Like many people living in an apartment, my kitchen is tiny. The maximum usable portion of counter space is a 26″ wide x 12″ rectangle. Cooking anything with more than three ingredients requires premeditation, creative juggling, and a suspension of anticipated frustration to deal with how to squeeze all the ingredients into this modest slice of granite, and still have room to knead, chop or dice as the case may be.
I usually stick with the tried and true simplicity of pasta, salads and soups. But once in a while, an occasion arises that calls for me to conquer the kitchen dimensions, and sally forth into the field of a “gourmet” meal.
Recently I used Lois’s visit to Rolf’s, our favorite place to raise a glass, as a reason to go beyond my normal repertoire.
I wanted something I could prepare the day before that would accumulate depth during its overnight stay in the refrigerator. Lois is not a picky eater, so whether I served a sweetbread stew or lasagna with chickpeas and pancetta, she would be fine. It is me that needs the more traditional fare.
I decided on a Coq au Vin. Relying 90% on Ina Garten, and 10% on Julia Child (especially her tip to blanch the bacon in boiling water for about 8 minutes to quell its ability to overwhelm all other flavors), I started preparing the morning before. I chopped the carrots and garlic; laid out the cognac, opened the wine (took a sip), peeled 20 pearl onions (what a pain), and sliced the mushrooms BEFORE I blanched the bacon. Then while the bacon was crisping, I salt and peppered the chicken. I was so organizd, and operated with such efficiency, I kept a photographic diary:
After it was cooked, I let it cool completely and then put it in the refrigerator.
Sunday morning, I set the table. Since I never married, I never acquired that initial set of matching dinnerware. Instead my plates, bowls, dishes, cups, table linens and napkin rings have been bought and bargained for from countries I have visited. To me, they are the best souvenirs ever because they bring me back to a time and place.
When we got home from Rolf’s Sunday evening, I warmed up the coq au vin by bringing it to a full boil, and then letting it simmer for about 20 minutes. Voila! It was was ready. We sat down to a mismatched dinner table set with a tablecloth from Cairo, Egypt, a wooden trivet from Ecuador, dinner plates from Buenos Aires, Zanzibar and Barcelona, and napkin rings purchased in Tanzania, India, France, and Guatemala. As it is said – nostalgia, and good food shared with great friends is manna for the soul. Bon Appetit!