After a cold and blustery winter day, we were longing for a rich stew, something that normally would be simmered for hours, deep and unctuous, filling the house with rich aromas. Not so fast. This was Wednesday. And we’ve sworn off weekends of pot roast and lamb stew that span the week with leftovers. But there was the perfect answer in my fridge, ingredients that came together in one pan and under an hour and made a lovely chicken stew that the French would call coq au vin.
I challenged myself to dirty no more than one pan and that wasn’t hard. First, I parboiled chopped bacon and set it aside to drain. Then I trimmed chicken thighs of most of their fatty skin and browned them, setting them aside but keeping them warm. I turned out the excess fat and added the blanched bacon, rendering it lightly until it started to brown. In went sliced onions, carrots and mushrooms, and when they were lightly cooked (especially the carrots which take longer), I sprinkled the vegetables with flour and stirred them, cooking over medium-low heat, until the rawness of the flour had subsided. A large glug of red wine made the base of the sauce, followed by a spoonful of tomato paste and a snip of rosemary from my frozen garden. (Tip: after you’ve opened a can of tomato paste, salvage any portion you’re not using immediately by rolling it into a log on plastic wrap and freezing it. Hunks can easily be chopped off whenever you need them.)
Normally, I would have added chicken broth but didn’t have any handy, so I used water and a little mushroom liquid from rehydrated dried mushrooms I happened to have in the fridge. Some of the mushrooms went in too. And a little more wine. The chicken (now with skin removed) was returned to the pan and the mixture simmered for 20-25 minutes until the chicken was tender. I turned the coq au vin into a serving dish and sprinkled it with parsley while I wiped out the pan and boiled wide noodles. And there you go, one clean pan and two clean plates after a delicious dinner that belied its speed and simplicity.