Category Archives: Mertie’s Mondays

Mertie’s Mondays: Experimenting with a Sausage and Kidney Bean Stew

[Note from Serene: Please forgive my lateness in posting this. Chris uploaded it weeks ago and I've been snowed under, as I mentioned. I hope that Mertie would forgive my negligence, and I hope you all will, too.]

Now, for Chris’s post:

I would like to dedicate this Mertie’s Monday to Mertie herself, who passed away 30 years ago this week. She would never have made something like this, but I think she would have liked it had I made it for her.

I’ve been laid up for a couple of weeks in hospital, eating pretty bad food, and feeling sorry for myself. So when I got out earlier this week, I decided that I’d cook something in a couple of days and have some homemade cuisine. However, I must confess, the first meal I had when I got out was Beef with Green Pepper and Black Bean Sauce and Vegetarian Spring Rolls from our favourite Chinese restaurant. And last night HWMBO (He Who Must Be Obeyed, my husband) bought a Crispy Aromatic Duck packaged by Waitrose, our upscale supermarket (think “Whole Foods” without the high prices.) It was surprisingly good. But these are only asides.

A few days ago our favourite newspaper, the Guardian printed a recipe in its G2 section (daily magazine). Angela Hartnett (a hot-shot chef here in London) contributed a recipe for Sausage and Kidney Bean Stew.

Sausage and Bean Stew

If you’re interested in her original recipe, follow the link. There is also a nice picture there, much nicer than mine. I liked the look and the imagined taste of the stew, so rooted around for ingredients to make it for tonight. What I write below is my thought process when planning the meal.

I had British sausages in the freezer, and decided on a traditional recipe pork sausage. If you are not in the United Kingdom do not under any circumstances use breakfast sausages for this. I imagine they will not only taste terrible in this kind of sauce, but will ooze lots of fat which will make the stew stodgy. In the United States I would suggest sweet Italian sausage, or even hot Italian sausage. That will give it a tingle, and it will be closest to what we eat here in England.

When I looked at the recipe, I thought that limiting the vegetables to sliced onions might lack a bit of a crunch. So I added to my shopping list a bunch of celery. I have a bottle of pickled sliced jalapeno peppers in the fridge, and thought I’d substitute those for the chile.

So here’s my altered recipe, and HWMBO liked it, so that’s all that counts. I hate it when I cook something and he doesn’t care for it. After all, he’s the breadwinner and he deserves good tasty food because he supplied the ingredients.

5.0 from 1 reviews

Sausage and Kidney Bean Stew
Author: 
Recipe type: Main
 
Ingredients
  • 6 traditional British sausages. Do not skimp on these. Run-of-the-mill sausage will not be tasty and will cook to a pap.
  • (in the US, substitute hot or sweet Italian sausage. Do not use breakfast sausage.)
  • 2 medium onions, sliced
  • 4 ribs of celery, sliced
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 can of chopped tomatoes in juice
  • 1 can of tomato paste (or if in the US, ¼ tube of tomato purée)
  • 1 can of kidney beans, partially drained
  • 1 tablespoon of bottled jalapeno slices, with liquid, OR 1 sliced seeded chili
  • Adobo seasoning, or salt and pepper to taste
  • Dried oregano
  • Dried basil
Instructions
  1. In a medium stewpot, sauté the sausages in olive oil and a gentle heat, browning them on all sides. Remove and set aside.
  2. Add the sliced onions and celery (and the sliced seeded chili if you’re using that), and sauté them until the onion is transparent but not caramelised.
  3. Once the vegetables are done, dump in the tomatoes, rinse the can with a little water and add that to the stew. Add the tomato paste, the jalapeno slices, and the beans. I decided that lots of the goodness of the beans was in the liquid with it, so I poured a couple of tablespoons of that into the stew, then drained the beans and added them. I stirred to mix everything, then added the sausages. I put Adobo seasoning in it instead of salt and pepper–a holdover from my days living in the Bronx and cooking Red Beans and Rice every few days. I also added a teaspoon of dried oregano and one of dried basil. Whenever I cook with tomatoes, I always add basil, as basil and tomatoes go together like a horse and carriage…um….yeah.
  4. Some devil in me drew me to the fridge, where I took out the bottle of Tabasco Sauce and sprinkled it liberally into the stew. This was a mistake. The peppers added enough of a kick and the stew was a bit spicy when I got finished with it. However, you may want to try a splash (no more than that) and see whether you like it that way.
  5. Simmer for 20 minutes so that the sausages are cooked through. Stir occasionally so that nothing sticks to the bottom of the pot. Serve in a soup bowl over white rice, and enjoy. This particular recipe would serve 3. As good UK sausages usually come in packages of 6, allowing two for each person is just right. You could double everything but I think the stew might not be as good if 12 sausages were crowding out the liquid. I haven’t tried that yet.

