Friday, 25 February 2011

Coq au vin

Milo, cock and dog

I love the sound of cockerels in the morning, it transports me to foreign holidays, smells, spices and warmth.  Our neighbours had a cockerel for a while, and I loved to wake to a natural alarm clock;  my middle daughter’s first words were ‘looda loo’, as she watched him from the window.
Anyway, this is a food column not a nature one, so I bet you can guess where this is going.
A friend had some cockerels going spare, so the boys were sent down, knife in hand, to collect the birds.  They plucked and decapitated them and bought them home to gut.  I think it’s great for kids to see where food comes from, and was seriously impressed with my son’s gutting skills.  After a science lesson on the insides, the birds were jointed and the cooking began.
Of course, these birds were heading for a coq au vin, but not just any coq au vin:  an Elizabeth David coq au vin.  The giblets were made into a little stock with an onion and herbs.  A bottle of red wine was bought to the boil with thyme, bay and some crushed garlic.  This was then simmered and the chicken stock added, once it was reduced you added the mushrooms.  Leaving the mushrooms in the wine made them delectable.  Some bacon was then fried off and the jointed cock browned in the same pan, and the parboiled whole baby onions were added.  The pièce de résistance was adding the brandy, which I heated, then set fire to it in a ladle and poured the flames over the meat.  I watched  this triumphantly as the flames encompassed and died down before the strained sauce was added.  This was then cooked for forty minutes before adding the mushrooms.  What Elizabeth is teaching me is to cook meat for less time;  historically I would have cooked this until the meat fell off the bone, but I don’t think this way gains anything in flavour.  Elizabeth also recommends serving this with fried bread, obviously I am already a big fan of serving food simply with bread but not normally fried.  Clearly this needed to be served with green vegetables too.  
And what better way to end the story than with an impromptu feast with our families.

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