p1: Escargot de Bourgogne

enhanced-buzz-16649-1385769921-4The Dish

The thought of Snails in food culture, if we were to ask practically anyone, is inherently considered a solely French interest, as the eponymous “Escargot.” And yet these adorably skin-crawling critters have been found to have ancient culinary use in multiple Mediterranean societies, particularly those of Roman and Cistercian focus. For those in the know, both of these regions and cultures have great acclaim as some of the biggest influence in the development and, most important, spread of grape vines through trade and travel. We could likely theorize that it was through these same journeys that the use and taste for snails spread from the Mediterranean to France.

Here they’ve found a stronghold in a certain Burgundian recipe, simply baked with garlic-herb butter. Whether the growing environment was ideal or the regional dish was lucky enough to explode in popularity, the fact remains that Escargot de Bourgogne has become the global example for cooking snails. In fact, of the two most common type of snails eaten today, the variety known as “Escargot de Bourgogne” stands at the forefront (the other is known as Petite-Gris, or “little grays”).

They’re certainly a scary thing to think about eating for those not-so-epicurious, especially if they haven’t had it yet. But believe me, same with any offal meat, if you have one that’s prepared properly, and don’t think hard on what it is before murder and fire, this tender and buttery-delicious dish can be a sending from heaven. So put your fears in the back seat and let’s cook something odd.

A Word On…

20140415_153134Snails:Really the only important thing in this highly simplistic French classic… and we can’t even get it over here. Well, not the Fresh and still-alive ones anyways, or at least not without some serious digging. What we DO have is a choice: canned or frozen. Pre-cooked and pre-purged (they’re diet makes them naturally quite toxic if eaten without purging), it takes the major effort of the lengthy and important snail prep away, but then again we also lose the joy and better flavors of cooking something from fresh. Oh well.

Canned is probably the better way to go. Frozen one has to of course worry about damages during defrosting; not to mention that all frozen escargot I’ve found already come “pre-stuffed” with a butter I’m sure isn’t quite as good as what we can make at home, not to mention it takes away the one thing that we can make by hand. If you’re lucky, you can find a canned version that comes with a tube of empty shells like I did at a special seafood shop. Funny story, at first I thought all the shells were already filled, and the can on the bottom was just a label; then I found out otherwise.

If, somehow, you can find still-alive snails to work with, there are some very special considerations that need to be taken into consideration. To keep it simple, here’s what needs to be done. Fast/Starve them for at least one day, up to 3 is best (if you want to feed them, use thyme and other flavorful herbs). Rinse and Cover with Salt and Vinegar for 3 hours. Rinse again, boil in shells 10 minutes ish. Remove from the shells, then boil and sanitize the empty containers. Rinse snails again, removing a black part at the end of the tail. Simmer snails slowly in a flavorful liquid for about 1-2 hours, until tender. Drain, pat dry, and use.20140427_155505

See? So much more work than rinsing canned snails off in water.

Cooking:Traditionally this is a dish “a la Bourguignonne,” the most famous and commonly seen version of snails, simply stuffed with the garlic-herb butter in its shell and baked. There are other ways to cook these snails though; the Bordelais (Bordeaux region) with “stew” piles of in-shell creatures in a broth of wine, herbs, and stock, sometimes tomato-based. If one has the time, interest, and resources, they should look into playing around with it (I just might).

People don’t always have access to snails with shells, as mentioned earlier with most pre-cooked, canned versions we can get. My suggestion is simple, toss the meaty buggers in an open baking dish/casserole, cover in enough butter to submerge and bake until it’s all melted and sizzling.

Which is something to diverge off of. I’ve found, even in shell, there is no such thing as a set cooking temperature or time; from 350F to 450F, the only set rule is that it should bake in an over until all butter is melted, bubbling, and you’re sure the snails are hot.

Compound B20140424_201648utter:Basically, any butter mixed with seasoning, aromatics, etc. The traditional compound for this dish, as mentioned, consists of lotsa Garlic, some Shallots, and Parsley; a couple recipes I’ve found also include Brandy or a bit of White Wine.