Another substitution that I would be eager to make is pork chops or pork steaks for the sausages. Pork chops can be pretty dry and tough if not treated right. Imagining this stew with pork chops makes me want to try it—perhaps you’ll try it and report back to us. I suspect that the stewing action will tenderise and moisten the pork chops. Before using them, though, be sure to trim the fat and brown them on both sides just as I did the sausages.

Experimentation is a good thing

Note that while I generally followed Ms Hartnett’s recipe, I felt free to experiment. Some of the things I tried worked—the jalapenos and the celery really made this dish sit up and sing! Other things I tried didn’t. Too much Tabasco Sauce can actually be a bad thing and while it adds its own taste to blander foods, when you have something full-bodied like this I’d recommend leaving the bottle at the table and letting those who wish add some to their own plates.

I can’t stress too much: when you are cooking from a recipe, feel free to experiment according to your own and your family’s or guests’ tastes. When I cook with tomatoes, I always think “oregano and basil”, even if they aren’t in the recipe. I use my experience to do what in the physics lab would be called a thought experiment, but what I would like to call a tongue experiment. When you look at a recipe, think of other dishes you’ve cooked or eaten that had similar ingredients. Feel free to add things you like. Also, feel free to leave out ingredients you don’t like. If you don’t like anchovies, for example, substitute a bit of salt or perhaps some Thai fish sauce in the recipe.

The only things to be careful of here are not to experiment too much with things like baking methods for breads and cakes, or cooking methods for meat, fish, and eggs. If you’re cooking pork, make sure it’s cooked through no matter what method you’re using. Rare pork isn’t a gourmet delight. If you’re roasting a chicken, make sure that you use a meat thermometer and place it between the thigh and the body, directly into the bird. I have often roasted chicken or chicken parts, and plunged my fork into the meat and the juices ran clear. What I encountered when I cut it apart was a red patch right in the middle. The microwave cures that, but it detracts from the taste.

In baking think “chemistry set”. When you are baking, the ingredients should be accurately measured and substitutions should be made with care and only when you are a successful and competent baker. Otherwise, you may end up with a flat loaf of bread rather than a nice risen one.

In short, the stew was indeed spicy. It was very tasty, however, and the kind of a stew that really goes down a treat on a cold day. The blandness of the sausage was complemented by the complexity of the rest of the stew. It sure beats Bangers and Mash as a way to make a British sausage into a great meal. I hope that if you make it you’ll enjoy it as much as we did.

Mertie’s Mondays: Acadian Stuffing and Turkey Sandwiches

[Note from Serene: I've been hanging on to this recipe of Chris's until the cool weather returned. And now I'm at school and wishing I had stuffing to eat! Thanks, Chris, for another great story, and for introducing me to another new food!]

I think that all of us who cook want to duplicate items our moms cooked. However, much of the time moms cook by touch and feel and experience, and don’t write down a recipe. Decades later, you remember something she used to make but can’t duplicate it for lack of a recipe.

My mom made the best stuffing imaginable. We used to look forward to Thanksgiving and Christmas simply because we’d get turkey with her stuffing. I remember being in the kitchen when she’d make it, and what I could remember of it was that it was a combination of potatoes and bread with spices and onions. But, I didn’t want to experiment and I thought to myself that the stuffing recipe was lost forever.

