How did the chicken get to the other side? A post about coq au vin.

Coq au VinOf course the French would invent a dish like coq au vin. All that extra wine cluttering cellar shelves — what other solution is there than to pour it into a pot of browned chicken quarters? The brilliant part of this dish is not in using up an overabundance of vin and a tough ol’ coq. The brilliance is in pairing chicken with red wine.

I learned to pair light with white and dark with red as a young adolescent girl. As learned in Wine Pairings for Kids. We didn’t have Pat the Bunny. (That’s a complete exaggeration. Of course we owned Pat the Bunny.) There was, however, something European about my childhood home. The home cooked meals, absence of processed foods, and frequent late night family dinners that lingered through a bottle of wine stuck out as foreign to childhood friends.

When setting the table I had to put out the correct wine glasses for my parents. After Dad stopped telling me red or white, he started telling me the grape. Then I’d be required to look it up in the oversized book set on the top shelf of the bookcase. Then sometimes he’d quiz me on grape growing regions. Eventually I figured out they almost always drank red wine no matter the main course. I promptly forgot every thing about ideal grape growing soils.

It all sounds so much more than it was. We were strictly American middle class living on the outskirts of a city in Texas. The glasses were only a step above the Ikea wine glasses I now own and we sat down to steak dinners at midnight more than once. (That’s an exaggeration too. It was ground beef at least once.)

There was never any hope for me to be a normal, fits in well kind of adult, was there?

The addition of turnips as this easy coq au vin recipe instructed, however, sounds determinedly American. All practicality without any of Katharine Hepburn’s accent.

I’ve never had turnips before. I kept eating arugula until I liked it. I’ve repeatedly eaten beets and can even choose to eat roasted or slawed fresh brussels sprouts. Those vegetables are all cool right now, so maybe turnips stand a chance too.

Turnip does sound nicer in French — navet. Except, unfortunately, the vegetable can’t win in any language. According to my college era French to English/English to French dictionary it’s also slang for “load of rubbish.”

Maybe turnips never stood a chance at being a cool vegetable, but that doesn’t mean I should give up eating them just yet. They weren’t that bad.

When much younger I did make a proper coq au vin with a lot of help from my mom. It takes hours spread over days. When you’re using a grocery store chicken all that extra marinating time isn’t so very necessary I reason.

I haven’t made the dish since then, but I was looking for a worthy dish for my new Le Creuset pot — a going away present from my employer — and happened to have impulsively purchased a pack of drumsticks. It was odd. Drumsticks. Chicken legs rather than the ice cream cone. The recipe (not found online) is from the Williams-Sonoma Complete Outdoor Living Cookbook. At less than two hours to prepare it must be considered a quick cook version.

Does rushing it make it just chicken and wine in accent neutral American English?


Don’t forget to read Dragons Need Cake: and other writing scraps.

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