The main consideration here is how these are all combined; usually this is done by hand or with electric mixer. However, we want to get all these herbs and garlic pulsed fine and thoroughly, thoroughly blended into the butter. If it’s strong enough, a Food Processor works well for this; normally this would be where I wax and wane over my handy-dandy-tiny-processor, but it’s sadly not sharp or strong enough to shred those herbs and garlic up into the paste I need. As such, if you’re in a similar situation or just don’t have a processor, make sure that these ingredients are chopped VERY fine for the ideal butter.

Also, don’t be afraid to make a big batch! Make sure you have enough to stuff into the shells, and if there’s leftover just roll it up in a little bundle and store in the freezer for later use; it’s great on top of a freshly grilled steak, or pushed under the skin of a chicken that’s about to be roasted. Or just more snails.

Baking Dish:Cooked in-shell, these garlicky baked snails are known for being baked and served in a special “casserole,” a baking dish with semi-spherical holders (sorta looks like a takoyaki grill… or those pans that make spherical pancakes). Obviously not everyone has one of these, and I think it’d be ridiculous to buy one just for this use (unless you do indeed eat snails relatively often, and if so GOOD FOR YOU!!). One could probably just crowd them tight together in a regular casserole or baking tin without issue. I refer the use of a muffin tin, thus giving each shell its own holder. If only it would look as pretty to serve in, but oh well, nothing wrong with snails on a plate (Lamest. Movie Ripoff Name. Ever. But the most delicious though).20140427_131337

Escargot20140424_200057
2 Shallots
1 small head or ½ large head Garlic
½ Bunch Fresh Parsley
1 ½ cups (3 sticks) Unsalted Butter, softened
3 Tb Brandy (Cognac preffered)
1-2 Tb White Wine
Salt and Pepper
Cooked and Prepared Snails + Shells

Directions

  1. Finely, finely mince Shallots, Garlic, and Parsley and much as possible.       Note: a tip for the Parsley is to run it under water first, damp with paper towel and then proceed to de-stem and chop. It’ll stick together and mince easier. Will need to squeeze out some excess water though.20140424_201702
  2. If you have one that’s strong enough, combine everything besides the Snails in a food processor, blending until the aromatics are chopped fine and fully incorporated. Note: if this step applies, you don’t need to chop the aromatics so finely in the first step, just roughly.20140424_202756
  3. If no (strong) Processor is available, combine aromatics, Butter, Brandy, Wine, and a healthy seasoning of Salt and Pepper in bowl, mixing thoroughly until fully incorporated (electric mixer helps).20140427_162318
  4. Transfer to container or roll into log via plastic wrap and store for later use.
  5. Remove from fridge at least an hour before ready. Turn over to 400F once close.20140427_130758
  6. While it’s still somewhat firm, stuff the Empty Snail Shells with at least ½ tsp of thecompound butter, pushing towards the back.20140427_155833
  7. Prepare Snails as needed. Push deeply into the snail shells.20140427_161437
  8. Scoop big wads of the softened butter up and into the shells, topping the meat with a smoothed out later.20140427_175406
  9. Transfer shells to an escargot baking tray or, more available, muffin tin. Place in Hot oven and cook until ready.20140427_180418
  10. Once butter is melted, bubbly, and snails are heated through, about 12-15 minutes ish, remove and serve.20140427_180723
  11. Plate up with warm, crusty pieces of baguette and tiny forks.

20140427_181032The Verdict

I think I needed a lot more butter, these guys should be “swimming” in it. Other than that, the flavor was delicious as expected, not as garlicky as I thought (and somewhat hoped) but it was noticeably present and didn’t overpower anything so that’s a plus. Eaten with the baguette it filled its role that evening as a very satisfying appetizer. Oh, and it wasn’t chewy or anything, so the snails used were of good quality. Overall very enjoyable and delicious.

Would love to try handling my own fresh snails sometime though… now just have to figure out how to get me some.

Primary Pairing – Aligoté

A surprisingly spot-on revelation from the Buzzfeed team! And for such a seemingly unknown grape, those aware of it all know of the awesome pairing it makes with some select Burgundy dishes, such as a jellied ham thing and of course these garlic-butter-baked-snails.

