Happy Valentine’s day!
Last year we cooked up an awesome dinner with our good friend Brett, the author of Cooking With No Heat. We had a lovely dinner with him and his parents consisting of a pomegranate lamb, a beet, fennel and blood orange salad, and a chocolate mousse with orange curd. You can get those recipes here. This year was a little different. We moved into a much larger space around August and we can have people over now! Well, only as much people as we have seats which is about 5 but that’s still much more then we had in other space. With this in mind, we thought we should throw a Valentine’s dinner for another couple and us. We watched Julie and Julia some time recently and that’s where this idea came up. A Valentine’s dinner party for another couple and us, cooking one of our favorite recipes from Julia Child’s book Mastering the Art of French Cooking, Coq Au Vin. Of course this wouldn’t be right without some cheese and dessert so we grabbed some brie and made our Chocolate Hazelnut Creme Brulee.
Now from what I’ve read about Julia and Paul Child, I’ve come to understand that they had a very passionate relationship. One of her favorite toasts was “You are the butter to my bread, and the breath to my life.” It’s amazing the love that they shared and I can only hope that our love is anywhere near close. Not to get too sappy or anything, but she does make my days brighter and all that jazz. Trying not to get too sentimental here for our reader’s sake.
I should probably explain that instead of sending out Christmas cards, the lovely Childs would send out Valentine’s cards. The story given was that they just couldn’t get themselves together fast enough for Christmas cards. It’s a great idea and one of them was a picture of the couple with large paper hearts on their chests. We tried our best to recreate the photo and I would say it turned out alright.
We had a lot of fun with this picture because I can make the face…just not when told to. Lead to a lot of laughs and making fun of me because I kept pushing out my chin or something. I thought it was fine but you know how ladies are like and they are super critical of pictures. It just needs to be perfect, which I cannot do for whatever reason. But anyhow I should talk about the food shouldn’t I?
First thing we started with some baked brie with our cranberry sauce and wrapped in kataifi. Kataifi is one of those things that is a special ingredient that I use at work. It is a shredded pastry dough kinda like phyllo and we just so had it on hand. Kataifi can be difficult to work with but Nicole did a great job figuring out how to wrap the whole thing. It looks great don’t you think? We didn’t get many pictures of it though, it went very quickly. You can make this crowd pleaser by spreading some of our cranberry sauce atop a wheel of brie, then wrapping in phyllo or puff pastry (both are great), brushing it with an egg wash, and then throwing it in a 375 degree oven until its golden brown. Our cranberry sauce is so easy and pairs so well with this cheese, I highly suggest you try this out.
The next thing was Coq au Vin, the star of the show. It’s pretty easy. Essentially it’s chicken braised in a lot of red wine with onions and mushrooms. We added some carrots for a little sweetness to go with the boldness of the sauce. There is a lot of deep flavors going on here and it all depends on the wine. I generally suggest use wine that’s cheap, because you want to save the good stuff for drinking. Here it is kind of important to use a tasty wine because this is about half to two thirds of the liquid. Here we chose a nice Bordeaux that didn’t break the bank (under $20) but full of flavor and French to keep up with the theme of the whole dinner. An awesome side effect of braising in this much wine is that the chicken and vegetables turn this deep purple color you can see in the pictures below.
Coq Au VinPrint This
- 4 Chicken Leg Quarters
- 1/2 Cup Diced Bacon
- 20 Pearl Onions
- 1 Pint Mushrooms, Quartered
- 1 Large Carrot, Cut into Rounds
- 1 Sprig Rosemary
- 4-5 Sprigs Thyme
- 2 Cloves Garlic, Crushed
- 1 Bay Leaf
- 1 TBS Tomato Paste
- 2 Cups Red Wine
- 1 Cup Chicken Stock
Season chicken with salt and pepper. In a large cast iron skillet (or any oven proof pan), sear chicken until golden brown. Remove from pan and set aside. Lower the heat an add bacon to the pan. Cook until crispy then remove from pan and set aside. Add onions to the pan and cook for a couple minutes before adding the mushrooms, carrots, and garlic. Season and cook until softened. Add bay leaf and herbs.
Next add the bacon back to the pan and the tomato paste. Stir until the tomato paste is evenly coating the veggies. Add wine and stock. Bring the liquid up to a boil. Add the chicken back into the skillet. Cover with foil and transfer to a preheated 375 degree oven. After 45 minutes, uncover and turn the heat up to 400 degrees. Bake for 15 more minutes, until the chicken skin is crispy and the sauce has reduced a good bit. Serve!
Mrs. Child suggests butter peas and parsley potatoes to go with this dish so that’s what we did to keep it authentic. Of course we added our own little twists. Like the potatoes for example, we really like them smashed and roasted. Very simple to achieve. All you have to do is par boil them until they are tender, drain them and let them cool. Once they are cooled down you can then smash them a little bit with your hands. Toss them with a little bit of oil or butter salt and herbs. Lay them flat on a sheet tray and bake until crispy. We kept them in the oven about the same time as the chicken braised. As for the peas we sweated down some shallots in butter, added the peas and let them cook until tender. Mrs. Child is very wise to suggest peas and potatoes as the sides. The peas added a light flavor while the potatoes soaked up all the delicious rich sauce in all their creamy goodness.
Last but not least is the hazelnut chocolate creme brulee that we posted last week. It’s unusual for us to get real time feedback with our recipes, if any feedback at all. To our surprise these two never had one of these creamy desserts. Watching some one crack through the caramelized crust and bite into the soft creamy custard only to have their eyes widen with joy. It’s amazing the emotions that can be stirred up by food. These two were ecstatic of their tasty treats. I must say, I am proud of these two adventurous eaters. They trusted us with our cooking and I hope we made them happy.
Julia Child once said, “I think careful cooking is love, don’t you? The loveliest thing you can cook for someone who’s close to you is about as nice a Valentine as you can give.” The food you do make for those you love will always make an impression. I think that food in general is where the bond happens. Whether it is at a restaurant, a bar, or at home, sharing nourishment is where the magic happens. It evokes conversation and bonding. We do ask each other out to get dinner or lunch with those we love after all.
We hope you have a wonderful valentine’s day and spend it with those you love.
Much love ,