However, I recently bought a cookbook called A Taste of Acadie, by Marielle Cormier-Boudreau and Melvin Gallant. Acadie, or Acadia, is the name of the area of Nova Scotia inhabited by French-Canadians. A goodly number of them left for warmer climes in Louisiana, and turned from Acadians into Cajuns, keeping their taste for fish but leaving other food preferences behind.

A quick flip through the book will show that the great resource on which a goodly amount of Acadian cookery is based is the potato. Rappie pie is made from grated potato with the water squeezed out, layered with meat and baked. Potato pancakes also feature.

The first time I went through the book I didn’t pick up on the Acadian stuffing recipe. However, a week or so ago I came across Acadian stuffing and, lo and behold, my mom’s stuffing recipe jumped out at me. It makes sense, as my mom probably got her recipe from her mom, who was born and raised in Lunenburg, Nova Scotia. My grandmother’s father was a sea cook, working on the fishing vessels that sailed from Lunenburg to the Grand Banks to catch the cod that figured in many Acadian recipes.

I suppose that I should really keep this recipe for Thanksgiving or Christmas, when turkey is on the menu. But I am so excited by it that I can’t wait that long. It’s like discovering a long-lost novel that you read years ago. You have to read it again as soon as you’ve found it.

Start out with mashed potatoes. For a chicken 2 potatoes, mashed (no butter or milk) should be sufficient. Do not rice the potatoes, as lumps are good in this recipe.

Then take three pieces of bread, dry them in an oven, and crumble them. Chop 1 onion and 2 ribs of celery, and sauté them in 3 tbsp. butter. Add the bread crumbs and brown lightly, then add the mashed potatoes, salt and pepper, and 1 tbsp summer savory or Bell’s Seasoning. If the mixture is a bit dry, add a bit of water or chicken stock to moisten. Stuff your bird and roast as usual.

If you’re roasting a turkey, increase all the amounts in the recipe and if you can’t get all the stuffing in the bird, put it in a pyrex dish and bake it along with the bird.

My mom also used to stuff pork chops with this stuffing. After making the stuffing, take thick pork chops and cut a horizontal pocket in the side of the chop. Spoon stuffing into that pocket and bake as usual. You can also just pile the stuffing on top of the chop—it browns very nicely.

A word about summer savory. The Wikipedia article says that it’s used in Atlantic Canada in preference to sage. I have to say that I have never heard of it, and my mom never used it in this recipe, to my knowledge. What she used is Bell’s Seasoning. I do not know whether this is available nationwide in the US—I do know it’s not available here, but I will be bringing some back with me next time I visit Marblehead. If you can’t source Bell’s Seasoning, use sage.

You may think this is total nostalgia on my part, and you may also be right. Nostalgia is good. Aching after your past, even though you will never experience it again, helps you keep in mind the good times, the bad times, the people you loved and who loved you, the places you lived and visited, and is a memorial to all that has gone into making you you.

I remember leftover turkey going into sandwiches on Thanksgiving night. Take two slices of white bread and slather both with mayonnaise. Cover the bottom slice with sliced turkey breast, then a layer of my mom’s stuffing, then a few spoonfuls of cranberry sauce. Salt and pepper to taste, then cover with the other piece of bread and enjoy. These were absolutely delicious and were just enough to keep people who’d gorged in the early afternoon from getting hungry at 8 pm. I had leftover chicken today, but no stuffing. The sandwich I made didn’t taste the same without the stuffing, but it was close.

I’ll end with a holiday Momfood disaster that I forgot to recount in my previous post covering things my Mom didn’t get quite right. Leftover turkey is always a problem, and my mom wanted to make turkey soup. She had a recipe from her mother, and this recipe specified ½ tbsp of barley. Mom looked at the puny (to her) amount of barley and decided that the recipe must have been wrong. She put in half a cup.