20140427_180639Though Burgundy is known for peppering their slopes with Chardonnay and Pinot Noir, the Aligote grape is still seen in certain environments; usually on the higher, colder elevations where quality Chard won’t grow (aka it’s relegated to the crappy terroir). As such, it’s historically known to be grown along the same terroir as their black currant bushes, and Kir was born. The classic cocktail is mainly considered nowadays to be a mix of Champagne and Crème de Cassis (product of those same currants), but in reality Aligote wine is the first and proper ingredient to mix with the liqueur. Sharply acidic, herbs and stone fruit, with a lightly creamy body, it’s like a Chenin Blanc or Riesling only minus the noted petrol/cleaning chemical smell and crossed with a bit of Chardonnay. A good version would cut right through the thick-bodied sweetness of the cassis while lending a bit of mouth texture, all from a cheap, rustic grape that’s not seen as “fit” for drinking straight like the other Burgundy grapes.

But those in the know see it otherwise, and this fella, when done right, leads to a delightful and fun little mouthful of tart deliciousness. The same qualities that made it great for cocktail also lends it to eating with this garlicky, butter-rich dish; if anything one could add that both have a bit of a “uniqueness” in flavor, one being the oddly seafood-y snail and the other being the somewhat malolactic-chenin-reminiscent wine. Whatever the reason we can ponder, the fact they’ve both worked for decades is solid.

20140427_175628My Bottle: 2011 Jean-Claude Boisset Bourgogne Aligoté (Les Moutots)

Due to its not-so-esteemed status in Burgundy, there aren’t really any specific “regions” that make it, except for one: Bouzeron, located in the Côte Chalonnaise and known for being the only all-Aligote wine AOC in Burgundy. It makes fantastic versions of it, though sadly can be somewhat tricky to find (though I do know we get bottles of it in Minnesota, just not sure where yet), and can end up a bit pricey. It is an area-specific wine in Burgundy, afterall (still better priced than a Gevrey, Santenay, Pomerol, Chambolle-Musigny, or any other one, but still).

So most of the time you’ll have to find a general Bourgogne AOC, where the grapes are picked from wherever along the long region (likely from the southern areas not counting Beaujolais, where it’s more likely to be grown in mass). Luckily for us, there are still some non-Bouzeron focused winemakers that put their attention into making decent quality, drinkable Aligote, and Jean-Claude is one of them (at least he seems like it, this particular glass was quite num). The glass came out nice and crisp, cutting through the butter, followed by a certain Burgundian chardonnay-reminiscent fullness that makes me think it either had a small amount of Malolactic Fermentation applied (the process that makes those really Buttery chards) or had spent time in old oak barrels before bottling. Amazing, no probably not, but it went great alongside the garlicky-herb food, crunchy bread, and as glass to gulp down after the meal. So if you find yourself in Haskell’s like me and they only have 2-4 bottles, none of them from Bouzeron, I can safely say that THIS bottle is very satisfying and works well. If they don’t have it, then… good luck!

207025_bout_DomaineGuillotBroux_FineDeBourgogne2001_500Secondary Pairing – Fine de Bourgogne

Did you know there’s more sparkling wine in France outside of Champagne? Though since they can’t call it Champagne, the French had to settle on a different designation, and the lusciously tempting name of Cremant was born, to be attached to all other region’s name for their bubbly (Cremant d’Alsace is particularly well made).

The same concept is applied to their Brandy. Though we all, of course, are much familiar with Cognac and its sister region Armagnac, but only distilled and aged grape alcohol made in these regions can use the names. And there are so many other wineries throughout the country that make interesting Brandies, often out of “leftover” grapes that aren’t suited for their regular wine (and who wants them to be when you can make this?). These brandies are referred to as “Fine,” a suitable name consideration the levels of succulence and playful creativity one can find in these not-as-restricted brandies.

I love pairing fun and quality spirits with food, especially such simple and strong-flavored dishes like the escargot. A younger Fine, with some grainy oak flavor, that hint of maderization via the distilling action, and strong but simple flavors (usually some sort of cooked stone fruit or something) would pair nicely with this garlicky goodness, served in a small aperitif glass to sip and savor.

