Sunday, March 09, 2008

Somewhere Between Stuttgart and Paris

I visited Alsace once during the year I spent as a student in Paris. Unfortunately, I have only a fuzzy memory of what I ate on that trip: a bowl of choucroute here, a slice of kugelhopf there. Fortunately, the March issue of Gourmet features a terrific collection of "Alsatian Sensation" recipes to bring me right back to Strasbourg. Last night I made Chicken in Riesling, Alsace's version of coq au vin. I definitely did not eat this when I visited Alsace, because there is no way I would've forgotten such a delicious and comforting meal.

As the recipe's headnote explains, coq au vin made with red wine is probably the best-known take on the French dish in America. But most regions of France have their own version incorporating local wines. Naturally, Alsace's coq au vin calls on Riesling to give a "gentle richness" to the dish. Fork has always been a Riesling fan, and for last night's meal he picked out a 2005 Trimbach Riesling, which was a little citrusy and fruity with a nice dry finish.

I used my cast-iron dutch oven to brown chicken breasts and thighs in oil and butter, then took the chicken out and cooked chopped leeks and shallot until they were golden. I returned the chicken to the pot, along with carrots and a cup of the wine. Once the liquid reduced, I put the dish in a 350-degree oven for 20 minutes. While the chicken braised, I peeled small red potatoes, which was a little time-consuming, but I took a seat for the task, and took sips of wine to keep me going. I simmered the potatoes until they were just tender. The final step: a half-cup of heavy cream into the chicken dish (my supermarket didn't have creme fraiche, which the recipe suggested), a shot of lemon juice, and the potatoes.

It was very quiet while Fork and I ate. After a minute he said, "This is a winner." After a few more minutes, as the chicken started disappearing, we sopped up the flavorful broth and bits of shallot and leek with bread. Chicken in Riesling: a winner, a new Alsatian taste, a classic.--S

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