Lately I have been on a French kick. Mostly I am remembering my Paris adventures with Elizabeth. We explored the nooks and crannies of the city, drinking coffee in cafes and looking at the art and architecture of the city. There’s a lock-covered bridge in Paris that evoked powerful feelings in me; the symbols of eternal love were so tangible and compelling.
At the end of each day, we selected a restaurant and sampled fantastic food, soaking in the rhythms of the city and its people. One night we sat next to an Italian wine dealer and struck up a conversation about his yearly excursions to acquire French wine. Obviously, he picked our vintage for the evening.
What I love most about French food is its balanced, nuanced, complex deliciousness. Unlike other delicious foods, French food isn’t too big or bold. Instead, subtle flavors layer with each other, speaking softly to my senses. It’s romance for my taste buds.
One of my favorite ways to bring this experience home is Sunset magazine’s surprisingly easy Coq au Vin. Of course, I adjusted a few parts of the recipe to accommodate food allergies without impacting taste or texture. The recipe produces a great brothy stew (very welcome in the cold winter weather) that is light enough for spring and the cooler parts of the summer.
- 4 ½ tablespoon flour (I use Trader Joe’s gluten free flour)
- ¾ teaspoon sea salt
- ½ teaspoon ground pepper
- 1 teaspoon Herbes de Provence
- 4-8 slices bacon, chopped (amount to preference)
- 1 ½ pounds boned, skinned chicken thighs
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 3-4 carrots (I used heirloom variety here)
- 3 stalks celery
- 1 medium onion
- 1⅓ cup white wine
- 2 cups chicken broth
- ½ cup fresh parsley, chopped
- ¼ cup fresh tarragon, chopped
- In a sealable container, mix together the flour, ½ teaspoon salt, ½ teaspoon pepper, and the herbes de provence. (I have used the gluten free flour from Trader Joes. It’s also corn free. But, if that doesn’t work for you, I have experimented with almond and cashew meal. It doesn’t stick quite as well, but still makes a delicious meal.)
- Cut the chicken into 1-inch chunks and shake in the flour mixture to coat. Set aside.
- In a 5-to-6 quart stockpot, brown the bacon pieces over medium high heat. Stir often! When it is sufficiently crispy, transfer the bacon to a plate.
- Brown the flour-coated chicken in the bacon fat. Turn the pieces after a couple minutes to both sides brown nicely.
- While the chicken is cooking, cut the onion, celery, and carrots. I like the look of cutting celery and carrots on the diagonal; they are still bite-sized but look a little fancier.
- When the chicken is done cooking, place it on the plate with your bacon. Don’t worry too much about the browned bits stuck to the bottom of the pot. We have a plan for those in a couple minutes!
- Now it’s the vegetable’s turn to cook! Place the vegetables into the pot and if you need a bit more oil, add your olive oil. Season with your remaining salt and pepper and sauté everything until the onion is golden. This should take about 5 minutes.
- Next, add the chicken broth, bacon, chicken, and white wine. Sunset recommended Chardonnay, but I have found that Sauvingon Blanc is more my style. Stir everything together, lightly scraping the bottom to loosen the browned bits that are stuck to the bottom. (Riggins the dog definitely wanted me to drop the chicken and bacon when I added it back in!)
- Cover your pot and bring to a boil over high heat. Once it has started to boil, reduce heat and simmer until vegetables are tender, about 15 to 20 minutes. While everything is simmering, coarsely chop the parsley and tarragon and add it into the stew.
- I like to serve it with a piece of crusty bread (made to whatever dietary needs there are!) and a nice glass of wine.