Give it a try, Fine de Bourgogne if you can (Burgundy particularly makes good ones), or any other non-Cog/Armagnac Brandies.

p1: Coq au Vin

For me nothing feels more right to kick off these recipes than tackling that all-time super classic, both in making and drinking with wine, Coq au Vin.

The Dishenhanced-buzz-7517-1385793394-3

Consisting of a rooster marinated and braised in wine-heavy stock, Coq au Vin’s simple concept twisted around carefully constructed French technique has vaulted it to the forefront as one of THE country’s dishes. And with SO MANY versions of it too: a Coq au Riesling made in Alsace; Coq au Blanc with Chardonnay; even a Coq au Vin Jura made from the small, tucked away region’s specialty, Vin Jaune (an almost sherry like wine that’s had HALF its volume disappear through evaporative aging). But the heart and soul of this classic, traditional dish will always lie in only one place with only one wine: Bourgogne Rouge (-cough- Red Burgundy).

One can actually speculate this rustic dish to go back multiple centuries. Its true origins ARE unknown, though it’s likely to date back to Gaul times (very old “kingdom” covering much of what is now France), after the introduction and spreading business and interest in wine of course. Many families, farmers or non, were known to have often kept at least one hen and rooster for themselves; once lived its life in full, the then-old rooster would be put to final use for a family dinner. With very tough meat, and times where people would most often have to stretch food out through stew and soup creations, it’s easy to see where the processes of marinating in the protein-softening-acidic wine (local of course, so easy to use) followed by long braising would come into play.

Of course, none of this was ever written down or recorded, so we can only speculate on how the dish officially started its footpath in this culture. Which many people have done, loudly, and with intent, enough so that we now have two little “myths” to how it began, which may or may not have ties to true events. Which, even if they do, it’s doubtful they are the origins of the dish itself, but a focal point to when coq au vin jumped into the public eye as a firmly rooted Burgundy recipe. Well, that and Julia Child (amazing how many foods in this list she’s brought to our attention).

The first Story starts with Napolean, who simply put arrived at an unexpected and ill-prepared Innmeal one night, the owner of which had little food (possibly due to a certain general’s wars) besides rooster and some cheap wine. One thing led to another as one would expect from these stories, and delicious food was born!

The second involved Julias Caesar, which stated that upon his conquering of the area was presented a rooster, which he had his chefs cook with wine, a popular drink with the Italians at the time. A myth which is most likely full bs, though the idea of Mediterranean culture interaction may bring about a clue as to why this dish is so often fond of Egg Noodles… either that or their past interactions with and geographic closeness to Germanic cultures.

Whatever the origin, the fact remains this recipe is delicious and proof to the epitomes of the simpler, rustic French culinary technique. I know I’m excited to finally dive into this classic, I do so hope those reading are too.

A Word On…

Chicken: the name of this dish truly does highlight the two components that separate it from other dishes and make it what it is. The Wine, and the Co-… er, Rooster. Any TRUE, proper, highly traditional coq au vin should use an old, beat-down, no-longer-useful-on-the-farm Rooster. Why? Because it’s a TOUGH F@#%^er, those muscles are tight and stringy and LAST through long, vigorous stewing so well, like a pork shoulder or leg or whatever section you stew. Not to mention all the flavor it’s developed through its years of walking and running and all that, which will allow it to stand out and accompany the very strong sauce we end up with. Take that next to a super-young, unhappy mass-produced hen one finds in a regular supermarket, with little to no flavor and flesh so weak and soft it’ll break apart and/or dry out before you’re even done cooking half of it.

SAMSUNGThat said, FINDING a rooster is a bitch. Good chances it won’t happen unless you live in Europe, California or New York. As for me, I called many a butcher, simply and high quality, and the best I could find was Capon (which is AWESOME, and a male chicken, but not used for something like this). What I ended up doing, and I suggest if you’re able, is getting a large Stewing Hen. They’re at least a year old, not so much as Rooster’s but definitely much better than regular chickens. Most often you’ll find it frozen but my local meat market gets some in fresh occasionally.

