Friday, 17 October 2014

Coq-Au-Vin and flavour-layering skills

Well, 200 or so of our closest friends are coming for lunch on Saturday to celebrate Monarch Park Collegiate's 50th Anniversary. What to do? What to do? Pizza? K-fry?


We will make and offer one of the great classical dishes of French cuisine: Coq-Au-Vin (translated, roughly, as chicken in wine). It is simply delicious ... the tasting I did with you in class 2 days ago was sensational ... you all loved it ... and now I am teaching you to make this wonderful dish that can be one of your go-tos if someone asks you to make a good meal.

Coq-Au-Vin can be made on the day of service, or the day before and just refrigerated. You can even freeze it! Here are a few hints so you can do it well.

First, make sure you have all the necessary ingredients ... the main ones are the chicken, the thick bacon or pancetta for lardons, the pearl onions and the mushrooms. As well, try to use the most lovely fresh Thyme you can find ... it is best to grow your own ... and fresh, whole Bay Laurel leaves.

Second, the way I have taught you is to do all your mis-en-place and reserve everything in small bowls so all ingredients are at hand as you work your magic with the heat and your hands.

Third, use a good, deep pan and don't try to cook too fast ... remember the two words you never want to hear from anyone who is cooking, so SLOW DOWN and cook carefully.

Fourth, as soon as you have finished prepping your chicken, clean, clean, clean your equipment with lots of soap and hot water, then rinse well. You do not ever want to cross-contaminate, particularly with poultry. Slow and safe is good.

Last, measure your wine and stock so you have a pretty close 50/50 split. It tastes better that way. IF you have to add a little more later on, make a little more of the mix.

A couple of comments, then a warning:

If you can make your own stock, do so and freeze it. You will always enjoy working with ingredients you have made with your own hands and skills, and your guests will be VERY impressed with your breadth of skills and knowledge. Remember, most people run out of cooking imagination at the end of an egg or two. Don't be that person!

My other comment is about taking time to layer your flavours carefully ... rub the thyme, don't be afraid to use good pepper and salt ... and don't use cheap or 'off' wine. If you aren't much of a wine person (and why should you be as high school students?), ask a knowledgeable parent or parental friend for good advice and then follow it.

A little warning ... practice your flambe skills where you won't start a fire ... do it outside (in good weather) and practice, practice, practice. There is no substitute for developed skill, and none of it comes from luck.

So, go and be not afraid! Offer to make this for your family, practice on people who will be supportive and gently forgiving. If you have problems or questions, speak with me in class or write a comment below. You too can end up looking like these happy young chefs!

Good luck!


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