It's not necessarily that it's all that cold outside. In fact, it's quite the opposite. I pulled off an absolutely adorable sleeveless minidress with open-toed stilettos to dinner the other night...
It's just that last week it rained. No, it poured. And pouring rain, because it is the only thing that forces us to wear sleeves, closed-toe shoes, dare I say boots? Yes I dare, so there "boots," and stay indoors in this otherwise paradise city, finally made it, no really finally, it finally finally made the season actually really feel like... fall!
Except that it's calendarily the dead of winter.
And if last weekend felt like fall, then this weekend was a bright, sunshiny, Indian summer with temperatures clocking in at 90 degrees.
Ok, I exaggerate. 85 degrees.
Ok, seriously, even when I'm not exaggerating, Mother Nature seems to be trying to make a point with a January high of 77 degrees, though I'm not sure what that point is. I get that LA is the Eternal Sunshine if You Don't Mind, but back-to-back bursts of sequentially reversed fall then summer in the middle of winter means that I have to wear a bikini and Uggs while oven-braising a cherry-nectarine stew.
Do you see why I might seem a little schizophrenic lately? No? Oh, just you wait and see. Us.
I made warm, wintry Coq au Vin for the first time ever, not during the winter, but during last summer. Who stands at the stove for hours cooking every component of a dish separately, then keeps the stove on, not only slow braising an entire chicken in a pot of red wine and stock, but energy inefficiently heating a house that has the air conditioning running to counteract the "sweltering" 80 degree August temperatures outside?!
So it made perfect sense to me to make Coq au Vin again now, January "summer." Same weather, different recipe. And though this time it it is still not temperaturally appropriate, it is seasonally appropriate.
Winter-Summer Coq au Vin
adapted from a recipe by Julia Child
½ cup lardons
2-4 tablespoons olive oil
1 3-pound chicken cut into parts, very thoroughly patted dry with paper towels
¼ cup Cognac
2 cups red wine
2 cups brown chicken stock
1 bay leaf
4 sprigs of fresh thyme (or ¼ teaspoon dried thyme)
1 to 2 cloves garlic, smashed
salt and pepper to taste
optional: 1 tablespoon tomato paste
2-4 tablespoons olive oil for cooking onions and mushrooms
16 to 20 small white onions, peeled
1 pound fresh mushrooms, trimmed, washed, and halved (or quartered)
3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons butter, softened
fresh chopped parsley
Sauté lardons in 2 tablespoons oil in a large pan with high sides or heavy-bottomed casserole until lightly browned. Remove lardons to a separate plate and leave fat in pan.
Season chicken pieces with salt and pepper.
Heat fat in pan to moderately hot, add chicken, not crowding pan; turn frequently to brown on all sides. Pour in the Cognac, bring to a simmer, then ignite Cognac with a match. Let flame a minute, swirling pan to burn off alcohol. Extinguish with pan cover.
Pour the red wine into the pan and add just enough stock to completely cover the chicken pieces. Add cooked lardons, bay leaf, thyme, and garlic (and tomato paste if you're using it). Bring the liquid to a simmer, then cover pan, and simmer slowly for about 30 minutes or until the chicken meat is tender.
While the chicken is cooking, heat about 2 tablespoons olive oil in a large frying pan over medium heat. Add mushrooms and saute over high heat for 4 to 5 minutes or until lightly browned. Remove from heat.
Wipe out pan. Heat 2 tablespoons olive oil over medium heat. Add onions and cook for several minutes until lightly browned. Add water to halfway up onions. Cover pan and simmer slowly for 25 to 30 minutes or until onions are tender when pierce with a knife.
When the chicken is done cooking, remove from the pan to a platter, leaving the cooking liquid in the pan. Increase heat to high and boil the cooking until approximately 2 cups of liquid remains.
In a small bowl, blend the 3 tablespoons flour and 2 tablespoons softened butter into a smooth paste. Whisk the flour/butter mixture into the approximately 2 cups hot cooking liquid. Simmer and stir for a minute or two until the sauce has thickened.
Add the chicken back to the casserole along with the browned mushrooms and onions. Garnish with fresh chopped parsley and thyme.