If still having trouble finding these, your wallet is a bit tight, or you just prefer working with regular chicken, then I implore you to skip getting a whole chicken and just buy a bunch of thighs and legs, preferably at a co-op from organic and/or free range chickens (they’ll have a BIT more flavor and exercise).

Wine: “Coq au Vin should be cooked with Burgundy.” That’s the underlying idea anyway, as is any wine-stewed dish with the regional wine of choice. Fact is though, it barely matters; the flavors and structures of any wine will change drastically once it’s cooked as-is, let alone reduced tremendously along with a strong stock, herbs, veggies, and chicken. It is definitely all right to just find and use a cheap Pinot Noir, which is the same grape that Burgundy is made from (and you should use the same “level” of red wine, don’t want a really big and tannic bottle like Cabernet or Nebbiolo). Other decent substitutions would be Merlot, Chianti, Valpolicella, lighter Red Blends, etc.
SAMSUNG
That said, if one wanted to keep the flavors traditional with how much wine is being used, there are some cheaper, competitively priced “Bourgogne AOC” wines out there for about $12-14 a bottle (or less) if one looks hard enough. These bottles have grapes which are basically sourced from wherever throughout the whole region of Burgundy and as such do not qualify for any Village-level designations. Often they will actually print “Pinot Noir” on the levels, which any QUALITY Burgundy should never be allowed to. As such it makes the perfect wine for cooking in volume! Because you never want to use a delicious, quality wine for this; all that complexity and subtlety WILL go out the window in this dish.

Cured Pork Fat: One of my favorite ingredients, in this dish and in life. Keeping traditional, one should try to find “Salt Pork,” which is easily available at any butchery of quality. Noting, you don’t want this for the actual meat; you want this for the fat, so get a block of the most fatty you can find, good chances there’ll be at least one that looks like almost pure lard (like mine!).
SAMSUNG
Though due to popular trends and ease of finding, there are many recipes that just use Bacon instead of Salt Pork, which if one wants to keep the PROPER flavors of the dish they should never use. The smoking of the pig and the particular cures used in bacon make its final flavor wildly different than a pure, simple salt pork. Not to mention it’s much harder to find one that’s pure fat.

However, I myself also like the idea of using bacon to thus impart that Smokey flavor and highlight the darker, earthier flavors of the stock and wine even further than classically designed, so it’d still make a very tasty and delicious meal. Just different.

Stock: unless you’re gathering random animal bones in your house on a semi-constant basis, it can be hard to try and make a proper animal stock; which for those unaware is made by simmering leftover bones with water (and maybe veggies and herbs depending) for hours on end. Even when I’ve had a chicken carcass to work with, leaving overnight, the resulting liquid probably had only half the concentration as opposed to what a restaurant could get (this is mainly due to the ratio they’re able to get between cramming so many broken up chicken carcasses into a giant pot and then filling the remaining space in water. VersSAMSUNGus one chicken in a single pot, filled to the top with water, much higher ratio difference). If you’re able to achieve a stock you’re satisfied with at home, then congrats and all the power to you.

If this is still out of your reach though, that’s fine. Both simple and higher end markets do sell Stock, and Chicken Broth is a very acceptable substitute (they’re practically the same thing): just make sure you buy one that’s Low Sodium, otherwise when reducing it like this recipe does will get you a pretty salty sauce. What I ended up doing, since the broth is still lighter than I want, is poured it in a pot with the leftover Chicken CarcSAMSUNGass, which I roasted, and simmered overnight (adding water back in as it evaporated), thus reinforcing and adding even more rich chicken flavor. It’s a great option for any cook.

Mushrooms: the fungus of choice for coq au vin always has been and always will be White Buttons, which are great for home cooks. Simple, readily available and price friendly. I do have to say though, I couldn’t help but want to use some form of Wild or other Quality Mushrooms when I made this, and considering all the end result does is help to emphasize the mushroom-y qualities even further I think it’s an alright and justified recipe change even when keeping traditional. Since it was winter when I attempted this, I ended up with a mixture of both buttons and King Trumpets (no wild mushrooms on the shelves, sad).

