I don’t know about anyone else, but I get sick of the same old foods every holiday (this includes both Thanksgiving & Easter, in addition to Christmas): turkey with dressing & gravy, macaroni-n-cheese, glazed ham, candied ‘yams’, green beans, yeast rolls, broccoli-rice casserole, collards, cranberry sauce, mashed potatoes, sweet potato pie, pumpkin pie, some type of cake (Italian almond this year).
Live a little! The first Thanksgiving dinner did not include turkey with all the trimmings, and I doubt the first Christmas meal featured maple glazed ham covered in pineapple rings with cherries in the middle. Who says that one must have turkey, ham, and all that other stuff on the holidays? You can eat those entrees any time you care to. Why not have something truly special, like roast duck, coq au vin, Chateaubriand, filet mignon, leg of lamb, or rabbit in cream sauce?
COQ AU VIN RECIPE
1/2 cup lardons (or very thickly sliced bacon), cut into 1/4- by 1 1/2-inch strips (optional)
2 or more tablespoons olive oil
3 1/2 to 4 1/2 pounds chicken, cut into parts (or all one kind of part), thoroughly dried
1/4 cup Cognac or Armagnac
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 bay leaf
1/4 teaspoon dried thyme
20 pearl onions, peeled
3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
2 cups red wine, preferably Burgundy, Côtes du Rhône, or pinot noir
About 2 cups homemade chicken stock, or beef stock, preferably brown chicken stock (see headnote above)
1 or 2 garlic cloves, mashed or minced
About 1 tablespoon store-bought or homemade tomato paste
3/4 pound fresh mushrooms, trimmed, rinsed, and quartered
DIRECTIONS1.To make the coq au vin in your slow cooker, see the Slow Cooker Variation below.
To make the coq au vin on your stovetop, pour enough oil in a large pot to reach a depth of 1/8 inch if you’re not using lardons or bacon. If you are using lardons or bacon, toss them in a heavy-bottomed casserole or pot along with 2 tablespoons oil over medium or medium-high until lightly browned, about 2 minutes. Transfer the lardons or bacon to a plate, leaving the drippings in the pot.
2. Heat the drippings or oil remaining in the pot over medium-high heat. Add the chicken, being careful not to crowd the pieces. (You may need to work in batches). Cook the chicken, turning frequently, until nicely browned on all sides. (If working in batches, return all the chicken to the pot.) Carefully pour the Cognac or Armagnac into the pot and wait until it becomes bubbling hot. If desired—and if you’re brave—ignite the sauce with a match. Let it flame for a minute, gently tilting the pot by its handle and swirling the sauce to burn off the alcohol. To extinguish the flames, simply cover the pan with its lid.
3. Season the chicken with salt and pepper. Add the bay leaf and thyme to the pan and then nestle the onions around the chicken. Cover the pot and let the chicken simmer gently, turning the pieces once, for about 10 minutes.
4. Uncover the pot, sprinkle the flour over everything, and turn the chicken and onions so the flour is absorbed by the sauce. Cover and cook, turning once or twice, for 3 to 4 minutes more.
5. Remove the pot from the heat and gradually stir and swirl in the wine and enough stock to almost cover the chicken. Add the lardons or bacon, garlic, and tomato paste to the pot, cover, and gently simmer for 25 to 30 minutes. Test the chicken for doneness (there should be no trace of pink and the juices should run clear when the meat is pierced with a knife). Grab some tongs and transfer the chicken pieces to the plate when they’re done. Continue to cook the rest of the chicken a few minutes longer. If the onions are not quite tender, continue cooking them in the sauce, then return the chicken to the pot, add the mushrooms, and simmer 4 to 5 minutes. The sauce should be just thick enough to lightly coat the chicken and vegetables. (If the sauce seems too thin, bring it to a boil and cook until the sauce is reduced to the desired consistency. If the sauce is too thick, thin it with spoonfuls of stock.) Taste the sauce and correct the seasoning accordingly. Serve the coq au vin immediately or let it cool, cover, and refrigerate overnight. To reheat, skim any fat that has congealed on the surface of the stew and place the pot of coq au vin over medium-low heat.
SLOW COOKER VARIATION: Yes, you can make Julia Child’s coq au vin recipe in a slow cooker. Just understand that the complexity of this French classic relies in large part on the caramelization that comes from searing or sautéing various ingredients in a hot skillet prior to jumbling them all together to simmer. Making coq au vin in a slow cooker still turns out a lovely and worthwhile stew, albeit one with just slightly less depth of flavor. There are almost as many ways to adapt this recipe for the slow cooker as there are cooks and slow cookers. We opted for the following approach, which worked swell. If using the lardons (or bacon), follow step 1 of the instructions above. Place the lardons (or bacon) and their drippings in the slow cooker and add the remaining ingredients except for the oil and the flour, using only 1 cup stock (not 2 cups as instructed above). Cook on medium heat for 5 1/2 to 6 hours, until the chicken is tender. Transfer the chicken to a platter or a serving dish. Heat the olive oil in a saucepan over medium-high heat, stir in the flour, and cook until it forms a paste and just begins to turn brown at the edges. Stirring constantly, very slowly strain the liquid from the slow cooker into the saucepan and simmer until it has reduced to a consistency that’s thick enough to coat the back of the spoon. Transfer the onions to the platter or dish with the chickens and discard the bay leaf. Pour the reduced sauce over the chicken and onions. – Leites CulinariaBRAISED RABBIT IN CREAM SAUCE
1 rabbit, cut into 4 pieces
1 onion, chopped
1/2 cup (125 ml) white wine
1 can 10 ounces (284 ml) chicken broth
Salt and pepper, to taste
Few sprigs fresh thyme or
1/2 teaspoon (2.5 ml) dried thyme
1/2 cup (125 ml) water
- 1 tablespoon (15 ml) cornstarch
1/2 cup (125 ml) 15% country-style cream or
1/2 cup (125 ml) 15% cooking cream
1/2 teaspoon (2.5 ml) Dijon mustard
1/2 teaspoon (2.5 ml) yellow mustard
Preheat the oven to 180 °C (350 °F). Place the rabbit in a Dutch oven. Add the onion, wine, broth, salt, pepper and thyme. Cover and bake for about two hours.
Remove and debone the rabbit. Keep the meat aside.
Strain the broth and set aside.
Dissolve the cornstarch in the cream. Add the mustards. Stir in the reserved broth and cook while stirring, until the sauce thickens.
Place the rabbit on a bed of rice and drizzle with the sauce. Serve with cooked vegetables. – Ricardo Cuisine
|ITALIAN ALMOND CAKE|
|One 9-inch or 10-inch (23-25 cm) cakes
Adapted from Chez Panisse Desserts by Lindsey Remolif Shere. As mentioned, this cake is best made in the food processor. If using a stand mixture, use the paddle attachment and let the mixer run until the almond paste is finely broken up. There’s a few notes at the end of the recipe, including some almond paste tips and suggestions.
Storage: This cake will keep for four days at room temperature, well-wrapped. It can also be frozen for up to two months.
Notes: For this cake, I used this 9-inch cake pan, whose sides are 2-inches (5cm) high. Some readers noted that the batter rose higher than their pan, although I’ve made this cake well over a hundred times and have not had that problem. So use a standard size cake pan whose sides are at least that high, not a layer cake pan, which is shallower.
In the United States, Solo and Odense are good brands of almond paste available in supermarkets. I’m partial to the almond paste from American Almond Products, which is marketed in home baker-sized containers under the name Love ‘N Bake. – David Lebovitz