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May 18, 2013

Culinary Conversation: A day in France— or close to it

NEW CASTLE — Here’s some advice: If your spouse packs your lunch, never complain about the contents.

I wasn’t actually griping. I just noted that it lacked excitement.

The response from spouse was — our kitchen isn’t the Ritz Carlton.

But, despite my comments, a dinner befitting the Ritz awaited me when I came home. The main course was coq au vin. That, of course, is French for “chicken in wine,” and it sounds fancy and looks fancy, but is actually not difficult to make.

The French do use a lot of wine in their cooking, and are also known for some of the most wonderful pastries ever known to womankind and mankind.

Five years ago, I was fortunate to visit Paris and Nice, and soaked up the aromas and offerings of the almost endless stream of sidewalk cafés and bake shops.

In Europe, the duo of a roll such as brioche served with coffee is known as the continental breakfast. Brioche is basically a muffin topped with a fluffy knob. It’s not difficult to make either; just takes some time.

The coq au vin would pair nicely with either of the salads offered today. Roquefort is a sheep milk blue cheese from the south of France. According to some research, though similar cheeses are produced elsewhere, European law dictates that only those cheeses aged in the natural Combalou caves of Roquefort-sur-Soulzon may bear the name Roquefort, as it is a recognized geographical indication or has a protected designation of origin. The overall flavor sensation is a blend of mild, then sweet, smoky and salty.

We love your participation in Culinary Conversation. Select your favorite cuisine — and send us some of your favorite recipes. Mercî.

Coq Au Vin

2 to 2 1/2 pounds meaty chicken pieces (breasts, thighs and drumsticks)

2 tbsps. cooking oil

Salt and pepper

12 to 18 pearl onions or shallots, peeled (or use frozen)

1 1/4 cups burgundy wine

1 cup whole fresh mushrooms

1 cup thinly sliced carrots (2 medium)

1 tbsp. snipped fresh parsley

2 cloves garlic, minced

1/2 tsp. dried marjoram, crushed

1/2 tsp. dried thyme, crushed

1 bay leaf

2 tbsps. all-purpose flour

2 tbsps. margarine or butter, softened

2 slices bacon, crisp-cooked, drained and crumbled

Snipped fresh parsley (optional)

Hot cooked noodles (optional)

Skin chicken. Rinse chicken, pat dry. In a 12-inch skillet, cook chicken in hot oil about 15 minutes or until lightly browned, turning to brown evenly. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Add onions or shallots, burgundy, mushrooms, carrots, 1 tbsp. parsley, garlic, marjoram, thyme and bay leaf. Bring to boiling; reduce heat. Cover and simmer for 35 to 40 minutes or until chicken is tender and is no longer pink. Transfer chicken and vegetables to a serving plate; keep warm. Discard the bay leaf.

In a mixing bowl, stir together flour and softened margarine or butter to make a smooth paste. Stir into burgundy mixture in skillet. Cook and stir until thickened and bubbly. Cook and stir for 1 minute more. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Pour thickened burgundy mixture over chicken and vegetables. Sprinkle with bacon. If desired, top with additional parsley and serve with hot cooked noodles.

Brioche

1/2 cup butter

1/3 cup sugar

1/2 tsp. salt

1/2 cup undiluted evaporated milk

1 package active dry yeast

1/4 cup warm water

1 egg yolk

2 eggs

3 1/4 cups all-purpose flour

1 egg white, unbeaten

1 tbsp. sugar

Cream butter with 1/3 cup sugar and salt in a large bowl. Beat in the evaporated milk.

Soften yeast in the warm water.

Beat egg yolks with the 2 eggs until thick and piled softly. Gradually add to the creamed mixture, beating constantly until fluffy. Blend in the yeast.

Add flour, about 1/2 cup at a time, beating thoroughly after each addition. Cover; let rise in a warm place until doubled, about 2 hours.

Stir down and beat thoroughly. Cover tightly with moisture and vaporproof material, and refrigerate overnight.

Remove from fridge and stir down the dough. Turn onto a lightly floured surface and divide into two portions, one using about three fourths of the dough, the other about one fourth.

Cut each portion into 16 equal pieces. Roll each piece into a smooth ball. Place each large ball in a well-greased muffin pan. Make a deep indentation with finger in center of each large ball; then moisten each depression slightly with cold water. Press a small ball into each depression.

Cover; let rise again until more than doubled, about one hour.

Brush tops of rolls with a mixture of the egg white and 1 tbsp. sugar. Bake at 375 about 15 minutes or until golden brown.

Salade Provencale

2 green peppers, cut in strips

1/4 cup oil (part salad oil and part olive oil)

3 firm ripe tomatoes, washed and cut in pieces

1/2 Bermuda onion, peeled and sliced

4 oz. fresh mushrooms, cleaned and sliced lengthwise

12 whole pitted ripe olives

Fry the green pepper strips in the oil until partially tender.

Remove strips to a bowl. Add tomatoes, onion, mushrooms and olives; toss.

Shake well in a covered jar, 4 parts oil (half salad oil and half olive oil including the oil from frying,) 1 part white wine vinegar, salt and pepper to taste and 1 cut clove of garlic. Remove garlic before pouring dressing over salad; toss gently until well coated. Marinate at room temperature about 1 hour, turning occasionally. Chill.

Sprinkle generously with freshly ground black pepper.

Roquefort-Vegetable Salad

Crisp salad greens

1 small onion, sliced

1 cup sliced raw cauliflower

1 can (16 oz.) cut green beans, chilled and drained

1 can (13 to 15 oz.) green asparagus spears, chilled and drained

Roquefort-Mayonnaise Dressing

Half fill six individual salad bowls with the greens. Arrange vegetables on greens. Accompany with a bowl of the dressing garnished with snipped parsley.

Dressing:

Blend 3 oz. cream cheese, softened, in a bowl with 3 oz. Roquefort cheese, crumbled. Stir in 1/2 cup light cream, 1/2 cup mayonnaise, 1/2 tsp. Worcestershire sauce, 1/4 tsp. garlic powder and 1/4 tsp. dry mustard. Beat until fluffy and chill.

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