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 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.

Coq a la Bière

prep time: 30 minutes ~ cooking time 1 hour or so

  • 1 Chicken cut into parts, wing and other odd bits stashed into the freezer for stock making
  • 1/2 cup Flour well seasoned with salt & pepper
  • Olive Oil
  • 1/2 cup Gin
  • 1 Onion, sliced
  • 1 1/2 lbs Mushrooms (button or crimini), stems trimmed and cut in 1/2s or 1/4s depending on size
  • Salt & Pepper
  • 1 Bouquet Garni (a few sprigs each of Rosemary, Thyme, Sage and whatever else you love tied together with string)
  • 3 Bay Leaves
  • 1 1/2 c. good, French Brown Ale
  • knob of Butter
  • 1/4 c. or so Crème Fraîche
  • Sherry Vinegar.

Wash the chicken and dredge in the seasoned flour. Heat a large, heavy dutch oven over high flame and add a very healthy glug of olive oil. Brown the chicken on both sides in the hot oil. When golden brown, carefully pour the gin over the chicken and allow to cook all the way down (if you’re brave the original recipe says to flambé the gin, that’s not my sort of thing, I like my eyebrows). Remove the chicken to a plate.

Add the onions to the same hot oil and cook until becoming limp. Add the mushrooms and cook until they become glossy and begin giving off their liquid. Season liberally with salt & pepper.

Nestle the bouquet garni and the bay leaves amongst the mushrooms and add the chicken back to the pot, pressing the pieces into the mushrooms. Add the beer and partially cover. Allow to cook 30 minutes, flip the chicken pieces and allow to cook a further 15 minutes. Flip the chicken pieces again and allow to cook a further 15 minutes uncovered.

Remove the chicken to a large platter. Turn the heat down to medium-low. Remove the bouquet garni and bay leaves. Add the butter and the crème fraîche, stir to incorporate. Taste. Season with more salt & pepper as necessary and add a few splashes of sherry vinegar until you achieve a pleasant flavor.

To serve: Pour the sauce over the chicken and serve with a loaf of crusty bread, a green salad and garlicky mashed potaotes. Enjoy!

Recipe loosely adapted from Anne Willan’s The Country Cooking of France.

Garlic Bagel Mashed Potatoes

prep time: 20 minutes ~ cooking time: depends on your taters

  • 5 large Yukon Gold Potatoes, peeled and cut into chunks
  • Olive Oil
  • A few cloves of Garlic, minced
  • 1 bunch Lacinato Kale, washed and cut into ribbons
  • Crème Fraîche
  • Butter
  • Salt

Cook the potatoes in salted boiling water until tender. Drain and set aside.

Heat a glug of olive oil in the same pot over high heat and add the garlic. Allow to cook hot and fast until golden. Immediately throw in the kale and stand back. There will be lots of sputtering and hissing, but it will calm down in a second or two. Coat the kale with the garlicky oil and allow to cook until just wilted. Turn off the heat. Rice the potatoes into the same pot. Add a healthy dollop of crème fraîche, a big knob of butter or a heavy drizzle of olive oil and salt. Mix to incorporate and enjoy!


20 Responses to “Mmm… Bière”

  1. Christina November 7, 2007 at 10:09 am #

    Ugh. Pearl un-fun-ions. I usually skip that step in coq au vin.

    This chicken sounds wonderful, rich with the nutty goodness of a great beer. Okay, it must go on my list of to-dos.

    ECG would kill me (not literally) if I put something green in his potatoes. I’m really struggling with the green issue right now, as I love all things green, but he hates all of them except salad greens (and he doesn’t love them all that much either). I guess the mashed potatoes with kale will have to be a dish for me only.

    As always, beautiful pictures!

  2. mary November 7, 2007 at 10:53 am #

    I skip the pearl onions in the coq au vin too. I’m going to make this dish this weekend, I was looking for something to make for a friend who runs an upscale restaurant and I think this will be perfect and I will most definitely be setting the gin on fire, that’s going to be the fun part!

  3. Jennifer Hess November 7, 2007 at 11:24 am #

    I haven’t even had lunch yet and now I’m starving! I see a trip to Whole Foods to refill our growler in our very near future. :)

  4. sher November 7, 2007 at 1:35 pm #

    My God! What fabulous pictures!

  5. hungrygirl November 7, 2007 at 6:03 pm #

    This sounds fantastic. I can’t wait to try it. Your writing is so joyful and photgraphs luminious…

  6. Lydia November 7, 2007 at 10:39 pm #

    Hmmm, my hubby is in Jackson Heights and I’m here in Rhode Island — and Ratatouille is at the top of my queue, too. Now I just need some beer, some potatoes, some kale….

