Wednesday, May 22, 2013

"France and its Cuisine" & "The Pooh Cookbook" (as in Winnie-the-Pooh) - Coq au Vin and Chocolate Honey Pie for our anniversary

Date I made these recipes:  May 19, 2013

France and its Cuisine (author unknown)
Published by:  Mallard Press
ISBN:  0-792-45227-5; © 1991 (and what do you know, that’s the year we got married!)
Recipe:  Coq au Vin (Chicken with Wine) – p. 86

The Pooh Cook Book (Winnie-the-Pooh) by Virginia H. Ellison; Illustrated by Ernest H. Shepard
Published by: Dell Publishing (a Yearling Special)
© 1969
Recipe:  Honey Chocolate Pie – p. 82

Yesterday, May 18th, was my 22nd wedding anniversary.  My husband, Andy, spent it in Wisconsin participating in a 100 mile bike ride called, somewhat appropriately, Arcadia’s Brute.  I, on the other hand, went to Art-A-Whirl in Northeast Minneapolis to look at art and buy yet another set of earrings.  I can’t help myself.

Yes, we’re talking romantic folks!  If there’s anything I’d say about a marriage lasting this long is that flexibility is key.  Sure, we spent the first couple anniversaries joined together at the hip but after that our independent spirits took over (we married when we were in our 30’s) and we decided that we didn’t need to be together on that exact day in order to have a meaningful celebration of our marriage.

The day after our anniversary, I cooked dinner but not until Andy got home from a model car show he went to earlier in the day and I came home from brunch with a friend.  Priorities, priorities!

Now you may be wondering what on earth a French dish was doing paired with a recipe from a Winnie-the-Pooh cookbook and so I’ll tell you that it all connects to our wedding and honeymoon.  At our wedding, my father-in-law read from Anne Morrow Lindberg’s Gift from the Sea.  The late, great Webster Martin had a wonderful reading voice and gave a thoughtful delivery of the section we chose.

And then my Aunt Mary, “Auntie Mare,” got up and with the straightest of faces intoned “This is a reading from Winnie-the-Pooh,” and then cracked up laughing.  I cannot recall exactly what the section of Winnie-the-Pooh was that we selected but I do recall we saw it on a greeting card and thought it made for a fun and different wedding reading.  I loved reading Winnie-the-Pooh as a kid although I was always afraid of the “heffalumps” until I was older and realized they were elephants. And so what the heck, you like something, you add it to your wedding reading list.

As to the honeymoon, Andy and I managed to score incredibly inexpensive airline tickets to Paris (much cheaper than any domestic flights) and so in another “what the heck moment,” we booked a flight to Paris, then took a train trip to northern Italy (Venice and Florence), another train trip through the Italian and French Riviera with a stop in Provence to visit a friend and then back up to Paris.  It was exhausting and crazy fun all rolled into one although sadly, we haven’t been back since.  And so we bien mange (eat well) at home instead.

Many of the recipes in the French cookbook sounded oh-so-tasty and I vacillated between a recipe for Chicken Stew Nicoise, a recipe with tomatoes, olives and white wine and the one I made, Coq au Vin, a heartier dish with mushrooms, pearl onions and red wine before deciding that red wine wins.  Plus, the weather was on the stormy side (a complete understatement for the deluge and flash flood I got caught in) and the heartier dish felt cozier than the other.  Plus I like red wine and hey, if you have to add three cups of wine to a dish, it should be something you like to drink, n’cest pas? (Isn’t it so?)

As to dessert, finding something to make from the Pooh cookbook wasn’t hard at all as this recipe combines my favorites – chocolate and honey (or, as Pooh would say “hunny”) with whipped cream thrown in for good measure.  The author cautions us that this is a very sweet pie but you know what, it didn’t taste that way at all.  We pronounced it a grand success.  And in keeping with our French theme, the French word for honeymoon is “lune de miel,” “miel” being the French word for honey (and “lune” is moon).  Go ahead and say it with me:  “Awwwww…..” 

Both of these dishes were very good (c’est tres bon) but I do have a major change I suggest making to the chicken dish and that is after baking it or simmering it for the required time (45-60 minutes), remove the chicken and simmer the remaining wine/mushroom/onion mixture for a good half hour to hour to reduce the sauce.  Our initial reaction to the dish, eaten straight out of the oven, was that it was okay but not grand as the wine sauce was too watery.  But then I reduced the sauce and it was much, much better. 

So that’s my anniversary dinner for me and my honey (“hunney”).  As Pooh always said “It’s so much more friendly with two.”

Coq au Vin (Chicken in red wine) – serves 4
¼ lb bacon, cut into cubes
2 T butter
3 lbs chicken pieces
12 small white onions, peeled and left whole
2 cups mushrooms, sliced
2 bay leaves
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 bouquet garni (this is typically a mix of thyme, bay leaves, and parsley, tied together, usually in cheesecloth that you then submerge into the liquid.)
3 cups full-bodied red wine
3 T buerre manie (1 tbsp all-purpose flour blended with 2 T softened butter)
Salt and black pepper
Fried bread croutons (garnish)
Parsley (for bouquet garni and garnish)

Fry the bacon until it has browned and rendered its fat and, with a slotted spoon, remove from the pan.  Next add the butter to the fat and melt over a gentle heat.  When the foam subsides, add the chicken joints and fry until golden on both sides.  Remove them to a large flameproof casserole.  Fry the onions until a little brown and then lightly fry the mushrooms.

Add the onions and mushrooms to the casserole together with the bacon, garlic, bay leaves and bouquet garni.  Pour over the red wine and season with black pepper and a little salt.  Bring to a steady simmer over gentle heat.  Add pieces of the beurre manie until the sauce thickens, cover the casserole and continue cooking over a low heat OR place in moderate oven, 350F until chicken is tender – about 45-60 minutes.

Remove bay leaves and bouquet garni and garnish with fried bread croutons and chopped parsley.

Ann’s Note:  The sauce did not thicken like I wanted it to so after cooking for 45-60 minutes, remove the chicken, put the remaining wine/mushroom/onion mixture on the stove and simmer for an additional 30-60 minutes until the sauce is reduced.

Honey Chocolate Pie – makes a 10” pie
1 9-inch pie shell, uncooked
4 ounces semisweet chocolate
¼ cup butter (2 ounces)
1 14 ½-ounce can evaporated milk (Ann’s Note:  can sizes these days are 12 ounces)
½ cup honey
1 cup sugar
3 T cornstarch
¼ teaspoon salt
2 large eggs, beaten
½ cup whipping cream

Buy a ready-made pie shell or make your own from any standard recipe or any of the piecrust mixes.  If making your own, line the pie pan with the pastry before starting the honey-chocolate mixture.

Melt the chocolate and butter in the top of a double boiler.  When melted, remove from the heat and blend in the evaporated milk, stirring all the time.

In a mixing bowl blend together the honey, sugar, cornstarch and salt.  Beat in the eggs.  Add this mixture to the chocolate mixture slowly, beating all the time.  Pour this filling into the waiting pie shell.  If you used a smaller pie shell like I did, pour the remaining mixture into ramekins.

Bake the pie uncovered for 40 minutes then cover it lightly with aluminum foil and bake it 20 minutes more until the top is puffed.  Cracks sometimes show in the center.

Cool for an hour then refrigerate.

Serve cold with whipped cream piled on it.

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