Oh, and I’d suggest not using rehydrated Dried Mushrooms. Though they’d be great to soak in and flavor the stock, they just don’t get that “right” texture that the fresh mushrooms do once sautéed. Can be sorta springy methinks.
SAMSUNG
Pearl Onions: they’re a pain in the ass to peel. I decided to follow tSAMSUNGhe advice of Alton Brown and blanch in boiling/simmering water for about a minute, stems cut off. As you can see they just squeeze right out of the skin with a bit of pressure so easily.

Days: there are some that say a true Coq au Vin takes 3-4 days to properly create and marry the flavors… let me just say that I may be a bit snobby at times in keeping things traditional here, but even that’s too much damn useless work. Ignore the stuck-up Frenchies in this case!

That said I also don’t really like the idea of making this dish in under a day unless I have to. If one is able to, I ultimately prefer the middle of the road technique displayed from Alton Brown’s recipe of completely everything up to searing and deglazing the day beforehand and then letting the chicken, wine, and broth sit and marinate together overnight. It really best allows for a bit of development and mingling with a hands-off approach, and you don’t need to wait most of the week till you can finally chow down.

Coq au Vin

1 Whole Rooster or Stewing Hen (7-9lbs)
6oz Salt Pork
¼ cup Flour
Salt n Pepper
8oz Mushrooms (Button and/or Wild), quartered/chopped
2 Tb Tomato Paste
1 ½ Bottles Red Burgundy
1 ½ cups Dark Chicken Stock
Mirepoix Veggies
1 stalk Thyme
3-4 cloves Garlic
Bay Leaf
Egg Noodles
Braised Pearl Onions (recipe follows)

Directions

SAMSUNG

    1. Separate chicken into desired components; suggested 8-piece of legs, thighs, and split airline breasts.

SAMSUNG

2. Dice Salt Pork into cubes, throw in crockpot (or other one-pot cooking pan) with 2 Tb of water, cover and heat to medium/med-high, turning it back to med-low as water evaporates and the fat starts to render.

SAMSUNG

3. While it’s cooking, season and toss chicken pieces into a bag with the Flour, tossing to lightly dredge and coat. After about 15-20 minutes, the cubes of pork will have shriveled and crisped up into crunchy, fatty Cracklings. Scoop these out and reserve in separate container.

SAMSUNG

4.Your pan now filled with a thick layer of hot, delicious pork fat, lower the chicken in to slowly sear, back on Med heat, for about 3-5 minutes a side, until the skin and flesh have achieved a crispy golden brown layer. For obvious reasons, this should be done in batches.

SAMSUNG

5. Reserve seared chicken on the side and add Mushrooms to hot oil, sautéing until shrunken, browned, and tender while still retaining a small bite. Remove and reserve.

SAMSUNG

Note: If you would like to keep a lot of this fat for future use, I suggest pouring most off BEFORE adding the mushroom. The soak up a LOT of that stuff, and only gave back a little afterwards.

SAMSUNG

6. Pour off any remaining fat and add Tomato Paste, quickly stirring to very briefly “cook/caramelize.”

SAMSUNG

7. Deglaze with small amount of wine, thoroughly scraping up all the deliciously developed Fond on the bottom of the pan.

SAMSUNG

8. Remove from heat and layer the bottom with large cut or whole Mirepoix (onion, celery, and carrot), thyme, garlic, and bay leaf. Stack reserved chicken over (white meat, if used, being kept on top) and fill pot with Stock and remaining Wine.

SAMSUNG
SAMSUNG

9. Cover tightly and chill in fridge overnight, along with the reserved mushrooms, cracklings, and braised onions if already made (many recipes have these three mixed together in the same bag, but I like keeping them separate so as to better keep the pork crispy).

SAMSUNG

  • 10. Heat oven to 325F next day, transferring the crockpot (which I let come to room temperature beforehand), still tightly covered to cook for at least 2 ½ to 3 hours, stirring occasionally, until “tender.” (not falling off the bone)

SAMSUNG

Note: Even being a stewing chicken, the breasts can still get a little dry, so I suggest either taking it out 1-2 hours early or add in during the last hour of cooking.