When we were finally called to dinner, Mom gave us each a slice of turkey “soup”, as the amount of barley had soaked up all the liquid in the soup. As with all my mom’s culinary disasters, it tasted delicious, and whenever I have stuffing, or chicken, or turkey, I think of that slice of soup. It would go very well with stuffing.

Corn Chowder

Mertie’s Mondays: Chowdah

Growing up in Marblehead as I did, fish and seafood were omnipresent in our lives. The Town was still a centre for fishing, and the wharf at the foot of State Street still landed catches of fish every day. Just at the foot of the street stood McClain’s Fish Market. When Mom wanted good fish, she would send us there. Like all good fish markets, it smelled nautical but not fishy. There were a couple of shelves with jars of tartar sauce and the like, but the fish counter at the rear of the store was the centre of attention.

There are three kinds of New England-style chowder: fish, clam, and corn. The chowder I made last night was corn chowder, but I think that people need to know how to make all three.

In preparation, let me state right now that, although it’s not true that the State of Maine once made it illegal to call any soup with tomatoes in it a “chowder”, my Mom never made a fish, corn, or clam soup with tomatoes. While Manhattan “clam chowder” may be tasty, I don’t consider it a chowder, properly speaking.

I will start out with corn chowder. If you make it without salt pork, it is vegetarian. It’s also amazingly filling, and very tasty.

Corn Chowder

Corn chowdah!

To start, put around two tablespoons of butter into a large pot. When it’s melted, dump in three medium onions, chopped.

Does anyone else find chopping onions a chore? I used to, but when I discovered Julia Child’s method of chopping onions, I stopped thinking of chopping onions as a chore and found it a breeze. Here’s how.

Peel the onion, and cut in half lengthways through the root and the top. Lay one half cut side down on the chopping board. Slice it lengthways nearly to the root end, but not quite all the way. Then carefully cut the onion half horizontally one or two times. Finally, slice the onion from the stem end, and the onion will just fall into dice, naturally. When you’ve gotten as close to your fingers as you want, place the end down on the cutting board and chop it a few times. Hey presto, a diced onion.

Now put your chopped onion into the pot and sauté it until translucent. Meanwhile, peel and cut your potatoes. Cut them lengthways, then cut each half into halves again. Finally, cut each quarter into 1/4″ slices. Use around 5 medium to large potatoes. As much as you might be tempted to leave the skins on, don’t! Chowder requires peeled potatoes for perfection.

Put the potatoes into the pot and immediately pour water in to cover them. No more than that, please! Add salt, pepper, and some thyme (a tablespoon is too much but a teaspoon may not be enough—use your discretion). Remember that the potatoes will absorb salt so you may want to add more at this stage or make sure that your table has a full salt grinder on it. Bring to a boil then turn the heat down, and simmer. Open three cans of corn kernels. You could use fresh, if you have the patience to cut the kernels off the cobs, but I never have had that much patience. Add them to the pot, cover. and simmer until the potatoes are cooked through.

Now there are two (at least) schools of chowdercookery. The first one only requires full-fat milk, and the other requires some sort of thickener. The people who make canned New England clam chowder are of the second school, but it often tastes floury to me, not milky. My Mom was of the first school, so her recipe concludes with simply adding full-fat milk to the chowder, as much as you like, and stirring it in and heating it through. You will want the chowder to have a milky-white colour but not caused by as much milk as there is water in the pot. Use your discretion and your taste.

I decided to thicken our corn chowder with a roux. If you’ve been following my posts, you know how to make a roux. Melt butter in a shallow fry pan, then stir tablespoons of flour into the butter and stir them around until the butter/flour mixture is a paste. Spoon the roux into the chowder before you put the milk in. Then bring the fire up a bit and stir the roux into the chowder until it’s disappeared. Then add the milk. Stir the chowder until it’s thickened. It will not be as thick as canned chowder is, but it will be thicker than liquid milk.

