Monday, November 21, 2005

Epoisses Kitty

So we went to Whole Foods to pick up supplies for our Coq au Vin blanc, but took an..ahem.. unexpected digression into the cheese aisle.

No! Really? You don't say! How on earth did you wind up there?

There was a shipment of Berthaut Epoisses in the case, but then I spotted another one by a producer called Germain, and in one of those cheese frenzy moment, I literally dropped the Berthaut and snatched up the new one.

We didn't know anything about it, but it looked a great deal shinier and goopier than the burger-shaped Berthaut rounds. After hailing a cheesemonger, we asked about the details. He scouted about for someone else, because, he said, he'd never tried it before. Well, as it turned out, no one at the counter had yet tried it, so -- our lucky day -- he cut into one and we got to sample.


We were sold. 250 g came home with us. Maybe we'll never have real Epoisses on these shores, but we can dream about it and have some tasty treats at least. And the AOC Germain doesn't appear to be too shabby -- they took a bronze medal last year at the Concours Général Agricole in Paris.

"Please, sir, may I have some Epoisses?" asks our cheesy kitty.

"Down, Sarastro. No cheese for kitties..."

"Give me the Epoisses, puny human."

Oh, and as an aside, how did I miss the Cat Blogging Weekend??

Anyhow, we worked for about 2.5 hours on the coq au vin blanc which was not as satisfying as one would hope for such effort. It was okay, and will probably taste even better, of course, the next day, but I like the recipe from Bistro Jeanty which uses cocoa powder. This appeared in the SF Chronicle a few years back.

(btw, I'm going to write a song and it will be entitled, "Oh My Stove, It is So Tiny.")


The secrets to success are to marinate the chicken overnight and to add cocoa powder to the sauce. Leftovers are great the next day spooned over wide noodles.


-- 2 large yellow onions, peeled and diced
-- 3 shallots, peeled and diced
-- 8 cloves garlic, peeled and roughly chopped
-- 3 sprigs parsley
-- 2 bay leaves
-- 5 branches thyme
-- 1 1/2 bottles good quality Merlot or Zinfandel

-- 2 large chickens (3 1/2-4 pounds each), cut up
-- Salt to taste
-- Freshly ground black pepper to taste
-- 1/2 cup olive oil
-- 2 tablespoons flour
-- 1/2 cup cognac
-- 2 cups chicken stock (canned is OK)
-- 1 1/2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder

-- 6 ounces thick- sliced apple- wood-smoked bacon, diced
-- 1 basket pearl onions, blanched and peeled
-- 1 pound button mushrooms, quartered

-- 2 tablespoons chopped parsley for garnish

INSTRUCTIONS: Place the onions, shallots, garlic, parsley sprigs, bay leaves, thyme and wine in a large non-reactive bowl. Add the chicken, and stir to mix well. Cover with plastic wrap, and refrigerate for 24 to 48 hours.

Remove the chicken from the wine marinade; reserve the marinade. Dry the chicken pieces with paper towels, and season them generously with salt and pepper.

Heat the oil in a large, heavy casserole over high heat. Add the chicken in batches to avoid crowding the pan. Brown the chicken well on all sides. Remove the pieces when browned, and set aside.

Add the flour to the casserole and cook, stirring constantly, for 2 minutes.

Return the chicken to the casserole, stir and add the cognac. Remove the casserole from the heat, carefully ignite the cognac, and let the flames burn out.

Add the marinade to the casserole, and bring the mixture to a boil over high heat, scraping up all browned bits from the bottom of the pan. Add the chicken stock. Reduce the heat to low, cover and simmer until the chicken is tender, about 1 to 1 1/2 hours.

Remove the chicken from the casserole and set aside. Strain the sauce through a sieve. Discard the solids, and return the sauce to the casserole.

Put the cocoa in a small bowl; add about 1/2 cup sauce, and whisk until smooth. Add the cocoa mixture to the casserole, turn the heat to high, and boil the sauce until it is reduced to about 4 cups.

When the sauce is reduced, lower the heat to medium-low and return the chicken to the casserole to heat through.

Meanwhile, saute the bacon in a large skillet. As it begins to brown, add the pearl onions and then the mushrooms. Let the mixture cook about 10 minutes until lightly colored.

Remove the mixture from the skillet with a slotted spoon, leaving the fat in the skillet, and add the solids to the chicken. Stir to combine, sprinkle with parsley, and serve.

Serves 8.

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