Monday, November 24, 2008

Coq Au Vin - Waste Not Want Not

I've had a whole chicken sitting in my freezer for longer than I'd like to admit. Well, I finally decided it was time to tackle it.

I'd never taken apart a chicken before, so I googled it and came up with about a thousand video guides. Turns out, it's pretty simple (and messy). Practice will certainly make perfect, but in the end, I did end up with two breasts (also cut each breast half in two), two thighs, two drumsticks, two wings. The livers, which I don't care for (yet ... I'm sure there's some application I'd appreciate), went in the freezer. In a separate container, I saved all the scraps (neck, backbone, tushie, little bits of mistakes I made) for making stock.

I always wanted to cut up my own chickens. It's incredibly cost-effective, and it makes me feel like I've really gotten to know my food. My mother always said that chicken parts were the good parts of otherwise not acceptable chickens ... not sure of the truth in that, but I'd say it's a pretty good bet. So, I'm resolving to buy whole chickens and cut them up, going forward. The exception I will make is boneless breasts. Until I figure out how to debone a chicken, I'll stick with buying those already done (on sale, of course).

Now, in my family, I'm the only one who will tolerate dark meat chicken, so I either need to hide it, or toss it. I also prefer white meat, but I'll eat dark meat here and there. Of course, wasting any part of food is anti-economical, so I can't bear that option! I usually eat some of the dark meat, and the rest I shred and freeze. On some later date, it will be ressurected for tacos, chicken chili, or other well-seasoned, well-masked vehicles. No one will be the wiser.

I'm so much of a nut about not wasting food, that I freeze the scraps everyone leaves on their plates to put in stock, too. Incidentally, I also have a veggie scrap container in the freezer for (you guessed it!) veggie stock. So, no part (except perhaps the livers) of this chicken will be wasted.

I looked around the see what would go with this chicken, and I noticed the bottle of cabernet that's been collecting dust in my wine rack. We've gotten gifts of wine over the years, and although I like wine, I don't drink on a regular basis ... usually at social gatherings, where I wouldn't have an opportunity to open a bottle of wine from my own collection. I am also drowning in carrots and parsley leftover from my CSA share. So, this Coq Au Vin recipe was born out of this chicken, this wine, these carrots, and this parsley (with a few other things thrown in):

Totally Non-Authentic Coq Au Vin (So what? It's good!)
Oil mister (safflower, or other high heat, oil)
1 4-5 lb. chicken, cut into 10 parts (2 breasts cut in half, 2 thighs, 2 wings, 2 drumsticks)
4 carrots, peeled and cut into large chunks
1 onion, cut into large chunks
3 cloves garlic, smashed
2 stalks celery, cut into large pieces
1 cup cremini mushrooms (halve or quarter the larger ones)
1 bay leaf
1 tsp. dried thyme, mushed in your fingers to get the juices flowing
1/4 cup fresh parsley, chopped
1 bottle dry red wine
1 cup chicken stock or broth (low sodium)
salt and pepper, to taste

Heat a large cast iron pan over high heat. Spray with a mist of safflower oil. Season chicken pieces with salt and pepper. When pan is hot, reduce heat slightly. Brown chicken, 2-3 minutes per side, in two batches.

Place chicken and all othe ingredients in a slow cooker. Cook for 8 hours on low. Voila. Serve with roasted brussel sprouts and whole wheat egg noodles.

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