An Alsatian bend on that rustic quintessential coq au vin, joining other not so lesser locals like coq au vin jaune (Jura), coq au pourpre (Beaujolais nouveau), coq au Champagne, and so on. Variations on a theme and emulation abound in cuisine — in other places, too. A word to fellow chicken trollops: this is good grub.

COQ AU RIESLING (CHICKEN WITH RIESLING)

6 thick slices pancetta or bacon, cut into lardons

4 chicken leg-thigh quarters, rinsed and well dried
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 T unsalted butter
1 T extra virgin olive oil

4 shallots, peeled and thinly sliced
2 plump fresh garlic cloves, peeled and minced
3 T brandy or Cognac

2 C dry Riesling wine
1 C chicken stock
1 bay leaf
3 thyme sprigs

2 T unsalted butter
1 T extra virgin olive oil
2 C fresh crimini mushrooms, quartered
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

1/2+ C crème fraîche

Fresh tarragon leaves, roughly chopped

In a large, heavy deep skillet, fry the cut bacon over medium heat until crisp. Transfer bacon to paper towels to drain.

Salt and pepper the chicken pieces. In a heavy, deep skillet or Dutch oven add butter and olive oil over medium high heat. When it is lively hot, but not smoking, lay in the chicken skin side down. In batches and without crowding the pan, cook until nicely golden, about 4-5 minutes per side. Set cooked chicken aside in a platter or casserole dish, tented loosely with aluminum foil.

Add the shallots and garlic to the pan and cook for one minute more. Drizzle with brandy and flambé by striking a long match and carefully lighting the fumes. Allow to sit until flames extinguish.

Place the chicken back into the pan. Pour adequate wine and stock to cover the chicken. Cover the pan and simmer until the chicken is tender, about 20-25 minutes. Remove the chicken to a platter or casserole dish and tent loosely. Discard the thyme and bay leaf and reserve the liquid.

In the meantime, place heavy skillet with butter and oil over medium high heat. When the butter is well heated but not browned, add the mushrooms and toss well so they absorb the butter. Season with salt and pepper and continue tossing until lightly browned. Remove and set aside.

Cook the reserved liquid from the chicken/brandy/wine down to a sauce consistency. Then, whisk in the crème fraîche — the sauce should ultimately become glossy and coat a spoon well. Adjust seasoning to your liking. Return the chicken to the pan along with the lardons and mushrooms. Simmer a couple of minutes to blend the flavors and heat.

Plate separately and ladle some sauce over or serve on a platter, country style. Scatter with chopped tarragon and serve with buttered artisanal noodles, mashed or smashed potatoes+turnips+celeriac or rice pilaf, and a favored seasonal green or even a side of braised cabbage.

Pourboire: instead of shallots, try 3-4 medium leeks (white and pale green parts only), cut in half lengthwise then sliced into half moons.

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…dinner is not what you do in the evening before something else. Dinner is the evening.
~Art Buchwald

This Provençal comfort food exudes the melodious aromas of poultry, olives, fennel and capers that so often waft from the region’s kitchens and tables.

Capers (Capparis spinosa L.) are perennial bushy shrubs that bear fragrant white to light pink petals, and fleshy leaves renowned for the delicious immature buds which are commonly prepared pickled in salt and vinegar. Native to the Meditteranean basin, the thorny caper bush is well adapted to the sun soaked, sandy and sometimes nutrient needy soil found in the region.

Intense manual labor is required to gather capers, for the buds must be picked each morning just as they reach the proper size—before they open. Merchants categorize capers by size with the smallest non pareil often being the most desirable. However, somewhat larger buds from Pantelleria, a hot dry wind-swept speck of a volcanic island south of Sicily, are also highly prized.

Freshly picked caper buds are not an especially savory lot, but their piquancy increases after sun-drying, salting and brining. Deceptive by size, these charming, petite morsels are tart, zestful and bring earthy, tangy, citrus dimensions to dishes. A pantry without capers should sense remorse. Capers are packed in glass jars in coarse salt or vinegar brine, and so it is incumbent to thoroughly rinse before use.

BRAISED CHICKEN WITH WINE, CAPERS, OLIVES, FENNEL, & SHERRY VINEGAR

1 (3 1/2 to 4 lb) chicken, rinsed, patted dry, cut into 8 pieces, at room temperature
Sea salt
Freshly ground black pepper
Herbes de Provence
2 T extra virgin olive oil
2 T unsalted butter
3 plump garlic cloves, peeled and smashed

2 medium yellow onions, peeled and thinly sliced
4 garlic cloves, peeled and finely minced

1 dried bay leaf
2 rosemary sprigs
1 C high quality green olives, pitted (such as picholine)
1 C capers, drained and well rinsed
4 fennel branches, roughly sliced into 2″-3″ pieces
2 C dry white wine
1 C chicken stock

1/4 C sherry wine vinegar

3 T fresh tarragon or flat parsley, roughly chopped

Season the chicken liberally with salt, pepper and a couple of pinches of herbes de Provence crumbled between finger and thumb. In a large heavy deep skillet or Dutch oven, heat olive oil and butter and garlic over medium heat. But, do not allow to brown. With a wooden spatula, massage the garlic cloves into the entire pan surface. Then, place chicken in pan, skin side down; the skin should sizzle some when the pieces contact the surface. Brown chicken in batches, turning over once, 8 to 10 minutes per batch. Remove crushed garlic cloves before they brown. Set aside browned chicken on a dish or platter, loosely tented.

Reduce the heat to medium or medium low, and add the onions. Sweat onions until soft and translucent, but not brown, about 5 minutes. Add garlic and cook one minute more. Return the chicken to the pan, and add the bay leaf, rosemary, olives, capers, fennel, wine and stock. Cover and simmer slowly until chicken is tender, about 20-25 minutes.

Remove the chicken to the dish or platter, and tent loosely with foil. Also remove bay leaf, rosemary sprigs. Raise heat, fortify sauce with sherry vinegar and boil down rapidly until sauce begins to just lightly thicken and coat a spoon. Adjust seasoning with salt and pepper to your liking.

Serve over rice, pasta or thick noodles.