Wednesday, August 27, 2008


I actually laughed -- several times -- while reading the Editor's letter in the September edition of Gourmet. The theme of the issue is exploring Paris on a budget, so I found it laughable that she considers a 40-euro lunch a real bargain. Apparently her version of poor and my version are not the same.  

Aside from Ruth's distorted version of living on the cheap, the issue is very good. I'm not sure there are too many people out there who have been to Paris and don't miss it, at least culinarily. 

Today we will be making a recipe from this issue of Gourmet Magazine

I'm the kind of cook that just sees something that looks good, then I make my own version. I rarely follow recipes and when I do, I admit I improvise way more than I should. But I'm changing. I read something once on a favorite blog of mine, French Laundry at Home, where the author addresses those who feel certain types of food, like that found at the French Laundry, is fussy. And to the uneducated, it does seem fussy ... but she explains very convincingly how in reality, fussy implies that there are unnecessary processes that are  being carried out by someone lacking expertise. And that simply isn't the case. 

And she should know, having now made almost every recipe in the French Laundry cookbook! She simply puts it "If the chef/owner of 2 of the best restaurants in the land is recommending a certain way to do something to yield the best result, then damn skippy I'm gonna try it. I've gotten an incredible education from cooking my way through it. It's cracked open so many "Oh, NOW I get it" moments that have changed the way I make a sandwich, pull together a last-minute salad dressing, or cook a steak. And, it's actually made me smarter, faster, and more creative in the kitchen. Now, I can pull together a really great dinner for 6 in 20-30 minutes, and truly blow my friends away. "   

I've never looked at recipes the same since. You're never too old to change, and never too old to learn something new. So today marks the beginning of a new blog. I will still do posts of my own concoctions, but I think I'm going to do away with the restaurant review posts, because no one really cares anyway since there are people from all over reading this, not just Orange County, and instead replace them with recipes I pull from popular magazines and out of my giant collection of cookbooks. And I will make them as close to the way they are written as possible. We'll see how these translate from book to real life. 

First up:  NEW COQ AU VIN, courtesy Gourmet, Sept/08

I spot this recipe in the new issue of Gourmet. The "New Coq Au Vin."  What makes it new? I wonder. Oh ... I see; It takes less than an hour from start to finish! Excellent. Let's do it! I'll go get a chicken from the freezer. 

First up, peel and chop the celery, 3 stalks. It didn't exactly say to peel it, but I like to take a few of the strings off. No big deal. I also peeled and cut in half 8 cloves of garlic. 

The recipe actually called for thighs only, but I didn't see that until after I had thawed my chicken, and besides, I wouldn't have had the time to run to the store to get a big package of chicken thighs anyway, especially when I had a perfectly good whole chicken ready to go. So. I cut the chicken into pieces that were all relatively the same size. Now we have a variety. No harm, right? It's still mostly in line with the original recipe. Hey, I'm trying. 

Brown the chicken in batches, skin side down (do not turn), and transfer to a plate. 

Saute the celery and garlic until it starts to soften. 

Add 1 cup of  wine, reduce by half. Then add 1 cup of water.

Put the chicken back into the pan. Now, in the recipe it suggests a stovetop method - to cover lightly and cook for about 30 minutes. I just put mine in the oven, at 350, for around 55 minutes. At my house, the oven is safer because I have a child who likes to turn knobs on the stove, and often will turn  your burners off and you don't realize it! 

The suggest side - Olive Oil Mashed Potatoes. Easy enough. 

I decide to put in a dash of truffle oil with the potatoes. Not exactly called for in the recipe, but so what -- they're just mashed potatoes. 

Ever use a ricer? I've actually never had a ricer until just recently ... but I love it! And it makes mashed potatoes perfectly! You don't even need to peel them, you just cook the potatoes, then cut in half, and plop them in and squeeze. It all comes out like fluffy clouds, skins left behind. Now just add your warm milk/cream and whatever else. Like velvet - guaranteed, and no more chewy over-worked taters. 

Potatoes done - check. 
Chicken done - check. 
Throw together a quick spinach salad - check.  

Tender chicken, rich sauce, small bites of sweet garlic. Celery doesn't always make people jump for joy, but it offers such a wonderful and unique flavor, so don't leave it out! Along with the fluffy potatoes (with just a slight hint of truffle) this was a delicious dinner. And although I didn't make mine on the stovetop as the original recipe called for, I really think putting it the oven was a good decision because it came out fantastic.