Coq-of-the-Walk au Vin

As promised, I've started searching for simple, delicious, healthy (ish?) recipes that can be made in a flash but still impress. Bitten by Mark Bittman has been my foodie bible of choice, as the numerous oil splatters and flour-encrusted pages can attest. Last night I tried out his recipe for coq au vin, a traditional French recipe of chicken in a red wine sauce. I adapted it slightly to meet my picky taste buds / sparse grocery / forgetful shopping list, and the result was fantastic: a deep, fragrant, heady wine sauce paired with my favorite musty mushrooms coating an otherwise basic and delicious chicken breast. It was quick (made the whole thing in about half an hour), cheap (costing about 20 cents worth of mushrooms, $1.50 worth of chicken, and $2 worth of wine), and looked and tasted like I knew what I was doing (maybe?).

I'd decided a few days ago to try coq au vin for a few reasons. Chicken is one of my favorite meals, being usually healthier and cheaper than other meats/poultry, but my standard chicken recipes have been starting to bore me. Lately, to my surprise, I've started to love mushrooms. I just can't get enough of the deep, earthy flavor or the smooth, pleasant texture. And wine in meals? Sign me up.

I started with Bittman's recipe but pared down several of his ingredients and edited to a single serving. Coq au vin is traditionally made in a large Dutch oven with a full chicken (cut up into parts), several different herbs, onions, tomatoes, and mushrooms, but I wanted something smaller and more streamlined. I just cooked a chicken breast, left out the onions (not a fan), and forgot about the tomatoes (still don't have a stocked-up can pantry). Bittman also recommended two kinds of mushroom--porcini and white button--and despite searching my neighborhood (even the high-priced yuppie mart!), I could only find button. In the end, the meal only needed a quick dash of sea salt to liven things up a little, but it was just so good on its own I completely forgot about the little pot of rice pilaf I'd made as a side.

All in all, I am very pleased with the result, and very pleased to have found another quick recipe to throw into my weekly repertoire. Plus, I still have lots of leftover mushrooms, to be pan-fried with steak or tossed into salads. Hallelujah.

2 tablespoons olive oil
flour for dredging
1 chicken breast, trimmed of fat
2 tablespoons butter
4-5 white button mushrooms, trimmed and sliced
1 tablespoon parsley, diced
2 cloves garlic, diced
1 bay leaf
1/2-3/4 cup red wine
salt and pepper to taste

Heat oil in a medium skillet over medium heat
Dredge chicken in flour
When oil is hot, cook chicken until both sides are golden brown
Remove chicken from heat
Add butter
After butter has melted, add mushrooms, cooking both sides for about 5 minutes
Add parsley, garlic, bay leaf, and wine
Lower heat and cook for 20 to 30 minutes, turning chicken every five minutes
If sauce is too thick, add a little wine or water; if it's too thin, raise heat to high and cook
Remove chicken from heat, pour mushroom and wine sauce on top, and serve

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