Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Coq Au Vin for Barefoot Bloggers

This month's first Barefoot Blogger recipe was Coq Au Vin, chosen by Bethany of this little piggy went to market (such a great name!). As anyone who reads this blog will know, I love chicken braises (in fact "place in oven for 30-40 minutes" must be one of my all time favourite directions in a recipe). No surprises then that this recipe ticks all the boxes for me. The chicken was tender, and full of flavour. It was an easily expandable recipe - at this time of year, it is not unusual to have an extra soul at the table - so I just bought a couple of extra chicken legs and cooked them in with the rest of the chopped chicken. We all loved it - even the children. And for non-wine drinkers - don't be put off. The wine just adds a depth of flavour but no identifiable "winey" taste.

My only ever so slight issue was with browning the chicken. I always wind up with most of the chicken skin stuck to the bottom of the pot. Any suggestions would be much appreciated! Check out how all the other Barefoot Bloggers went here.

And on a personal note, December means the start of the Australian summer holidays. We will be travelling a bit and I will have only intermittent computer access, so Merry Christmas / Seasons Greetings / Happy New Year to all. Despite my best intentions, some posts are going to have to wait till January!

Coq Au Vin

from "Back to Basics" by Ina Garten

2 tablespoons good olive oil
120g good bacon or pancetta, diced
1 (1.5-2kg) chicken, cut in 8ths
250g carrots, cut diagonally in 3cm pieces
1 yellow onion, sliced
1 teaspoon chopped garlic
1/4 cup Cognac or good brandy
1/2 bottle (375 ml) good dry red wine such as Burgundy
1 cup good chicken stock, preferably homemade
10 fresh thyme sprigs
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature, divided
1 1/2 tablespoons plain flour
250g frozen small whole onions (I couldn't find these, so I sauteed some small pickling onions in some oil and then added them)
250g cremini mushrooms, stems removed and thickly sliced

Preheat the oven to 125C. Heat the olive oil in a large Dutch oven. Add the bacon and cook over medium heat for 8 to 10 minutes, until lightly browned. Remove the bacon to a plate with a slotted spoon.

Meanwhile, lay the chicken out on paper towels and pat dry. Liberally sprinkle the chicken on both sides with salt and pepper. When the bacon is removed, brown the chicken pieces in batches in a single layer for about 5 minutes, turning to brown evenly. Remove the chicken to the plate with the bacon and continue to brown until all the chicken is done. Set aside.
Add the carrots, onions, 2 teaspoons salt, and 1 teaspoon pepper to the pan and cook over medium heat for 10 to 12 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the onions are lightly browned. Add the garlic and cook for 1 more minute. Add the Cognac and put the bacon, chicken, and any juices that collected on the plate into the pot. Add the wine, chicken stock, and thyme and bring to a simmer.

Cover the pot with a tight fitting lid and place in the oven for 30 to 40 minutes, until the chicken is just not pink. Remove from the oven and place on top of the stove.

Mash 1 tablespoon of butter and the flour together and stir into the stew. Add the frozen onions. In a medium saute pan, add the remaining 1 tablespoon of butter and cook the mushrooms over medium-low heat for 5 to 10 minutes, until browned. Add to the stew. Bring the stew to a simmer and cook for another 10 minutes. Season to taste. Serve hot.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Beef - Skewered and Stuffed for Cook The Books

In my dreams, I have always imagined running a bookshop cafe. After all, what could be better than combining a love of food and reading? There used to be a cafe like this near where I lived in my early 20s, and even walking past it made me happy. It was tiny with a very eclectic collection of books, mostly fiction and art books I think, and a charming cafe with great sandwiches and little cakes. It also had stern signs telling you to pay for the books before going to the cafe to read them - too many greasy fingers on expensive art books perhaps! Sadly the cafe disappeared more than 15 years ago, and now the closest we get is a Gloria Jeans outlet inside a Borders bookshop - not the concept in my imagination at all.

