Thursday, December 26, 2013

Chicken in Riesling

     With the break from school/work, I have been trying out some new recipes.  Many have been quite good and I want to share as many as possible.  So perhaps for some posts, I will just send out a recipe for you to try.

     Many of you will know about Coq au Vin, which is chicken cooked in red wine.  A sister dish to this is Coq au Riesling or Chicken in Riesling.  This dish, native to the Alsace region of France, uses the local wine, Riesling as the base of the sauce.   I remember visiting Strasbourg last December with the family and we had a wonderful lunch at a very traditional Alsatian restaurant.  Dear Husband had this dish and it was wonderful.  Recently, I found the recipe published back in 2008 in Gourmet magazine.  While 88% of the reviewers said they would make it again, I was still surprised at some of the negative comments.  This is an easy "company" dish that is one-pot and you can easily bring the pot to the table and serve from there.  Not too complicated and wonderful flavors.  We were lucky enough to serve this dish with a bottle of our favorite Riesling, purchased in Eguisheim last May.  

Chicken in Riesling
adapted from Gourmet, 2008


  • 1 whole chicken cut up (backbone discarded)
  • 1 tbsp vegetable oil
  • 3 tbsp unsalted butter, divided
  • 3 to 4 leeks (white and pale green parts only), finely chopped (2 cups)
  • 2 tbsp finely chopped shallots
  • 4 medium carrots, cut diagonally into 1 1/2" slices
  • 1 cup dry white wine (preferably Alsatian Riesling)
  • 1 1/2 pounds small red potatoes
  • 2 tbsp finely chopped flat-leaf parsley
  • 1/2 cup creme fraiche or heavy cream
  • Fresh lemon juice to taste (optional)
Preheat oven to 350F with the rack placed in the middle of the oven.

Pat chicken dry and sprinkle with salt and pepper.  Heat oil with 1 tbsp butter in a large ovenproof Dutch oven over medium-high heat until foam subsides.  Brown chicken in several batches, turning once.  Take your time with the step as you want the chicken to brown nicely.  Watch the pot and don't let the oil start to burn.  If the heat is too high, lower it.  The browning should take 8 to 10 minutes each batch.  Transfer to a plate.

Pour of the fat from the pot and then cook the leeks, shallot and 1/4 tsp salt in remaining 2 tbsp butter over medium low heat, stirring occasionally until leeks are pale golden, 5 to 7 minutes.  Add the wine and boil until reduced by 1/4 to 1/2 cup, scraping the bottom of the pan to get all of the good stuff loose.  Add the carrots and the chicken, skin side up.  Cover pot and braise chicken in the oven until cooked through, 20 to 25 minutes.

While chicken braises, peel potatoes and place in a saucepan.  Cover with cold water and add 1 1/2 tsp salt.  Bring to a boil and simmer until potatoes are just tender, about 10-15 minutes.  Drain in a colander, then return to saucepan and add parsley.  Shake to coat.

Take chicken out of the oven.  Stir creme fraiche or cream into the chicken mixture.  Watch at this point.  If the sauce is not thick enough, take out the chicken and heat the sauce at medium heat until it starts to thicken.  Season with salt and pepper, and lemon juice, if desired.  Add back the chicken and the potatoes and serve.

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Merry Christmas - Sweet Potato Casserole

Merry Christmas from Belgium

     We have had our tree for a couple of weeks now.  Last weekend, I managed to put on the lights but we were saving the actual tree decorating until a later date.  A very good friend of ours, who lives near Antwerp, came down for the weekend and we wanted to show her some American Christmas traditions.  Her one request…that we make a traditional Thanksgiving meal.  So, we planned a bit of Thanksgiving and a bit of Christmas. Shortly after her arrival, we introduced her to Egg Nog and began the tree decorating party.  While decorated trees are also part of the Belgian custom, it was still fun to share this experience with her.  As you can tell, Dear Daughter also had a good time.  Yes, it is a small tree but it is quite lovely.

     Throughout the course of the evening, we learned that our traditional Thanksgiving meal is not so different than what our friend would have each Christmas.  In her family, the turkey was stuffed.  There were mashed potatoes and cranberry sauce.  But she was quite excited by the Sweet Potato Casserole.  I have to admit, it was quite tasty.  I also had to admit to her that it was the first one I had ever made.  While Dear Husband loves sweet potatoes, Dear Daughter and I are not big fans.  However, this dish was tasty enough to change my mind.

