Cooking makes me happy. It’s not even about what I make or getting to eat it afterwards (though, let’s be honest, that part’s pretty cool, too). It’s more about spending time doing something methodical and, usually, doing it with my mom. When I return home after a few months away, the first place I head is the kitchen, and I pretty much only leave to sleep. It’s both the company and food that make it my favorite place on earth. Fresh vegetables and fruit always fill serving bowls on the counter— clementines through the winter, strawberries and peaches in the summer months. They’re always fresh, organic, and wholesome. None of that pesticide-covered tasteless crap.
My favorite thing to tackle my first night back in the kitchen? A hearty soup or stew, full of vegetables and organic meat. One of my all-time favorites is this classic French Coq au Vin, a chicken and vegetable stew with a lot of red wine. It is perfection in a soup bowl, and a great example of healthier comfort food — especially when you pick some great organic meat, fresh vegetables, and lots of herbs. The entire bottle of red doesn’t hurt, either.
Coq Au Vin
Adapted from Tyler Florence, Food Network
What You’ll Need:
2 tablespoons good olive oil
4 ounces good bacon or pancetta, diced
1 (4 to 5 pound) chicken, cut into 8 pieces
2 cups carrots, cut into 1-inch pieces (We used baby carrots cut in half)
2 cups pearl onions, peeled (about 25)
2 cups button mushrooms, stems removed
2 cloves garlic, chopped
1 bottle (750 ml) dry red wine, like Burgandy (Needs to be good enough to drink!)
2 cups good chicken stock, preferably homemade
10 fresh thyme sprigs
2 bay leaves
1 tablespoon all-purpose flour (for gluten-free version, use rice flour)
1 tablespoon brandy
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 tablespoons fresh parsley, chopped
What to Do:
In a large, heavy skillet or Dutch oven, cook bacon over medium heat. Transfer to paper towel to drain. Pour off excess bacon fat.
Dust chicken with flour, salt, and pepper. Brown chicken over medium-high heat in the same pot as the bacon. Do not cook through! That comes later.
Add garlic, onions, mushrooms, and carrots to the pot. Sauté for 2 minutes until softened. Stir in wine and broth. Once blended, add all of the herbs. Cover and simmer for 1 hour until chicken is cooked through.
After an hour, remove the chicken pieces and set aside. Add brandy and simmer sauce uncovered until it thickens (about 15 minutes). If you want to thicken the sauce some more, add 1 tablespoon of cornstarch while simmering.
Serve on top of wild rice. Top with fresh chopped parsley.