Archive | 9:33 am

Mmm… Bière

7 Nov

Oh friends, have I got a treat to share with you.

Autumn in Prospect Park

I discovered a recipe this weekend that is so delicious, so sexy, so perfect, and yet so simple and rustic that it simply begs to be served at your very next dinner party, or for Christmas dinner, or for Saturday dinner. This is the kind of dish you can serve to your mother-in-law with absolutely no fear. You are guaranteed oohs and aahs, and that your guests will make happy little oinking noises while they’re sopping up the delicious sauce.

Have I piqued your interest? Are you just dying for me to tell you what this most perfect dish might be? Not just yet…

Autumn in Prospect Park

The Boy and I were doing some Western Orthodox Christmas shopping on Saturday at our favorite non-used bookstore when I spotted this gigantic, gorgeous volume, of rustic French cooking. We were having a glorious fall day. The weather was crisp and I was wearing my favorite scarf (the one that makes me feel like I’ve just gotten back from an assignment for National Geographic to Marrakesh to write the definitive work on camel’s milk cheese), NoLita wasn’t overrun by giddy European tourists taking advantage of their currency being worth two-times as much as the dollar, and we were planning to go out for an anniversary dinner that night, so there was no pressure to think about cooking.

Autumn in Prospect Park

But ever since I had put one toe out the door, all I could think about was cooking. It was so cool and delightful, the air was crystalline blue and held the promise of a chilly evening. I wanted to cook something warm and comforting, a dish as snuggly and delicious as my favorite cashmere sweater, so I promised myself that I’d bring it up only if I happened to think of something or happened to come across something.

Autumn in Prospect Park

And so, there i was thumbing through The Country Cooking of France while the Boy was nosing about in the serious literature when it jumped out at me.

Coq a la Bière.

Autumn in Prospect Park

The recipe sang to me of warmth and simplicity. I had to make it. So I called him over and asked if he’d like to stay in this evening rather than go out for a big fancy dinner, and then I sweetened the deal by promising to make mashed potatoes. It didn’t take long for him to agree.

I briefly contemplated buying the book, but I just couldn’t part with $50. I had a purse crisis recently and ended up dropping some serious dosh on a new bag. I felt the need to scrimp and so I tried my best to memorize the recipe, promising the book I’d come back for it on a more flush day.

Autumn in Prospect Park

We popped over to the Whole Foods on Houston Street to visit their new beer room. Serious suds people! They’ve got beers from around the world and lots of American microbrews too. Sure, they sell some beers that you can get at the very finest bodegas, like the Indian ones near 6th Street or heck, even my beloved Eagle Provisions, but what is exciting is that much like the good folk at Bierkraft, they sell growlers of locally brewed hoppy delicacies. I picked out a brown ale from France and a cider from Normandy, then we headed home.

I’d forgotten that cooking with beer is awesome. Unlike cooking with wine, where you can just recork the bottle and stash it in the fridge, once you open one of those fancy corked bottles of beer, well, there’s no way to save the fizz, so, well, you’ve got to drink the beer. Bummer, right?

Autumn in Prospect Park

I measured out my cup and a half of ale and then drank my half of the leftovers while pulling together dinner. It’s the easiest thing I’ve cooked in months. You brown the chicken, chop some vegetables and then let it stew for an hour or so. At the end you stir in a pat of butter, crème fraîche and brighten it up with a shot of vinegar.

Coq a la Biere

The mashed potatoes were a happy accident. I took my eyes off the garlic for one minute, and when I turned back they were a nanosecond away from turning into tiny little lumps of char, so I threw in the lacinato kale (I never got my second salad) to stop that from happening. The resulting potatoes smelled a little like the very best of garlic bagels. The toasted garlic are delightful points of flavor amidst the silky purée made a little sour with crème fraîche.

Toasted Garlic Mashed Potatoes with Kale

The resulting meal is so French. It’s the food equivalent of that beautiful Parisian woman we all know, the one who can throw on a sweater, a skirt and a scarf and look more radiant and pulled together than I ever could, no matter how much time and money I had at my disposal. And, to top it all off, it’s so much simpler, and slightly more unusual, than its more famous cousin Coq au Vin. There’s no futzing about with cooking each vegetable separately, no marinating, no peeling pearl onions (does anyone enjoy that task?), and it may encourage you to go out and buy a nice bottle of gin.

My Notes

Never having been to France, I’ve never thought much about the classics of French cooking. But between this Coq a la Bière and the Sole à la Meunière and the utterly delicious cherry clafouti from over the summer, I’m beginning to think I really should go back to the beginning, start boning up on my classic French technique.

I’ve got the weekend to myself while the Boy is away celebrating Western Orthodox Christmas and Ratatouille up next in my queue. Who knows where inspiration will strike next!

And, check it out! Abby, the assistant Web editor over at OrganicGardening.com did an interview with me, and she posted it today on her blog Good N Planty! If you’ve ever wanted to learn even more about me and the Granny Cart, hop on over there, or just go over and support her NaBlaPoMo efforts! And be sure to check out all the gardening knowledge on their site, these people are experts! Thanks Abby, my mom will be so proud!

Head below the jump for the recipe for Coq a la Bière and Garlic Bagel Mashed Potatoes.

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