11. Carefully take out and move chicken into a covered pan to keep warm, best left in a 160-170F oven.

12. Strain the liquid from remaining veggies and herbs and return to the now empty hot, now moved onto med-hi to high heat. Reduce by at least 1/3 to ½ the liquid until thickened and sauce-like. This can take 20-45 minutes depending.

SAMSUNG
Note: it’s possible the liquid may not properly thicken up as desired no matter how much is reduced, despite the flour in the sautéed chicken supposedly being used to help this. If so, squish together equal amount of soft butter and flour and add a few tsp sized balls, whisking in. This should help much like making a roux for a sauce.

SAMSUNG

13. Mix in the reserved braised onions, salt pork cracklings, and sautéed mushrooms, stirring until warm. Add back in the warm chicken, turning to coat in sauce.

SAMSUNG

14. Serve chicken and stew over warm egg noodles, and Enjoy.

Braised Pearl Onions

1 Tb Butter/Fat
1 small bag Pearl Onions, peeled
1 clove Garlic
2 twigs Thyme
1 Bay Leaf
½ Cup Wine, Stock, or other flavorful liquid of choice

Directions

SAMSUNG

    1. Heat sauté pan to medium/med-high and add in butter or other fat of your choice (I used some of the rendered Salt Pork Fat from earlier).

SAMSUNG

2. Toss in onions to coat in fat, stirring very often in hot pan to better get an even browning around the spherical surface.

3. Once nicely golden and crispy-looking, add rest of the ingredients, turn heat down to medium-low, cover, and simmer until onions are tender and liquid has reduced down to a thick sauce. Depending, this can take up to 1 hour and a half or just 20 minutes.

SAMSUNG

4. Season carefully according to taste and reserve until needed in Coq au Vin or any other desired dish.

The Verdict

Chicken. This actually tastes like flippin’ chicken, as any properly cared for, farm raised hen should. And despite the rich, concentrated stewy flavors of the wine sauce (which just blankets the firm and crispy meat and veggies so nicely, keeping that subtle earthy and vine-y taste of the wine nicely), the old stewing hen was able to keep the integrity of its flavors and identity so well.

THEN there’s the mix-ins: the earthy and savory al-dente like mushrooms, the rich little balls of stocky onions, and of course the super crispy-crunchy pieces of cooked pork fat. With the noodles it almost felt like one of the best earthy-winey Italian pasta dishes ever, if of course my attention wasn’t always drawn to take big bites out of that bone-in chicken. And though MY final outcome ended up saltier than I wanted (‘twas quite noticeable, though nothing a chocolate cookie-vanilla milkshake couldn’t fix), I believe the true worth, highlights, and potential of this classic dish was able to shine clearly, so I’m very satisfied with the final outcome.

Not to mention how damn good it is eating cold from the fridge the next day (and it only lasted one)… or in the middle of the night wearing pjs.

Primary Pairing – Red Burgundy

Is it cliché? Yes. Is there a reason for that? Oh HELL Yes, because it WORKS. As do almost all regional pairings with European Wine and Food; they grew up together, those making the food drank wine and those making the wine ate the food, each unconsciously adjusting each other through the centuries to ensure they had two things and tasted amazing together.

This is the prime example. A bottle of decent burgundy has a solid, weighty Medium body, enough to match this heavier version of Chicken, and a firmness in Acid to “cut” the richness (which isn’t technically a thing in any way, but when I have any rich or fatty dish I want some acid to juxtapose it, otherwise it’s just flabby) and match the tangy wine. Then there’s the nose: the almost concentrated, earthy aromas, often affected with some ageing in an old barrel (not new barrel, we don’t want any raw oak flavor in this), that just helps it stand up but not overpower the round intensity of the dark chicken stew. Finally, they contain that perfect middle-ground of tannins; not light but not super big and sandy and overpowering, which is much better for OTHER dishes.

