A mother-daughter conversation on food and cooking (mostly)

Thursday, March 8, 2007

Coq Au Crappy Vin(o)

It wasn't a resolution, exactly, but several months ago I decided I would a) drink more wine and less beer (beer makes me stay up too late), and b) pay no more than $7 a bottle for wine, and preferably much less. It's been entertaining -- I am not too picky and have found some decent $5 wines. Anyway, last weekend I bought two $4 wines that were on sale at the liquor store. One was fine; it was a California Merlot. The other, a Sangiovese, was extremely unpleasant. It put to rest any worries I had about having no wine standards. It was foul.

I decided to use the foul wine for cooking. This violates Julia Child's fundamental rule that one should never cook with wine one wouldn't drink, but I'm too cheap to pour wine down the drain unless it actually makes me gag. This was merely Really Bad.

I thought I'd make Coq au Vin, but I wasn't in the mood for subtle French flavors, so I decided to invent a version with red chiles. This is the second time I've made chicken stewed in red chile sauce, but the wine changes everything. It was really good.

I floured chicken breasts and thighs and browned them in olive oil in a dutch oven, then took them out again and sauteed some onions. I pureed 4 soaked red chiles with some roasted red peppers -- I don't think the peppers would always be necessary, but my latest ristra is HOT, so I have to use the chiles sparingly. With less picante chiles I'd use maybe 7-10. Then I put the puree and the chicken in the dutch oven along with the whole bottle of crappy wine, and I let it all simmer for an hour or so. I think I added a little oregano and cumin, but maybe not -- it was many days ago.

The crappy wine magically turned tasty, and the whole dish came out purple and spicy and wonderful. I served it with beets (roasted, tossed with olive oil, salt, pepper, and the juice of one tangerine -- so good), homemade whole wheat tortillas, and papaya.


Kris said...

Oh! So poetic! That sounds so good. Aren't chiles transformative? Plus--tell me if you agree with this blatant generalization--I think they put one in a good mood. Natural mood elevators. I think I'll have some for breakfast.

Eva said...

I completely agree that chiles are mood elevators. They are my most effective treatment for that winter yuck that is probably mild Seasonal Affective Disorder. I crave them.