October 4, 2010

Comfort Food, Duchess-Style

When I invited friends for dinner over the weekend, this wasn't the meal I had planned. I was going to make a much more sophisticated, complicated, and unique meal. Then, on Friday, I got bad news and it shook me hard. I was tempted to tell my friends not to bother coming over, the wind was knocked out of my sails and I felt deflated. But my husband, the wise Jedi that he is, urged me to cook and have our friends over. He knew it would make me feel better and of course, it did.

Since my elaborate meal plans were scraped (for now, I still plan on making that meal one day), I happily shifted to comfort food - 'tis the season after all. So off to an old standby, Coq Au Vin. Don't be fooled by its fancy-schmansy name. It's a French peasant dish and should be treated as such - hence the picture below of the meal in it's pot, as it was out of the oven, and put on the table. The name literally means: Cock in Wine. Since we don't readily get those birds in Brooklyn, a normal chicken works nicely.

Along with some crusty bread, my calorie-busting Potato Galette, and a very simple herb salad of dill, mint, basil, parsley, lemon juice and salt, we had ourselves a party. For dessert I had planned on making this fabulous brioche bread pudding with vanilla bean custard and chocolate... it's as incredible as it sounds. But that very morning, we were watching the Food Channel and Sunny Anderson made something that was so simple, so gooey, so messy (see said gooey mess below), and so yummy that I had to make it instead!

Now remember, as I've said before, as long as the food is good, people won't care that they're eating on paper plates with plastic knives and forks; a theory proved yet again on Saturday.

Coq Au Vin
Adapted and tooled with from Martha Stewart

14-16 pieces chicken thighs and legs with skin on
3 cups red wine (I would suggest a nice Cabernet Sauvingon, but even a Rioja or a Chianti would work)
2 heaping tbs tomato paste
1/3 cup beef broth (this can also be Cognac, but since I never have the stuff in the house I always use stock)
10 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
1/2 large onion, chopped
1 - 1 1/2 cups white pearl onions (I always used the frozen ones, less peeling)
1 lb slab bacon cut in 1/4" - 1/2" cubes (if you cant find slab, use thickly sliced)
1 lb mushrooms (I use a combo of crimini/baby bella and shitake, you can't beat the smokey flavor of shitake - it really adds to the dish)
3 tbs flour
1 tbs corn starch
3 bay leaves
10+ sprigs of thyme
1 tsp whole pepper corns
Salt and cracked pepper

-Let the chicken marinate in the wine overnight or at least 4-5 hours day of.
-Preheat oven to 325.
-Cook bacon in large heavy bottom pot with lid, must be oven safe. Remove the bacon, set aside.
-Remove chicken and reserve wine. Pat the chicken dry, salt and pepper the meat, then sear in the bacon grease until skin has crisped, about 6-7 minutes per side, set aside.
-Remove all but 2 tbs of grease and cook the chopped onion and garlic until soft and translucent.
-Add pearl onions and mushrooms and cook for about 5 minutes (if you need to, add one tbs of butter to help cook mushrooms, they absorb a lot)
-Add the tomato paste, flour, and corn starch, incorporate well.
-Add the stock and scrape up any stuck on bits at the bottom of the pot.
-Return bacon and chicken to pot. Add herbs, peppercorns, and cover with the reserved wine. Bring to boil, mixing everything together, then place in oven for 45 minutes to 1 hour covered until veggies and chicken are cooked. If there is excess oil on the surface, skim away before serving.

*I don't think I need to say this, but this dish the day after is not to be believed! This will happily serve 6-7 people with some leftovers.

Potato Galette
4+ cups of thinly sliced Yukon gold potatoes (I used a Benriner Mandolin for this, but you can use your food processor with the slicing attachment too)
1 cup of heavy cream
1.25 lbs of Jarlsberg, shredded
8 large garlic cloves, finely chopped
Salt & pepper

-Preheat oven to 400.
-Spray a 9 x 13 baking dish with cooking spray.
-Start with a layer of potatoes, cover up any large gaps with a potato slice. Salt and pepper the potatoes lightly.
-Continue with a layer of cheese. Another layer of potatoes, light salt and pepper. Cheese, potato, salt and pepper. Sprinkle on the the chopped garlic, then continue the layering and seasoning. Put the nicest sliced potatoes on the top layer, then cover with one final layer of cheese. You should have 5 layers total by the end.
-Once layers are finished, pour on the cream. Jiggle the dish gently to get the cream in all the nooks and crannies.
-Bake in oven for half hour covered with tin foil. Remove foil for last half hour. The whole thing should be bubbling, the top browned, and the potatoes cooked - if not, leave in for another 10-15 minutes.
-Serve immediately.

S'mores "Crepes"
by Sunny Anderson

Whole wheat wraps or tortillas (these are the "crepes." It is very important that you use whole wheat, the white ones don't have the right "crepe" flavor.)
Mini marshmallows
Toasted, chopped hazelnuts (I used macadamia because I had them)

-Melt 1 tbs of butter in a flat large pan.
-Spread a tortilla with enough Nutella to come about 1 inch to the edge. As it cooks it gets gooey and melts, too much Nutella and it would ooze out while cooking.
-Place tortilla in the hot pan and cover half with the mini marshmallows.
-Fold over the tortilla and cook, flipping once. Remove once the marshmallows melt a little and the tortilla has browned slightly. Cut in half, sprinkle on the nuts and serve immediately.

* I served them with coffee ice cream - they were a wild success and will definitly be made again...


  1. Oh my word, Duchess!!! What a gorgeous spread. I'm SO glad your hubby helped you be brave and make this lovely meal for your friends even when your heart was sad. You did a splendid job. :-)

  2. The pictures came out great!! although, having been there for dinner on Saturday, they still don't it justice!!

    Great Job, Duchess!!

  3. girl! thanks so much for watching, eating and cookin in BROOOOKLYN no less!!! i really appreciate the support, food people rock!

  4. Our posts are so similar...stress, circumstances beyond our control, "fancy" dinner scrapped. :-) If we had gotten together this past Saturday, we could've had a French comfort food potluck.

  5. Hmmm - I like your style girl. You know how to get down. This all looks super delish!

  6. Delicious meal, everything looks divine. Lucky friends. :-)

  7. Lovely dinner. I've always wanted to make Coq au Vin. Thank you by the way for your lovely comment, I truly appreciate it! It made my day (=

  8. s'mores crepes is a great idea - I might need to try these.

  9. How sweet that Sunny left you a message! That must of made your day! Everything sounds super comforting and so delicious. That is one of the best 'ooey gooey' messes I've ever seen!