     Now, it is Christmas Eve.  The weather is incredibly blustery and the wind woke us up at various times last night.  It is nearly 9am and the sky is still dark and grey.  It feels that it should be evening instead of the beginning of the day.  It does make sleeping late luxurious…and easy.  There are no strong sunbeams shining through the windows.  Dear Daughter is still asleep - enjoying a few days of nothing-ness.  I asked her yesterday if she was bored.  "Absolutely not!"  She realizes that she will only have a few days of this and really, we all need a bit of downtime, right?

     Last Saturday morning, Dear Husband and I were lounging lazily in bed trying to decide when to start the day.  It was nearly 8am and still very dark outside.  Suddenly, the doorbell rang and I popped quickly out of bed and ran downstairs.  I threw a jacket over my pajamas and went out to meet the lumber guy who was delivering a load of firewood.  He must have thought we were nuts…and quite possibly, very lazy.  He dumped the large load in the driveway, collected his money and wished us a "bon weekend."  It took Dear Husband nearly two hours to haul and stack the wood.  Given the current weather, it sure is nice having a big load of firewood.

     So more rambling... I received an email from Dear Daughter's best friend last night inviting herself over for a sleepover.  She gave me the specific date as she said that was the only time she was available.  I chuckled a bit when I read the message as I have not received one like that before.  But unfortunately, her only available date doesn't work for our schedules so I quickly sent her off an email letting her know that we would have her over in January.

     Anyway….we wish you all the best this holiday season.  Have a wonderful 2014!

Bonne Fete!

Best Ever Sweet Potato Casserole
(found somewhere on the Internet and tweaked)

Wednesday, December 18, 2013


     Four more days, three more days, two more days...I count down the days each morning not only to myself but to Dear Daughter as well during breakfast.  The end of the semester is near and I keep stressing to her not to lose focus...nose to the grindstone and all of that.  Can I really expect a 12-yr old to understand?  Is my focus as strong as it was earlier in the school year?
     The days and weeks have flown by since we moved to Belgium.  In some respects, I think that we all feel that we have not really had the chance to get out there and really explore.  It isn't because we are lazy. It isn't because we have just wanted to stay at home (although on some Sundays, that has been a glorious alternative).  It is that we are really busy right now.  Every weekend for the last month has been taken by swim meets and the daily practices are a bit of a grind at the moment.
     However, the end is near.  Two more school days and then two weeks of vacation.  Friday, we will celebrate by visiting our favorite town, Ghent.  I am looking forward to strolling through the tiny Christmas market  and visiting one of the cafes along the river.  While it might be too cold to sit outside, I am guessing that the outdoor heaters will be in full use - making it possible to enjoy a light lunch or coffee.  Our first stop will be the soap store to visit the owner - who remembers us every time and rewards us with new restaurant recommendations.  Then I suppose, we will visit our favorite little bar along the river to try a new Belgian beer.  We will stroll down one of the longest pedestrian- only shopping districts in all of Europe and visit favorite stores.  Dear Daughter will obviously want to visit the frites stand and have a huge paper cone filled with hot, steamy, delicious french fries.
     A friend of mine has told me about a farm about 30 minutes away that sells the most delicious foie gras and various other duck products.  I am hoping to have time to visit in the next few days as I envision foie gras on toast with a glass of champagne as Christmas Eve's first course at dinner.  Today, Dear Daughter and I will shop for Christmas Eve dinner and the meals for Christmas Day.  Here is what I have planned thus far:  For Christmas Eve, we will have a wonderful cheese fondue.  Our brunch on Christmas Day will consist of Crabcake Benedict - a crabcake topped with a poached egg and hollandaise and served with a small potato gratin and bacon.  Dinner will be a hearty Veal and Chestnut Ragu served with a big, full bodied red wine.  The wood guy comes on Saturday so we will have plenty of firewood.  Eggnog is in the fridge.  Our favorite Christmas movies are ready.  the tree is up, lights are on and everyday a few more presents are added.  Saturday, we will have our own little tree decorating party.  We are 

One and a half days to go!