Today is the third and final Ember Days of Summer. Ember Days can be traced back to the early days of the Church in Rome. The argument often heard by Catholics is that Ember Days are based not on faith and scripture but on paganism. That it isn’t “Christian”.
It is true that Ember Days and the four observations of seasonal change in ancient Rome have a correlation. From the beginning, the Church has strived to sanctify practices outside the church and scripture which can be utilized for a greater good in the service to God. The adoption of Ember Days wasn’t an attempt by the Church to displace a pagan practice so much as it was a way to avoid disrupting the lives of Roman converts to Christianity. While the practice remained the same, the focus was transferred from Rome’s gods to the God of Christianity. Since this was done so early in the Church, it is no surprise that some believe Ember Days were instituted by the Apostles themselves.
Not only do Ember Days move with the seasons, each has it’s own unique characteristic. Summer is a time to give thanks for the wheat, and the bread of life.
Today is also National Coq au Vin Day. This French Classic is a braised chicken, cooked with wine, lardoons (traditionally salt pork), mushrooms and garlic. It is the epitome of peasant-style, made not with a tender chicken but an old, tough rooster. Coq au Vin translated to “rooster with wine”. While Coq au Vin has been around since the days of Gaul and Julius Caesar, it was Julia Childs that introduced Americans to this classic dish. Serve with warm bread and sweet butter, Coq au Vin is the perfect celebration for the final Ember Days of Summer.
Classic Coq au Vin
12 Bacon Strips
16 oz fresh Cremini Mushrooms
2 Celery Ribs
1 medium Yellow Onion
4 Garlic Cloves, chopped
Kosher Salt to taste
Freshly Black Pepper taste
6 Chicken Quarters
2 tablespoons Olive Oil
3 tablespoons Tomato Paste
3 cups Red Wine
2 cups Chicken Stock
6 fresh Thyme Sprigs
2 fresh Rosemary Sprigs
6 oz Petite Baby Carrots
2 tablespoons Butter
Additional Rosemary Sprigs for garnish
Heat oven to 350-degrees.
Stack bacon, cut into 1/2-inch pieces and set aside. Clean and chop mushrooms and celery, set aside. Peel and chop onion and garlic, set aside.
Sprinkle salt and pepper over chicken. Heat 1 tablespoons olive oil in a Dutch Oven over medium-high heat. Cook 3 chicken quarters in the hot oil for 5 minutes on each side or until browned. Remove chicken; wipe Dutch oven clean. Repeat with remaining olive oil and chicken quarters. Set chicken aside, wipe out Dutch Oven.
Cook bacon in Dutch oven over medium heat until crisp, turning bacon as needed for even browning Remove bacon, and drain on paper towels, reserving 2 tablespoons of the bacon drippings in the pan. Over medium-high heat sauté mushrooms, celery and onions for about 5 minutes or until lightly browned. Stir in garlic; sauté 1 minute. Stir in tomato paste and 1 cup wine; cook over medium-high heat, stirring often, 2 minutes. Add remaining 2 cups wine, and bring mixture to a boil. Boil, stirring occasionally, about 5 minutes or until reduced by half.
Add chicken and bacon to mushroom mixture in Dutch oven. Add stock, herb sprigs and baby carrots. Bring mixture to a simmer. Place a piece of parchment paper directly on chicken mixture. Cover Dutch oven with a tight-fitting lid.
Place in the heated oven and bake for 90 minutes or until meat pulls away from bone. Let chicken stand in Dutch oven, covered with parchment and lid, at room temperature 30 minutes. Discard parchment paper.
Heat broiler element in the oven with oven rack 7 inches from heat. Lightly oil the top rack of a broiler pan. Remove chicken from Dutch oven, place on the prepared pan and set aside.
With a slotted spoon, remove vegetables from the Dutch Oven. Place on a large rimmed platter or large shallow serving dish. Cover to keep warm, set aside.
Skim fat from cooking liquid in the Dutch Oven. Discard herb sprigs. Bring cooking liquid to a simmer over medium-high heat, stirring occasionally. Remove from heat. Add butter, and whisk until butter is melted and sauce is smooth.
Place chicken in the oven, broil until skin begins to crisp, about 2 minutes per side.
Arrange chicken quarters over the vegetables. Spoon sauce over the dish, garnish with additional rosemary, serve and enjoy.