You didn’t think that it would be just the one recipe, did you? After the success of the ham and goats cheese salad starter it seemed rude not to have a go at a main course. Once again my mind ticked over with thoughts of what could I make in a small space with limited equipment to represent the region of Alsace.
I settled on a version of ‘Coq au Riesling’ – similar to Coq au Vin but using white wine instead of red. I didn’t really fancy letting the pot bubble away for hours on end, especially as we had not long since returned from a busy day trip to Strasbourg, so I decided to simplify my approach.
This is a cracking dish to knock up in a flash at home, with (hopefully) far more space than I was blessed with, here’s what you’ll need:
1 tbsp Butter, for frying
2 Chicken Breasts, or Thighs, diced
1 Bouquet Garni (in this case a bundle made up of thyme, parsley and bay leaf)
3 Shallots, peeled and diced
4 Garlic Cloves, peeled and finely chopped
250ml Alsace Riesling, or another Riesling will be fine
250ml Chicken Stock, from a cube is fine
150ml Double Cream (or Creme Fleurette Epaisse, if you happen to be in France)
1 Lemon, for garnish
Going on the hunt for ingredients is half the fun in France. I had stopped by at Le Marche Couvert (The Covered Market) in Colmar town centre, managing to get some top notch dairy products in the process such as cream and butter. Over the street from our hotel at Appart’hôtel Odalys La Rose d’Argent there was a handy supermarket for things like stock cubes, wine and the herbs.
Feet aching from wandering the beautiful streets of Strasbourg, the last thing I wanted to do was walk back into town to another restaurant. So doing this with a cold glass of Riesling in my hand was a perfect alternative. I began by prepping the vegetables on the slippy plastic chopping board – shallots and garlic into fine dice.
Waiting what seemed like an eternity for the huge saucepan to heat up was made easier by the superb wine – you really must try it when in Alsace. Once the pan did heat up, in went the butter. Just as it began to sizzle it was time to throw in the shallots and garlic. Sautee this until softened.
Now the chicken. The French seem to have a higher standard of poultry than we do in the UK. None of this water-saturated, imported from Holland type rubbish that we find on our supermarket shelves – these were top grade free range specimens at a good price. Into the pan they go for around 3-5 minutes to brown nicely.
Once the chicken’s browned, chuck in the Reisling (gently, don’t go spilling it!) along with the bouquet garni. Turn the heat up high and allow the wine to reduce to around a tablespoon worth of liquid. Once the wine has reduced, add the stock and repeat the same process but this time reduce by around two thirds.
By now the apartment smelled incredible. It’s so strange how using fresh ingredients in other countries can make such a difference to something that I wouldn’t think twice about cooking at home. With the stock reduced the last step is to add the cream. On the subject of cream, many say that the French have poor standards when it comes to double cream. For me, I didn’t find that to be the case in this instance.
All that’s left now is to check for seasoning and serve it up. With being in an apartment and not having any salt to hand, I decided to go for the Marco Pierre White method of adding a little stock cube to season the dish – it does work and very well at that. Just to heighten the presentation and flavour, I placed a wedge of lemon on the side.
Tucking into this rich plate of food made me happy. It feels like more of an achievement when you’ve gone out and bought ingredients as fresh as this in another language and then cooked in unfamiliar surroundings. The flavour was superb, the herbs from the bouquet garni provided a top collaboration with the wine and garlic. It really was a fitting tribute to our time in Alsace.
If I had thought a little more about garnishes and accompaniments I would have thrown in some spaetzle or even rice. You can do pretty much anything you fancy with this – any sort of pasta or rice would be great. I really hope you make and enjoy this one – especially with a nice chilled glass while you’re at it.