Sunday, April 15, 2012
Sometimes the idea for a dish starts with just one ingredient. And then you build a whole meal around that dish. Like throwing a rock into the water and watching the circles around the original splash multiply.
Saturday's lunch started with an open bottle of Nero D'Avola, a soft but robust Sicilian red wine which became coq au vin which needed an accompaniment which I dedided should be riso Venere, an Italian black rice - and something green which I found at the Saturday morning market along with a bunch of springtime radishes. Last week's gift of a colomba pasquale - dove-shaped Easter cake - became the basis of dessert.
COQ AU VIN - You know, somehow this ubiquitous dish has escaped my kitchen. I'm more of a roast chicken - or if I'm stewing a bird I tend towards a curry or a cacciatore - kind of cook. But here I was with almost entire bottle of already open red wine which I knew I wouldn't drink because I'm not - HORRORS - a wine drinker (it's all about digestion). Friends were coming for lunch on Saturday - one of whom only eats chicken or fish. So even the coq au vin couldn't be entirely genuine because I couldn't start it with bacon as in the classic recipe. No problem, if I was going to eliminate the bacon then I didn't feel guilty about eliminating the little white onions garnish either. Pain in the ass those pesky little things. I did, however, want to garnish with mushrooms as per the recipe. But alas, the best laid plans - the mushroom lady wasn't at the Saturday market and it was too late to go out of town to the supermarket to get some. So, in a Dutch oven over medium heat, I rubbed salt and freshly ground pepper on chicken legs and thighs and then browned them in olive oil, removed them to a bowl while I sauteed lots of chopped onions and sliced carrots (which are so delicious from the farm at Miller's Crossing), then added chopped garlic, about 10 -12 sprigs fresh thyme, a generous splash of Cognac, added back the chicken and all the juices that had settled in the pan, and covered it all with almost a bottle of red wine and a cup or so of chicken broth. I brought the pot to a boil, covered it and turned it down to a simmer. After it had simmered for an hour or so I made a beurre manie which is a fancy way of saying white flour rubbed into softened, unsalted butter until it makes a paste. Add to the pot and stir to combine - the sauce will thicken almost immediately. Simmer for another 15- 20 minutes. Taste for salt and pepper and add as needed. When I made this dish my friends were a little late so it cooked even longer than required. I think that longer cooking helps to create an even more luscious dish. Even better, make it the day before bringing it to the point of adding the buerre manie which can be added the next day when you reheat the chicken to serve.
RISO VENERE - is Italian black rice. It's a hybrid of the legendary Chinese forbidden rice and Italian Arborio rice. Nice job. The forbidden rice lends color and nutty flavor while the Arborio contributes it chubby, moisture-absorbing body. I cook 1 cup riso Venere in 3 cups salted water. Cook at a simmer for 35 - 40 minutes and it should be just right. I finished it off with a knob of butter, some thinly sliced shallots crisped in olive oil and a generous sprinkling of chopped flat-leaf parsley - which I also used to garnish the very dark chicken and rice to serve - since I didn't garnish with the aforementioned white onions or mushrooms.
GREEN SALAD - was a wonderful assortment of 11 different leaves mixed by Sue Decker of
Blue Star Farm. I dressed the leaves with Dijon mustard, fresh lemon juice, extra virgin olive oil, and salt. The tossed salad was topped with whole cherry radishes, "Celeste", also from Blue Star, that were juicy and sharp enough to satisfy.
BAGUETTE - from Loaf. The best bread in the entire Hudson Valley and its surroundings.
DESSERT - Chocolate-topped colomba Pasquale baked by Tre Marie bakery, Milano, Italy, sliced, topped with strawberries (not local - so they needed to be macerated in fresh lemon juice and sugar, overnight, to achieve any sort of flavor) and the wonderful lemon ice cream made in house by Otto's Market in Germantown, NY. I must say that it just about broke my heart to open the package in which the cake was wrapped. It looked so pretty in its pink and orange paper tied up with orange ribbon that I enjoyed looking at it as much as if it were a bunch of flowers.