Now, for the non-vegetarians and the piscivores (love that word, even if I don’t much care for fish), there is clam and fish chowder. The beginning and end of the recipes are different; the middle is the same.

Start off with a pound of salt pork, cut into slivers. The salt pork should be fatty and not lean. Place the salt pork into your pot and, over a relatively slow fire, try the pork until the fat has bled out of it and the pork is crisp. Remove the pork with a slotted spoon and, if you have no worries about cholesterol, drain it onto a paper towel and offer it as an appetiser. It’ll be crisp, oily, salty, and kind of like pork scratchings. We used to love it, but with the health concerns of today I wouldn’t dare eat it. I would discard it.

Now sauté the onions in the fat from the pork, and follow the recipe above with potatoes and water and seasonings.

For clam chowder, open around four small cans of Snow’s Minced Clams. No other will do. Chuck the clams and the liquid into the chowder. I suppose that if you had them, whole clams cut up might be OK. Of course, you wouldn’t get the clam liquid in that, and you’d have to deal with chopping up the clams, which I personally don’t feel comfortable doing. There are parts of clams that you should eat, and some that you shouldn’t, and I can’t tell them apart. My Mom never used whole clams so I don’t either.

Now follow the rest of the recipe by adding milk and heating it through. Thicken it if you want in the same way as I wrote above.

Fish chowder is different again. Follow the clam chowder recipe until you get to chucking in the clams. Cut several boneless haddock fillets into small pieces, and put them in the simmering chowder. They should turn white in around 5 minutes or so, which means they are poached and ready. Add the milk, heat it through, and serve immediately.

If you can get them, common crackers are the accompaniment of choice to chowders. The Vermont Country Store sells them. I have a great friend, Sue, in Connecticut, who sends me a CARE package from time to time, in which there is a box of common crackers. They were originally baked to provide carbohydrates to sailors, and used to be packed into barrels on the ship. If they remained dry, they did not spoil and were perfect for long sea voyages. Split a few crackers and put some halves into each bowl. As the chowder is probably going to be salty enough, it’s less desirable to use saltines or oyster crackers. But, your mileage may vary, so add whatever you like.

My brother and sister, along with me, do not like fish very much. We ate too much of it when we were young, so we don’t choose to eat it now. However, my Dad loved fish chowder, and when he was in the nursing home from 2001-2003, fish chowder was never on the menu. So, when I returned to Marblehead from England, I would cook fish chowder and bring him a bowl of it when I visited. No matter whether he’d just eaten or not, he’d ask me to heat it up for him. I’d bring common crackers with me, and he’d split a couple, put them in the bowl, and eat with relish. He is no longer with us, but I’ll always remember him when I make a pot of chowder. It was my gift to him, and I think he liked it better than any other gift I could have brought him.

Mertie’s Mondays: Chicken Paprikash

This seems to be Chicken Week Chez Hansen and Tan. When I was a youngster, chicken was a once a week-if-that treat, as the days of battery chicken farms were still in the future, and chicken tasted like chicken. Old fogeys like me complain about the taste of modern foods compared with what our moms cooked way back when (1950s), but we would certainly have complained about the prices. Chicken was very expensive when I was a kid; beef was much less expensive, and hamburger even less costly. So we had beef much more often than we had chicken.

I’ve not had chicken that replicates that lovely chickeny taste recently. Some organic, free-range chicken comes close. HWMBO calls such chicken “Happy Chicken” and always asks whether the chicken we eat is “Happy Chicken”. Today’s chicken dish was indeed made with happy chicken.

I am not Hungarian, neither was my mother or any ancestor I can trace. There are also as many recipes for Chicken Paprikash as you can shake a stick at. The one I kind of followed is at about.com.

You start out with 2 medium onions, roughly chopped. Put around 1/2 stick of butter in a stew pot, melt it, and sauté the onions for a short while, until they’re translucent. Then take chicken pieces (perhaps around 3 pounds of assorted chicken pieces but thighs and drumsticks are best) and quickly brown them on both sides with the onions. Then dump in 1 can of chopped tomatoes, at least 2 cloves of garlic, crushed (I used a whole bulb), 2 green peppers, chopped (if one of them is red, no one will complain), 1 tablespoon sweet or hot Hungarian paprika, around a dozen button mushrooms, and around 3/4 cup of water. Salt and pepper to taste.

