5 weeks ago
Thursday, December 11, 2008
Coq a Vin and Cornmeal Crusted Roasted Ratatouille Tart: Wednesday Night Dinner for the Overachiever
We have a special Thursday doubleheader today, with this being a scheduled posting day for both the Barefoot Bloggers and the Craving Ellie in My Belly gang. Wednesday may be Prince Spaghetti Day for some people, but for us wild and crazy food bloggers, it's Coq a Vin and Cornmeal Crusted Roasted Ratatouille Tart Day!
Coq a Vin is the Barefoot selection, chosen by Bethany of This Little Piggy Went To Market. I was intimidated when I first learned that coq a vin was one of the December Barefoot recipes. December is a busy month, and coq a vin sounded complicated -- a good February recipe, really. But in her new book, Back to Basics, Ina assures us that coq a vin is really easy. Easy as boiling water? Easy as a pot roast? How easy is it, Ina? In her own words:
Over the years I've tried many times to make a good coq a vin, the renowned French chicken stew with red wine, but with disappointing results. My television producer Olivia Grove one day told me, "Well, it's just beef bourguignon with chicken," and I thought, "So it is!"
Phew, it's as easy as beef bourguignon. That's a relief! [I think it's safe to say that Ina's "everywoman" shtick needs a little work before she has it down as well as Oprah does, but we love her anyway.]
I really haven't had my act together lately -- I'm waaaaay behind on Christmas, I walk into a room and forget why I'm there, I drove halfway to work one day and realized I was still wearing my wicked good slippers, and I'm just generally scatterbrained. In keeping with this lack of togetherness, it seemed like I made a separate grocery trip for each ingredient in this recipe. And I still forgot the fresh thyme.
This recipe calls for a full bottle of dry red wine and some cognac or brandy. I've got to tell you, even at the height of my wild college partying days (okay, so they weren't that wild) I never spent as much time at the package store as I have since I started food blogging. Remember the enthusiastic "NORM!!!" greeting that our favorite barfly used to get whenever he walked into Cheers? Well, when I went into my usual packy the other week for Meyer's, my chain smoking goth rocker cashier friend greeted me with a most friendly and enthusiastic "CATHY!!!," which I am sure violated the Chain Smoking Goth Rocker Code of Behavior (I won't turn him in, though). Clearly, I've become a regular, and that means it's time to find a new packy. Plus, my "usual" cooking booze shop only sells things by the gallon, which was starting to bug me, seeing as I generally only need a teaspoon of whatever it is. So I found a different package store, where I am still anonymous, and the man working there actually recommended a small, $8.99 bottle of brandy! I think I've found my new hard liquor home.
The recipe also says to cut up two whole chickens. It's really best if I don't do that. I'm gonna leave that job to the pros. So I cheated and let Piggly Wiggly do the work for me:
Ina is right -- this recipe is not hard, but I found it to be somewhat labor intensive (and imagine if I cut up my own chicken!) Cut up the vegetables. Add the brandy. Ignite the vegetables . . .
David once established a "no flambé" rule for our kitchen during a weekend trip to New Orleans when I started making noise about making my own Bananas Foster. He just knows me really well. But I was already up to my elbows in this recipe before I realized that I was going to have to violate the house anti-flambé laws and torch the liqour. I sent the kids into the den, pulled my hair into a ponytail, said a prayer, and lit the flame. Ina warned me to stand back, but I still was not prepared for the raging inferno. It was at least two feet high for what seemed like ten minutes (but maybe it was only 10 seconds -- it's like when a baby is crying; time passed in slow motion). Only when the flame came down a bit and I knew that the house was not going to burn down was I able to stop shaking long enough to snap this picture:
The chicken, veggies and wine in the pot before it went into the oven:
And the finished stew:
We were kind of "meh" on this one. David said halfway through that wine/pearl onion is not generally his favorite stew genre, and there's really no getting around the wine in coq a vin (or the pearl onions, for that matter). But maybe part of the problem is that Ina says to use a good dry red like burgundy, and I used a cheap cab. And she says to use cognac or a "good brandy," and I used a cheap brandy. I guess I was trying to skate by without turning this dinner into an honest to goodness investment, and I got what I paid for. We actually liked the flavor of the chicken, but I was not a fan of the broth/stew. But the house smelled great while it was cooking, and now I've made coq a vin, so I'm going to call that a success!
The Ellie pick of the week was Cornmeal Crusted Roasted Ratatouille Tart, chosen by the Wiivers
We loved this one. The ratatouille combines eggplant, zucchini and tomatoes. I don't trust regular winter grocery store tomatoes, so I bought grape, which are usually a little more palatable. Roasting them really brought out the flavor:
The crust was really interesting. It combines cornmeal and whole wheat flour with a couple of tablespoons of oil and a couple of tablespoons of butter. Not terrible as far as crusts go. And it really tasted great! The texture was crumbly, but it stayed together, and complemented the vegetables nicely. I think this crust would be good with lots of things, particularly tex-mex flavors.
You pretty much assemble this by layering the vegetables, basil, and cheeses. I thought this was a really pretty dish -- here it is with the vegetables and basil before the final cheese topping:
And here it is when it came out of the oven:
We both really enjoyed this one, and I am sure that I'll make it again. It works equally well on its own as a main course, or as a lovely side dish to accompany some coq a vin if that's how things happen to shake out in your blogging schedule. It's so versatile that way!
Thank you, Bethany and Wiivers, for choosing these really great dishes!
Posted by Cathy at 12:22 AM