Coq au vin

with all the fixings

It is always a good idea to get somebody ready for your food, with a little food. Thin slices of eggplant, rolled around a soft goat cheese from the Loire, takes someone for a wander through an open market with aubergine (give it to me now, aubergine is much prettier than eggplant) piled high with purple skins so tight, they sparkle. And before that, I might even serve a tender wedge of duck liver mousse with a tear of baguette. You can get the best duck liver mousse, I have ever known, from a little village called Montsoreau on the banks of the Loire. You can’t get there now, but that day will come.

Eggplant rollatini with goat cheese tomato and green olive

Slice very firm eggplants into 1/4 inch slices.  Roast in a single layer on a sheet pan, drizzled pretty darn well with olive oil.  Season with salt.  Cook until

most of the white is gone and they taste good to eat.  Cool.  At the bottom edge, add a bit of goat cheese.  Roll up.  Continue with all the slices.  Halve a head of

garlic and color the cut side a bit in sauce pan with olive oil and a few sprigs of thyme and parsley.  Add just the tomatoes, crushed in your hand from a can of 

whole tomatoes.  (leave the sauce in the can for something else.)  Simmer to heat through for about 10 or 15 minutes.  Add the rolls of eggplant and simmer 

very gently, just to warm through.  Serve on a platter with picholine or nicoise olives and parsley sprigs scattered over. 

And for the main attraction:

Coq au vin

Marinate a whole chicken, cut into parts with 1 chopped onion, 1/2 a carrot, clove of garlic, one stalk chopped celery, some thyme sprigs, parsley sprigs and a few bay leaves and a few peppercorns with half a bottle or more of dry red wine and a little drizzle of olive oil, for at least two hours and up to six.  Strain the marinade.  Saute the vegetables in butter with a spill of olive oil and a sprinkle of flour to coat, about 10 to 15 minutes.  Add chopped, smoked lardons (or not) and fry just until cooked through, not fully browned.  Wipe the grease from the pan and remove all the bits from the pan but do not clean the pan.  Season chicken with salt on all sides and brown well.  Give it a grind of pepper.  Remove from the pan.  Wipe the grease from the pan without lifting anything stuck to the pan.  Pour wine from marinade into pan and bring to a simmer.  Use a rubber spatula to scrape the bottom of the pan, so that all the bits go into the liquid.  Add the chicken, a cup of homemade chicken stock, the vegetables, a half a leek tied with thyme, parsley and the lardon.  Cover with a piece of parchment.  Braise at 350 degrees until the chicken is completely cooked through and easily comes away from the bone. Remove the chicken and all the bits from the pan.  Bring the sauce to a simmer and reduce until saucy looking.  Off the heat, stir in a knob of butter.  Serve with the chicken.  Make buttery little croutons and pearl onions and sautéed mushrooms (all separately) to serve on the side if you really want to knock yourself out.

To make chicken stock:  a pound of raw bones, half a carrot, two stalks of celery, one onion, a leek, three pepper corns, thyme sprigs, bay leaf, half a tomato, parsley sprigs and plenty of water to cover.  Add pinch of salt.  simmer for at least an hour or two.  

Potato Gratin

very thinly slice about 7-8 medium yukon gold potatoes.  Gently simmer them in whole milk with splash of cream, pinch of salt and grind of pepper until nearly tender.

Meanwhile, bring two cups of heavy cream to the simmer with four or five cloves of garlic, and a few sprigs of thyme.  Add a pinch of salt.  When the garlic is soft, strain

the cream, pushing the garlic through the sieve and into the cream. Taste for salt and pepper.  Layer the potatoes, tasting for salt, with the cream into a gratin dish.  Bake,

covered with parchment and then foil with a few holes poked through until potatoes are completely tender.  Remove cover and if you like you can add a little gruyere grated on top.

Make sure oven is at about 400 so that the top browns.  

Haricot vert

Braise beans in water with salt and sprig of parsley til tender.  Drain.  Melt butter in the pan with snipped chive.  Toss beans through and add salt and pepper to taste.

And for the finale:

Chocolate souffle

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Chop 125 grams of your best bittersweet chocolate. You can add a little rum or gran marnier at this point.

Gently heat 1/4 cup cream and stir chocolate in.  If chocolate does not melt completely, microwave for 10 seconds.  Stir again.  

Beat 3 yolks with 1/3 cup sugar minus 2 tablespoons until thick and lemony colored.  Use those 2 tablespoons of sugar to add to the whites, once they have soft peaks.

Beat whites til glossy.  Add a little egg yolk mix and mix together with your hand.  Add the rest in two more parts.  Gently fold in egg whites.  Grease souffle dishes and fill two thirds of the way up.  Set the dish or dishes into a lasagna pan and add hot water to fill by about an inch, surrounding the dishes.  Cook until set across the top, but still wiggly.

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