So you can understand that when I read about the new Cook The Books club starting, I had to join in. The first book chosen was "La Cucina" by Lily Prior. This is a very light romp of a book, full of unlikely plot twists, love, passion and most importantly, lingering descriptions of the food that Rosa, our hero makes, especially for her lover L'Inglese. I didn't love the book, but I must confess that I read it with one eye on what I would make for this challenge. Ultimately, I decided on braciolettine, the meal prepared at the emotional peak of the novel. Rosa goes to the house where her lover is staying (in my mind it is Cary Grant's grandmother's house in An Affair To Remember). She can't find him, so she goes into the kitchen and puts together a beautiful meal of beef thinly sliced, stuffed and baked. I don't want to spoil your fun, so to find out what happens next, you'll have to read the book!
I really loved this and would make it again, maybe as a starter for a dinner party. Definitely use the hot salami - it gives the stuffing a real lift. Scrumptious.
Instead of following a recipe, I decided to cook it as it is done in the book, so here is Rosa's recipe via Lily Prior and me...
1 fillet of beef, very chilled (put in freezer for it to start to freeze)
1 onion, chopped
1/4 cup bread crumbs
1/4 cup parmesan
2 tbl raisins, plumped up in a little hot water for 10 minutes, then drained
1/4 cup pine nuts, toasted
1 tomato, chopped
50g hot salami, sliced thinly
50g pecorino, cubed
Tomato passata, to serve
My fillet was quite long so I cut it in three. I then sliced it as thinly as I could horizontally. Very cold meat makes this easier, so either chill or slightly freeze our beef first. You want to finish up with thin slices of beef about 10cm x 15cm.
Gently fry onion in a little olive oil until it is translucent. Remove from the heat, stir in the bread crumbs, parmesan, raisins, pine nuts and tomato. Season to taste.
Take a slice of beef, lay a small slice of salami on top and then add a tablespoon of the onion mixture and a cube of pecorino. Roll up the beef, and secure it with two skewers. Keep adding more beef rolls to the same skewers until they are full (my skewers took about 6 rolls), then start more skewers if you need to.
Lay on an oven tray, brush with oil, and bake at 180C for 30 minutes. I served it with some tomato passata as a sauce.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Blue Eye With Caper and Dill Sauce

Apart from the health advantages, and the fact it tastes so good, fish are also what I turn too when I need something fast for dinner. Something good that does not involve hours in the oven or on the stove; something that does not need overnight marinating. Something good for days when your daughter fractures her wrist, and you get sent home from the hospital by a casualty nurse who tells you there is nothing wrong. Something good for days when you sit with your daughter back at the hospital the next day so she can be X-rayed, seen by a specialist and plastered, almost from palm to underarm. (Don't worry - she's fine now).

I plucked this dish out of an old-ish Gourmet Traveller (Oct 2006). It comes from the phenomenon that is Jamie Oliver's Fifteen Restaurant, in this case Fifteen Melbourne. I had to dive into the fish shop for some blue eye, and the greengrocers for some dill. Otherwise everything else was in my cupboard. You could make it with any thick-ish fish fillet; for a thinner fillet, just reduce the cooking time so you don't overcook the fish. The sauce is full of flavour against the mildness of the fish. How finely you chop it is up to you - I was happy with chunky, but you could keep going until it is much smoother. A very handy recipe for one of those weeks.

Blue Eye Cod With Caper and Dill Sauce
adapted from Gourmet Traveller, October 2006

4 pieces of blue eye cod (skin on if possible)
Juice and finely grated rind of two lemons
1/3 cup baby salted capers, rinsed
2 cloves garlic
8 anchovy fillets
1/2 bunch of dill
1 small handful of flat-leaf parsely leaves
125 ml extra virgin olive oil

Place blue eye fillets in a bowl and pour over the lemon juice. Swirl the fillets around so they are all covered, and allow to sit for 15 minutes. Meanwhile chop capers, herbs, garlic and anchovies, then place in a bowl with lemon rind and 1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil, and stir to combine. Season to taste with black pepper.

Remove the blue eye from the lemon juice. Pat dry with absorbent paper and season to taste. Heat remaining olive oil in a large frying pan over medium high heat and cook fish, skin-side down for 3-4 minutes, then turn and cook on the other side for a further three minutes.

Serve the fish with a generous covering of sauce.