Now the mushrooms are not authentic. But, as I’m not Hungarian and I think that mushrooms give an interesting texture to stews, I put them in. You may omit them if you like.

Bring the pot to the boil then turn down and simmer for around 35 minutes, or until the chicken is tender and the peppers are soft.

Once the chicken is cooked through, place it in a roasting pan lined with aluminum foil and put that in a warm oven to stay warmed while you finish the sauce. Take 1 cup of sour cream and add to it 2 tablespoons plain flour. Mix them together until the mixture is smooth, and then temper the mixture with a bit of the hot liquid from the pot.

Temper is a term I had never encountered before in this context. Looking it up, it seems that it means adding hot liquid to another mixture and blending it in. I am presuming this helps the mixture to amalgamate and then thicken the sauce. In this case a couple of ladlefuls, added slowly, should do.

Then dump the sour cream-flour mixture into the pot and stir it until the entire liquid is kind of a creamy-red colour. Meanwhile, boil a pot of water and cook some egg noodles. Once the noodles are done, drain them, put a portion in a bowl, then put a piece or two of chicken on top of the noodles and cover with sauce. This is what you get:

Chicken paprikash

Chicken paprikash

I found it quite yummy, and I expect that HWMBO will enjoy it at work tomorrow.

When I make this again, I think I might use white wine instead of water in the sauce, but the jury’s still out on that. I may also try to make spaetzle, which are a kind of very rough German/Hungarian type noodle. I’m told they’re especially good with chicken paprikash. I can hardly wait.

Mertie’s Mondays: Coq au Vin

Now you might wonder about me, seeing that lots of the recipes I’m making these days and sharing with you have alcohol as an ingredient. Let me assure you that, while there was a person near and dear to me who had a problem with alcohol, this was not either of my parents or either of my siblings—or myself, for that matter. Wine in food adds a complex tartness to what might otherwise be a very pedestrian stew.

Coq au vin, served

Coq au vin, served

I realise that there are some who do not drink or cook with alcohol. There are dealcoholised wines which have complexities of flavour without any alcohol at all. It’s not the alcohol that gives the kick to recipes such as Coq au vin; it’s the tart grapey flavour that is there when the alcohol has disappeared (mostly). Red wine, when added to a dish, also adds a reddish brown colour to sauces and soups. That saves coq au vin from being a brownish plateful of chicken, lardons, and vegetables. Even so, it requires a parsley garnish to add some lively colour.

In researching this particular dish, I came across a lot of variations. There was one article (I won’t name the chef who wrote it, to protect the guilty) which was so full of itself and darned proud of it that it’s a wonder that anyone could cook this at all. While I am in favour of authenticity, I am not in favour of masochism in cooking. When you have a sous-chef, a chef de commis, and lots of willing hands, then you can cook so authentically you’ll be dreaming of Michelin stars. However, one of the things about Momfood in general is that it is cooked with one hand on the stirring spoon and the other trying to keep order in the household. What coq au vin is, fundamentally, is chicken stew. And chicken stew is something you want to throw together into a pot and leave for a while. That’s what this version does. It does not put on airs and graces. It’s good, tasty, complex, filling fare.

To start out with, take around 2 pounds of chicken parts. Drumsticks and thighs are good. I would not use breasts as they would tend to dry out and turn purple (from the wine). Melt 1 tablespoon butter and 1 tablespoon oil in an iron skillet—I used my mom’s cast-iron skillet but if you don’t have one, a flat-bottomed frying pan will do. Fry the chicken, skin-side down, until it’s golden, then turn and fry the other side. Don’t crowd the chicken in the skillet; do it in batches if you don’t have much room.

