Indignation can be highly motivating. For some, it leads to political action. For me, I decided to step up my cooking skills after the heartbreak inflicted upon me by Jacques Pépin’s technique video. We would have coq au vin, a dish I’ve never made. Thankfully, Pépin masterfully adapts classic French recipes into more accessible weeknight options. From start to finish, the whole thing took 45 minutes. Admittedly, I didn’t follow his instructions to the letter. For example, I didn’t sauté the mushrooms and pearl onions separately. In fact, I omitted pearl onions entirely because I couldn’t find any except the martini kind. I also didn’t de-bone the chicken legs because our Chinatown knives are deadly sharp and the process is unfamiliar. These steps would have certainly added another 15 minutes to the cooking time.

What I did is as follows. Feel free to compare and see exactly what happens when an iconoclast goes mucking about in the cannon.

Get thee

3 1/2-4 lbs of chicken – As Msr. Pépin suggests, you can buy 2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts and 2 whole legs. Please note, the average chicken breast is much bigger than the magic, happy ones Jacques gets. I only got one.
1/2 shallot – minced
3 garlic cloves – minced
1/2 cup onion – chopped
3 carrots – peeled and cut into rounds
1 8 oz package of cremini mushrooms – twice the amount of Jacques’s recipe
2 tsp thyme
salt
pepper
2 bay leaves
2 cups of bold, fruity red wine – oops, it really is a slippery slope isn’t it?
1 1/2 tbsp cornstarch
olive oil

Assemble

I realized that coq au vin is just a braise, so I rearranged the steps.

1) Put a glug of olive oil in your Dutch oven. (ed note: Am I the only one who has to suppress loud giggling every time someone says “Dutch oven?”) Brown your chicken pieces on each side with the heat on high. Don’t forget to slice the breast meat in half or even quarters, depending on how freaked out on ‘roids your chicken was before it passed. Place pieces on a plate and set aside.

2) Sauté your shallots, garlic, onion, bay leaves, thyme, and carrots with some salt and pepper until the onions are just a touch translucent. Add the sliced mushrooms. While you’re stirring, scrape the bottom of the pot to loosen the stuck bits of skin. These are nuggets of delicious that are necessary for a good sauce. Do this until the mushrooms just start to wilt.

3) Put your chicken pieces back in there. Pour in your two cups of wine. Bring to a boil, then turn down to a simmer. Cover and go read Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy for 25 minutes over a Hendrick’s and soda. Don’t get too bent out of shape when Guillam isn’t gay.

4) Don’t worry about making the heart-shaped croutons. We just served ours with baguette and butter.

5) After the time is up, take out the chicken pieces and the bay leaves. Discard the bay leaves. Put your cornstarch in a measuring cup and stir in a bit of the cooking liquid until no lumps are left. Stir the slurry back into the pot and boil for 5 minutes.

6) Plate whichever piece of meat you wish. Serve with the sauce on top. While we were eating, Jeff revealed that he doesn’t like pearl onions anyway because they have the “texture of a human eye.” Indeed.

Hendrick’s and soda

So easy it’s stupid, but a revelation nonetheless.

1/4 Hendrick’s gin to 3/4 soda water over ice. Garnish with a slice of cucumber that you wiped around the rim of your glass. Yes, cucumber. It does beautiful things.

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