As for choice, I like to think Village-level (or is it Sub-Regional? I forget) Burgundy is where you want to go; this is not where one gets that cheap Bourgogne AOC we just used for cooking. At the same time, Premier and Grand Crus are not only really expensive but probably a bit too complex, containing certain subtle and delicate aromas that aren’t likely to survive long with this dish. Simple but deep and powerful is where we want.

So look for names that just say Santenay, Aloxe-Corton, Chorey-les-Beaune, Gevrey-Chambertin, Morey-St-Denis, and the like. Maybe even a “Haute Cotes de Beaune/Nuits,” which are from a larger and “lower quality” region on the golden slopes of Burgundy, but do hold possibilities of good, tasty deals. I’m sure the particular Wine Staff would be happy to point you in the right direction.

As for Burgundy Substitutions, which I almost don’t understand why even bother at all at this point (but hey, wallets are wallets), I think German Pinot Noirs (Ahr is a great region) are fun, Chateneuf-du-Papes and Chianti blends can provide the same features (if you find the right ones), but I think Valpolicella would probably be my favorite non-French choice. You can find all of them at much better prices, and you’re still staying to the Old World (very important, as New World wines focus more on fruit and barrels and basically have absolutely no real flavors of “earth” in them like Old Worlds).

My Bottle: 2010 Givry, Domaine Voarick
SAMSUNG
Being a bit price conscious, I decided to choose this little gem from one of the Five AOC villages of the Cote Chalonnaise, the large region just south of the main Cote d’Or section of Burgundy (the center of the “quality” wine production, not counting Cru Beaujolais of course). Givry is located on the Eastern edge just in the center of the not-so-tight escarpments, and along with the rest of the reds from the area produces a slightly lighter concentrated, “rustic” Pinot Noir. Though they’re seen as lower quality, one can find some of the best price-to-flavor/experience deals throughout the whole Region (the Norther region is notorious for being complex to navigate quality through different villages, making for a dangerous dice roll of overpriced wine for those not familiar with the producer).

For $20 I was very happy. It still held a beautifully simple, concentrated nose with all the main aromas of Burgundy I look for, with a strong enough flavor and body to stand up to the meat. I swished and chewed and sat back in a happy daze, with no off qualities distracting my enjoyment. When it comes to wine, that’s sometimes all that I find important; just need a proper bottle to get me there.

Secondary Pairing – Nada Yamahai Junmai Sake

I LOVE ge628x471tting into Sake and being able to pair it with non-Asian fare. For many of those who aren’t aware, the potential complexities and flavor molecules in sake actually reach even higher peaks than wine. Thus enforcing its ability to be matched with so many different foods, so long as one knows which bottles to look for.

With a dish like coq au vin, I would really want to be able to get the more masculine, earth and mushroom-based sakes, one with a bit of quality complexity and depth in that department, but still kept back somewhat so the body and flavor isn’t overpowering (like a Bordeaux would be).

Nada, and other more southern regions in Japan, present with some of the bigger, rounder, earthier styles of sake as opposed to the north.  Pair that with a Junmai sake, where the rice is milled down to at least 70% its original grain, keeping some of the raw, naturally tight, earthy grain qualities from the outer rind but cutting its power and rawness down considerably. Thus it has developed very little, or none, of the more delicate and weaker fruit, floral, and other aromas that a Gingo or Daigingo (milled down to 60 and 50% grain) would have.

Finally we bring in the Yamahai style of developing the Koji mold (a very important process of inhibiting certain bacteria, developing enzymes to convert rice starch to carbohydrates, and influencing final flavors), a mid-way method that’s not so old and classic as Kimoto but rougher than the super-lazy modern, and is known for creating some of the most earthy rich, dense and complex styles of the three.

Combined we have a sake that inhabits much the same earthy, barnyard characters of a traditional Burgundy with a wonderfully complex, medium-heavy nose, a body enough to match the stew and a mouthfeel to go along with the heavier but tender chicken meat. As for qualities such as acid, sweetness, etc, there is sure to be a few sakes in this category that fill the final criteria. But that’s less a thing of regionality and more knowing the producer (as is much of the sake world; it’s fun a super complex).

SAMSUNG