Sunday, June 24, 2007

Coq à la bière....

Taken from the Le Gavroche cookbook, courtesy of Michel Roux Jnr. A hearty, hale, robust, honourable way to present a chicken. Northern French style, peasant cooking at its robust best. If you time it right, and buy enough beer, you can also be quite drunk by the time you, and your guests, start eating.


Circa 200 g button mushrooms
1 chicken, preferably free range, organic, and yellow.
1 Bottle of beer (33cl).
1 1/2 tablespoons of brandy. Or so. ish.
200ml double Cream.
50g of chopped shallots.
1 teaspoon of brown sugar
Olive oil
1 ceramic/metal Dutch oven (I used a deep ovenproof frying pan)

Preheat your oven to Gas mark 7. Lay your chicken on one side, and drizzle with a little olive oil, and dot with butter. It's absolutely central to get the best bird you can buy. Unfortunately, I just work for a living, so I picked up a 9 quid free range chicken.

Put the chicken, on its side, uncovered, in the oven. It'll take about 40 minutes to roast. Every 10 or 15 minutes, remove the bird from the oven, baste with the juices, and change its orientation, first resting it on its other side, and finally resting on its back.
Remove from the oven, and let the chicken rest, on a plate, on its breast, so the juices percolate to the breast. Cover with some foil.

Drain off most of the fat from the chicken dish, and put it on the hob. Add some butter - the dish should be hot enough to melt the butter easily, turn on the gas, and sweat the shallots until translucent.

Add the mushrooms, and cook for about 6 minutes. Add the brandy, and deglaze the pan by scraping it thoroughly with a wooden spoon. Cook until the pan is almost dry, and then add the beer. Reduce by half. If you bough a 50 cl bottle, add quite a lot of the beer. Drink the rest while reducing. If you have had the foresight to buy more, crack them open. The complex part is done.

Add the double cream, and reduce until it is a thin, saucelike consistency.

At this stage, I normally joint the chicken roughly, place it in a serving dish, and pour over the mushrooms and sauce. If I am drunk, I get someone else to do this. Serve with...well, potatoes, mashed or roasted are fantastic. And a bottle of Erdinger.

Roux recommends a bitter beer. Personally, I've tried quite a couple. I'd avoid beers that are too hoppy, or cheap. They can leave a metallic tang aftertaste. A good quality German beer or French beer seems to work best.

Organic Food.....

Re working for a living. The price quoted at me for a good quality organic bird was €15. Shallots, organic shallots, clocked in at 7 times more expensive than from the Italian shop down the road. More and more, I'm hearing people, buyers, cooks, growers, and gardeners talk about the near impossibility of viable organic growing. Because of the difficulties inherent in certain crops, or with fertilising, or with the incredible expense at point of sale. Despite the market growing at a rapid rate, year on year, it seems likely to remain the preserve of those with a budget for what is, essentially, a luxury food.

That and the fact that there are some gougers about, and it'll be a while yet before it can impact he mainstream in any definitive way.

Pity that. When grown with care, it's amongst the best you can buy.

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