Sometimes I like to imagine that I am someone quite fabulous like Ina Garten or Nigella Lawson, and at the end of a grueling day of snacking and writing cookbooks and lunching with my fabulous friends in the garden and making roast chicken I come home to my sprawling manor and there is calm and wine from France and a library just heaving with books that I have all evening to sit and read while nibbling on bits of ham.
I usually imagine this on the bus, and it keeps me from sobbing or stabbing someone. The 99 B-Line is a hell of a thing, an accordion bus polluted with the tinny blitz of a thousand little ear buds failing to hold the bad music in, and it smells like a damp sheep’s crotch, and everyone wears his backpack and is telling his friend how he’s, like, probably going to medical school or that her favourite poet is TS Eliot because he’s so super deep or whatever. It’s the bus that ends at the University, and for a ride that takes 25 minutes on a slow day, it feels like the relentless march of karma getting even.
And so I escape into my head, and by the time I’ve arrived at work I have dinner planned, and even though the evening always ends at my less-than-palatial apartment which is always in frantic disarray, with its shelves that don’t heave nearly as much as I’d like, there is wine here, and a cat who very much wants to be in my lap even when I’m standing, and Nick is so nice about not mentioning that my hips are looking more and more like Nigella’s all the time. And while the fantasy is nice, I have no idea how we’d pay for it all, and we probably couldn’t keep it clean anyway.Anyway, the best part of it all is the food, and that’s something I can replicate. What follows is a version of Nigella Lawson’s Coq au Riesling, with the addition of cornstarch for thickening. It’s the perfect stew for pretending you’re someplace else, like Alsace or Nigella’s dining room, and you can have it in under an hour.
Coq au Riesling
Adapted from Nigella Lawson
(Serves four to six.)
- 1/2 lb. thick-sliced bacon, diced
- 1 large leek, cleaned and sliced width-wise, white and light-green parts only
- 3 cloves garlic, chopped
- 10 to 12 boneless, skinless chicken thighs
- 1/2 lb. oyster or chanterelle mushrooms, sliced or torn roughly
- 1 750mL bottle of dry Riesling
- 2 tbsp. cornstarch
- Salt and pepper, to taste
In a large, heavy-bottomed pot over medium-high heat, fry bacon until crisp. If you’re using a non-fatty bacon (I used peameal bacon), add a bit of butter. Stir in leeks and garlic, and sauté until leeks have softened, about two minutes. Add chicken, then mushrooms, and deglaze the pot with the wine. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to medium-low, cover, and simmer for 30 minutes.
After 30 minutes, remove cover and turn heat back to medium-high. Taste, and adjust seasonings as needed. Whisk cornstarch together with 1/4 cup of water, and stir into the pot. Let the mixture return to a gentle boil until thickened. Remove from heat and serve over rice, buttered noodles, or (my favourite), braised cabbage.