Depending upon which of the various “National” Calendars you subscribe to, today is National Oatmeal Cookie Day, National Chocolate Caramel Day, National Let’s Laugh Day, Certified Nurses Day and World Social Work Day. Considering today is cradled neatly mid-way into the Lenten Season, the idea of Social Work Day appeals to me. But that’s a subject for another time.
Today is also National Poultry Day. Talk about an easy day for participation! Start with breakfast – turkey bacon or chicken sausage. How about an open-faced turkey sandwich for lunch? And for dinner, what could be better than some sort of roasted or braised bird.
Since we were just in the French Quarter of New Orleans for yesterday’s Lenten Recipe, I thought we’d stick with a French influence today. I know what you are thinking as you glance down at the recipe that follows. The ingredients are a bit much, but not too much. It’s the never ending instructions that have you saying no way. That’s a boatload of prep work. What’s that expression, you get out of life what you put into it. I promise, it’s not that complicated and oh so worth it. This is company’s coming good. Pour me a glass of wine good. Sunday Supper good. Yeah, what can I say except it is darn good.
Game Hens Coq au Vin
2 Game Hens
2 cups dry Red Wine
8 oz Boiler Onions
1/4 lb Salt Pork
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
8 oz Cremini Mushrooms
3 medium Carrots
4 medium Garlic Cloves
2 sprigs Thyme
2 Bay Leaves
2 cups Chicken Stock
3 tablespoons cold unsalted Butter, cubed
1/4 cup flat-leaf parsley
Heat oven to 350 degrees. Remove the backbones from the hens, then cut birds into 4 pieces. Add chicken to a 1-gallon zipper-lock bag. Pour in wine and seal bag, pressing out air. Let stand while the other ingredients are prepared.
Using a paring knife, trim off the ends of each onion and score a light “X” into one cut side. Bring a small pot of water to a boil over high heat. Add onions and cook until outer layers are soft, about 1 1/2 minutes. Drain onions and run under cool water until cold enough to handle. Peel onions with your fingers and discard peels.
Cut Salt Pork into 1-inch by 1/4-inch sticks. In a large Dutch oven, cook the salt pork over medium-high heat, stirring and reducing heat as necessary to prevent scorching, until browned and fat has rendered, about 10 minutes. Remove the pot from heat. Using a slotted spoon, transfer pork to a paper towel-lined plate.
Remove chicken from zipper-lock bag, reserving wine, and pat dry. Season with salt and pepper. Return Dutch oven with rendered pork fat to medium-high heat and, working in batches, add chicken, skin side down, and cook until browned, about 7 minutes. Turn and brown other side, about 5 minutes. Transfer browned chicken to a wire rack set over a rimmed baking sheet. Reserve at room temperature.
While the chicken is browning, prepare the vegetables. Remove or trim any woody stems from the mushrooms then slice the caps into quarters and set aside. Peel and dice the carrots, set aside. Peel and crush the garlic, set aside.
Once all chicken is browned, add mushrooms to Dutch oven and cook over medium-high heat, stirring frequently, until browned, 10 to 12 minutes. Add pearl onions, carrots, and garlic and cook, stirring, until lightly browned, about 5 minutes. Add pork, wine, thyme, and bay leaves and bring to a simmer, stirring up any browned bits.
Stir in stock. Add chicken legs skin side up, nestling them into the Dutch oven so that they are partially submerged but top of skin is above the liquid. Pour in any accumulated juices from chicken into the pot. Transfer to oven and cook, uncovered, for 1 hour.
Add chicken breasts, nestling them skin side up among the legs, and return to the oven. Cook until breasts are just cooked through, about 20 minutes.
Transfer chicken breasts and legs to a clean rack set over a rimmed backing sheet. Set Dutch oven over medium-low heat and simmer until sauce is lightly viscous, about 10 minutes.
While the sauce simmers, mince the parsley and set aside.
When the sauce has thickened, whisk in butter, then season with pepper. Stir in half of parsley.
Plate the chicken, ladle the sauce over the bird and garnish with remaining parsley. A large rimmed serving platter or even a large soup tureen works well for a beautiful presentation. For a more casual presentation, simply return the chicken to the pot and serve directly from there.
Coq au Vin is delicious served piping hot with steamed potatoes and a nice salad of tender greens.
Now if Coq au Vin isn’t your thing and your thinking “Yeah, but it’s Taco Tuesday” you could always go with Spicy Chicken Thigh Tacos, and call it a day.