  7. lobstersquad November 8, 2007 at 2:26 am #

    well, I´m convinced. Coc au vin has been on my list of things to cook for ages, but now it´ll be after this.

  8. ann November 8, 2007 at 8:35 am #

    Christina — Un-fun-ions? Hilarious! Sounds like you need to get that Jessica Seinfeld book to sneak ECG some greens. You know what? That would be a much funnier book, “How To Sneak Veggies Into Your Husband’s Food.” Want to write it with me? ;-)

    Mary — I’ll be around all weekend, so if I flubbed a direction or anything (if you make it) feel free to email me! Oh I hope you love it!

    Jenn — They’ve got some really cool beers that I bet you’ll enjoy the heck out of.

    Sher — Thanks :-)

    Hungrygirl — Thanks! That’s such a nice compliment!

    Lydia — Sadly Ratatouille didn’t make it to me :-( I think I might just have to go out and buy it instead!

    Lobstersquad — It’s so much easier than coq au vin, tastier too if you ask me. It has less of the odd metallic taste that can sometimes flavor the mushrooms. It’s darn good stuff!

  9. Susan in Italy November 8, 2007 at 9:49 am #

    Mmm… coq au biere rather than coq au vin, it sounds warm and cozy. A lot of french food is simpler than you think. I’m glad this was one of those dishes.

  10. loulou November 8, 2007 at 4:07 pm #

    That book looks amazing! I have one of her other’s, From My Chateau Kitchen.
    The dish looks perfect for a cool, autumn day. You’ve taken some beautiful pictures! Thanks for sharing.

  11. izzy's mama November 8, 2007 at 11:22 pm #

    Every time I see lacinato kale now, I think of you and your salad! I used to buy it at the health food store and use it just like regular kale but one day I will put it to better use!

  12. ann November 9, 2007 at 9:00 am #

    Susan — It’s really true, isn’t it? The French are such contradictions.

    Loulou — Ooooooooh! I’ll have to look for that one. It sounds fabulous.

    Izzy’s Mama — I love that, being known as the kale lady. I might change my user name now ;-)

  13. Toni November 9, 2007 at 6:16 pm #

    Your Whole Foods is obviously much more sophisticated than ours – a beer room? Wow!

    But seriously, cooking with beer is terrific – I started doing that even before I learned to like beer! This recipe looks like my kind of thing – un-fussy and deeply satisfying. I found myself needing kale this week, but came up with a completely different solution.

    As always, I love your photos!!!

  14. s'kat November 10, 2007 at 9:30 am #

    You really made the right decision on this one! Perfectly dreamy fall weather combined with perfectly comfy comfort food…

    As far as pearl onions, I always use the frozen type, completely hassle-free!

    Your leaves are just beautiful! Ours have given up all hope of turning, and are dropping off the trees in pure frustration.

    Oh- and you can actually re-cork wine? Whodda thunk?

  15. ann November 10, 2007 at 6:44 pm #

    Toni — Lol, well, that Whole Foods is in a building that’s catering to hipsters with too much money, so I guess they’re tailoring the offerings to their audience ;-) I loooove your kale recipe. It sounds so delicious and comforting.

    S’kat — I said you can recork wine, I never said it’s something I do often ;-) That’s too bad about the leaves, it took awhile for ours to get going, but now that they have, they’re spectacular.

  16. christianne November 11, 2007 at 5:57 pm #

    Just found your blog through Ulla at Goldilocks finds Manhattan. That chicken looks fantastic! I will definitely give this a try. Think it would work well with beef?

  17. Julie November 11, 2007 at 9:57 pm #

    Damn! Another book to be added to my wishlist.

    Coq a la Bière sounds delicious. Actually, everything about this entire dinner sounds delicious. Perfect fall food. And perfect fall pictures.

  18. ann November 12, 2007 at 9:23 am #

    Chrsitanne — Hmmm… beef… Maybe. I think you’d have to be very careful that the cut be not too fatty. The fat might make the sauce too slick…

    Julie — Hehe, I know! Me too! And this one’s not cheap. *sigh* The things we’ll do for food.

  19. Molly December 4, 2007 at 2:31 pm #

    I avoided any recipe that called for peeling quantities of pearl onions, too, until I found that you can buy them by the bag frozen, already peeled. Birdseye is the brand available around here. There may be other brands.

  20. Robin September 20, 2008 at 8:41 am #

    Mmm… coq au biere sounds fantastic! I had never even heard of it.

    I’ll be trying this with one of the local chickens this week.

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