heat until crisp and most of the fat has been rendered. Using a slotted spoon, remove the bacon and set aside. Discard all but about 2 tablespoons of the bacon fat left in the pan, if necessary. Meanwhile, pat the chicken cutlets dry and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Add to the drippings in the skillet, and cook until cooked through, about 5 minutes on each side. Remove chicken from skillet and set aside.
Add chopped mushrooms and shallots to the skillet, and sprinkle in a pinch of salt and pepper. Saute until browned, about 4 minutes. Add garlic and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add the wine, 1 cup of the broth, and the bacon into the skillet. Bring to a boil while scraping all the browned bits off the bottom of the pan. Reduce slightly to a steady simmer, and allow to simmer for about 10 minutes, or until the liquid has been reduced by about maybe a third or so.
Meanwhile, add the remaining 1/4 cup broth in a small bowl with the heaping tablespoon of flour; stir until smooth. Add the flour mixture to the sauce and stir in. At this point you can nestle the chicken (as well as any juices they accumulated) back in the skillet between the shallots and mushrooms. Let the mixture settle and thicken for about 3 or 4 more minutes, until your liking. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Serve, sprinkling with parsley if you’d like.
PS: Also, I gave in—I got an iphone. No matter that I have strictly hated anything smart phone or that one of my favorite quotes is one by Max Frisch, saying “technology is the knack of so arranging the world so that we don’t have to experience it.” What can I say, it just kind of happened. I always end up giving in to everything I at first hate. (Besides Waylon. I always liked him from the beginning.) But, silver lining: I’m probably going to be more active on my twitter, now that I can post pictures of things easily. Just in case you’re interested.