Saturday, March 9, 2013

Cooking with Wine

"I enjoy cooking with wine. Sometimes I even put it in the food." 
This famous Julia Child quote is also probably my culinary mantra. Because wine (and other alcohol) can be a powerful flavor extractor. Alcohol's ability to carry flavors can be a great asset to cooks. Wine can add brightness to vegetables and deep concentration to meats. And wine gives a complex acidity to any dish. Wine is also just really enjoyable to drink. 

With this dish, you get the chance to do both. You're welcome. 

I enjoy making a soup or stew on most weekends. With daylight savings time upon us, I wanted to go for something a little "Springier" than I've been making of late. This is a fresher, green-herb-laced version of the French classic. I'd say the French know a thing or two about wine. So grab a bottle of wine and make this. You don't even have to tell anyone how much wine you drank vs put in the food. It'll be our little secret.

I used a California Chardonnay. I hope France will understand.

And bring on Spring!

White Wine Coq Au Vin
from Sunset

4 1/2 Tbsp flour
3/4 tsp kosher salt, divided
1/2 tsp ground black pepper, divided
1 tsp herbes de Provence
4 slices bacon (1/4 lb), chopped
1 1/2 lbs boned, skinned chicken thighs
2 Tbsp olive oil
1 1/2 cups peeled baby carrots
3 stalks celery
1 medium onion
1 1/3 cups Chardonnay
2 cups reduced-sodium chicken broth
1/2 cup lightly packed flat-leaf parsley sprigs
1/2 cup lightly packed fresh tarragon sprigs
Baguette for serving (optional)

1. In a plastic bag, shake flour with 1/2 tsp salt, 1/4 tsp pepper, and the herbs de Provence; set aside. 
Ye old faithful ziploc bag. Perfect to toss the chicken in the seasoned flour mixture.

2. In a 5- to 6-qt pan over medium-high heat, brown bacon, stirring occasionally, 6-7 minutes. Meanwhile, cut chicken into 1-in chunks, then shake half at a time in flour to coat. 
3. With a slotted spoon, transfer bacon from pan to paper towels. Brown half the chicken in bacon fat, stirring occasionally, 3-5 minutes. Transfer to a plate. Repeat with remaining chicken, adding oil to pan. Meanwhile, cut carrots in half lengthwise and cut celery into diagonal slices. Chop onion. 
Add the "spiked" broth to the sautéed vegetables.

4. Add vegetables to pan with remaining salt and pepper and saute until onion is golden, about 5 minutes. Meanwhile, in a microwave safe bowl, microwave wine and broth until steaming, about 3 minutes. 
Everything tastes better with bacon, right?

5. Add broth mixture, chicken and bacon to pan, stirring to loosen browned bits. Cover and bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce heat and simmer until vegetables are tender, about 15 minutes. Meanwhile, coarsely chop parsley and tarragon. Stir them into stew. Plate and serve with a crusty baguette. Serves 4. 
Fresh parsley and tarragon add a wonderful dimension of brightness to the stew.

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