I’ve been fighting a general lack of inspiration lately – doesn’t matter whether it is cooking, or writing, or even browsing my usual sources looking for fun things to do – I’ve been in a funk. Not good, particularly when I am supposed to be spending my evenings manipulating tissue paper into giant pompoms and coming up with clever tablescapes for the wedding.
As for the cooking, well, it may be that I don’t care for the Scary House kitchen. It is not convenient to cook in (even though I tried to carefully think through where I put everything when I unpacked for this exact reason). It just feels wrong. However. Noe thought perhaps if I tied on one of my vintage aprons and forced myself through a new recipe, maybe I’d get back in my groove. Worth a shot, right?
I decided the only recipes that would be satisfying enough for getting my groove back would probably be French recipes. I started where I always start – Julia, of course – but was still feeling uninspired.
Then, out of the corner of my eye, I happened to glimpse a cookbook I had never even opened, let alone cook from. My interest level began to rise.
I purchased French Food, American Accent at the Book Barn in Niantic, CT, over a year and a half ago. At the time, I flipped through it quickly, thought it seemed like a good investment, and the price was right (probably three or four bucks). Then I took it home, became a Julia-phile, and never glanced its way again.
The book is by Debra Ponzek, former chef at Montrachet in New York, who chucked her culinary career to live a more simple life. The cookbook focuses heavily on preparing parts of meals in advance and then tying all the pieces together at the end – breaking down complicated-sounding dishes into manageable steps.
I chose Coq au Riesling for my first dish, mainly because I had a bottle of dry Riesling in my refrigerator. Instead of Cornish hens I used a cut-up whole chicken, but that was my only modification.
The recipe calls for marinating chicken pieces in a mixture of shallots, herbs, and Riesling wine for up to twelve hours. The chicken pieces are then cooked in a pan with an assortment of chopped veggies (pearl onions, carrots, mushrooms, turnips) and bacon (the magic word!)
After browning the chicken on all sides, it is removed from the pan while the vegetables and bacon remain behind. Chicken stock and the reserved marinade are eventually added to the pan, brought to a boil, and reduced down.
To serve, return the chicken to the pan, add some fresh tarragon, warm everything up, and throw it on a platter.
YUM. The chicken had a wonderful infusion of subtle flavor on its own, probably from the extra-long bath it took in the marinade. The Riesling added a slight fruitiness without taking it into the lemon-y category (I love chicken and lemon, but it’s always nice to have something a little different). The veggies were the real standout, though – cooked through but not mushy, a little hint of bacon flavor without everything tasting like bacon.
I served this dish with the Riesling I used in the marinade, which is actually a Michigan wine – Chateau Grand Traverse Select Dry Riesling (more on this delicious product next week when Noe and I head to Traverse City).
I wouldn’t say I am quite back to my old self yet (in fact, I’m so out of my element that I didn’t even remember to photograph the finished product!) but perhaps with the help of my cookbooks (and a couple glasses of the “cooking wine”) I’ll get there soon enough.