Remove the chicken from the skillet and layer it in the bottom of a cooking pot large enough to hold all the chicken in one layer at the bottom and deep enough to be able to cover the chicken with liquid.

Now take around 1/2 pound of bacon lardons or pancetta and fry them in the skillet until brown. A lardon is bacon that’s cut into cubes or small strips and serves to add some oil and bacony flavour to your dish. Now the French will tell you that you should use unsmoked lardons, but this evening I used smoked lardons, and I can say that the sauce had just a hint of smoky goodness to it that somehow made the entire dish richer and tastier. If you don’t have lardons, or can’t find them at your grocer, take rashers of thick bacon and cut them vertically so that you have strips of bacon with a bit of fat on the end. If you have a butcher, s/he may be able to assist.

It’s funny—recipes often tell you to ask “your butcher” for something or other. I have a mental picture of a butcher with a nametag: “Chris’s Butcher”. The vocation of butcher separate from a supermarket is almost unknown in these days, but if you do have one, cherish him or her.

Chicken browning in the skillet

Brown your chicken in Mom's cast-iron skillet

Add the browned lardons to the chicken in the pot. Then take around a dozen small onions, peeled, and brown them a bit in the skillet. Now I only had medium sized cooking onions. This did not deter me. I topped, tailed, and peeled four medium onions. Then I quartered them, browned them, and added them to the chicken. While they did fall apart in the cooking, they tasted every bit as good as the small onions would have had I had them. I did a search for other recipes online, and one that I saw calls for shallots, peeled but left whole. On the whole I should have gotten some shallots, as they’re available in the local supermarket. Next time, perhaps.

Now crush cloves of garlic. I leave the number up to you. I like garlic, so I used about 6 cloves. The recipe I kind of followed specifies two cloves. Not enough for me. To get the cloves peeled and crushed, separate each clove from the bulb and top and tail it. Then, lay the flat side of your large kitchen knife or cleaver on each clove and punch it with the side of your fist. This will both crush the garlic and separate the peel. Toss the garlic into the pot with the chicken, along with a few sprigs of thyme and two bay leaves. Salt and pepper the mixture to your taste, then add around 1-1/4 pints of red wine. Cover the pot and simmer gently for 45 to 60 minutes until the chicken is tender. Add around two dozen button mushrooms 15 minutes before the end of cooking.

Onions, mushrooms, and garlic

Onions, mushrooms, and garlic

Now the rule for cooking with wine is this: do not cook with wine you would not drink. Do not use cooking sherry (I don’t even know if they still sell the stuff.). However, dealcoholised red wine will be a substitute that will add taste to the chicken without any alcohol, if you don’t cook with or drink alcohol. I must say that I did not taste any alcohol in the sauce when I ate this dish, only a kind of complex grapey taste that is really why you cook with wine in the first place.

Once the chicken is cooked, remove the solid ingredients from the cooking pot and place them in a roasting pan lined with aluminum foil. Place the pan in a warmed oven (not a hot oven!) so that the chicken and vegetables will stay warm while you make the sauce.

The recipe I kind of followed asks you to take 1 tablespoon of softened butter and 1 tablespoon of plain flour, mix them together, and then boil the liquid left in the cooking pot until it’s reduced by around a third and add the butter/flour mixture and whisk until the sauce is thickened. I tried this and was left with lumps that I had to chase around and mash. I would recommend making a roux from the butter and flour (melt the butter in a small pot and add the flour bit by bit until a paste is formed. Then add the reduced cooking liquid and stir in a figure-8 shape until the liquid is thickened). I have found with gravies of various sorts that the roux works better and leaves fewer (if any) lumps.

Now place some white rice on the plate, add chicken and vegetables on top, then a ladle or two of sauce. Garnish with some chopped parsley, and enjoy!

You can also serve this in a bowl with French bread and a nice salad, or over mashed potatoes, or egg noodles..

Even though this is not something my mother would have cooked, her mother was French Acadian, so I am 1/4 French Canadian and proud of it. I have an Acadian cookbook and will look in it for something to cook for a future installment.