Thursday, 29 December 2011


A classic French dish cooked for an old friend from university, who happens to be half-French and lives in Nantes.

Our get-togethers, which are infrequent, sadly, but always filled with chat, laughter, music and food, begin around 6pm with an "apero" (aperitif), usually something fizzy, sometimes tarted up into Kir Royale with the addition of Crème de Cassis or Crème de Mure. I made Coq au Vin (which is literally "chicken in wine") because I wanted a dish that could be prepared in advance and left so that Anne and I could get on with catching up on the last 18 months. Also, Coq au Vin is definitely a dish that benefits from being allowed to rest so that all the flavours can meld together.

I had intended to serve brown bread ice cream but forgot to pre-freeze the bowl of the ice cream maker in time. So, for pudding we had soft amaretti biscuits (not homemade), Madeleines purchased from Carrefour in Les Gets, and Charbonnel et Walker truffles. Oh, and more wine....

Coq au Vin is stupidly easy to make, and is one of those useful dishes that can be made elegant or rustic, depending on your mood/dinner party guests. Use tiny button mushrooms and baby shallots for an elegant version.

I use Delia Smith's recipe, which, like all her recipes, is pretty fail-safe. I also use chicken thighs (bone in) as I find breast meat tends to dry out and become stringy. I served the Coq au Vin with fluffy mashed potato. I chucked a couple of garlic cloves in with the spuds as they were cooking, and we ate the leftovers of the Christmas dinner - maple parsnips and spiced red cabbage. A bottle of Gamay from Savoie went very nicely with the food, thank you.

Nigella Lawson includes a variant on this classic dish in one of her cookbooks, the Alsace version, Coq au Riesling. It's light and perfect for spring. You can find the recipe here.

We didn't manage to polish off all the garlic mash, so I'll probably make fishcakes from it for Friday Night Supper.....

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