Devon October 26, 1998 The weekend the clocks go back, as hinted
last week, for us is always a time of mourning. Certainly it marks the
onset of winter, of wet and wild weather as the fronts roll in from
the Atlantic to buffet Devon, of the River Exe transforming from a recreational
playground that is the tidal estuary in summer to a nature sanctuary
and fast-flowing river, habitat now of birds not boats. As we look forward
to Bonfire Night, a celebration not so much of Guy Fawkes but rather
of pagan winter rituals, we look beyond to the bleaker prospect of days
drawing in ever shorter and shorter -- at the year's nadir in December,
on a bleak or overcast day, it can be dark here already by 3.30-4 pm
-- and to limited opportunities for decent afternoon cycling. Certainly,
we are thankful we don't live in Scandinavia or within the Arctic Circle
(though the bacchanalian prospect of endless days or nights in midsummer
must be some compensation).
though, it must be said, may have other compensations, too. Not least
the chance to enjoy again simple, classic comfort foods that are at
once as easy to prepare as they are satisfying to consume. Burgundian
coq au vin remains one of our all-time favourites. We hope you'll
enjoy this version, based on a recipe from our first book, The
Wine & Food of Europe.
cuisine is not sophisticated; its essence, in fact, is simplicity.
Like all great regional cuisines, it is an outgrowth of practical
considerations, and its origins remain rooted in peasant tradition.
Coq au vin, for example, (sometimes pretentiously called coq
au Chambertin, but who on earth would use that great growth in
the cooking pot?) was originally created to make use of the old and
probably tough-as-boots cockerel. Most wine districts throughout Europe
have a version of this ubiquitous chicken-stewed-in-wine dish, though
nowhere is it more delicious than here, served in a dark red wine
sauce, garnished with salt pork or bacon, button mushrooms and baby
onions. This is simple, deeply flavoured, and deeply comforting food
to savour with a good goblet of Burgundy as the nights draw in.
100 g salt pork
(or bacon), cut into cubes
20 baby onions,
1 medium to
large chicken, jointed into 8-12 pieces
Salt and freshly
Half a bottle
of young red wine, preferably Macon or Beaujolais
300 ml rich
1 bouquet garni
2 cloves garlic,
peeled and crushed
Sprig of fresh
2 bay leaves
250 g. button
mushrooms, cleaned but left whole
the butter and oil in a large, heavy casserole and gently fry the
salt pork or bacon. Add the baby onions and fry until golden. Remove
and set aside. Season the chicken pieces, and add to the hot oil and
butter. Fry until browned. Return the onions and salt pork to the
pot, heat a ladle, add the brandy, set alight and pour into the pan,
shaking all the while until the flames subside. Add the red wine,
chicken stock, herbs and garlic. Bring to the simmering point and
cover. Cook slowly for 45 minutes to 1 hour, depending on how tender
or tough the chicken is.
fry the mushrooms briskly in the vegetable oil until well browned.
Add to the chicken and cook for a further 10 minutes. Uncover, skim
off fat, and raise heat to reduce cooking liquid until it is thick
and concentrated, and coats the back of a spoon (in Burgundy, the
sauce might be thickened using beurre manié, that is,
a knob of butter mixed with flour; we prefer instead to thicken by
reduction). Adjust the seasoning and serve at once.
suggestion: Accompany preferably with the same wine that you used
for cooking -- it is incredible how the tastes can complement one
another. We suggest a Mâcon Villages, Hautes Côtes de
Nuits, or cru Beaujolais. Or, if funds or the occasion can
run to it, why not a classic Burgundy from a village or individual
appellation in the Côtes de Nuits or Côtes de Beaune.
Copyright © Marc Millon
|QP New Media| |Kim's
Copyright © Marc and Kim Millon 2000