Carefree coq au vin

This incredibly forgiving version of coq au vin uses the cheapest cuts of chicken, works with leftover red or white wine, and admits all manner of imprecision in the execution. All you do is brown things in layers of fat, and layer sauces on top of that.

You’ll need: skin-on chicken thighs, mushrooms, leftover wine, and pantry staples (onion, garlic, bacon, tomato paste, chicken broth or stock, and dry spices). Optional: matchstick carrots or fresh parsley for colour. And you’ll want nice crusty bread to go with the sauce (or serve over mashed potatoes if you feel like extra work).

1. Season the chicken with salt and pepper and set aside so it gets up to room temperature.
2. Clean and dry the mushrooms (crimini are best), and cut into halves if they’re unusually large. Dice half a large onion (or use pearl onions if feeling fancy). Also smash and roughly chop several (5-6?) cloves of garlic. Finally, dice a few slices of bacon. (If using carrots, get them down to a fine dice here too.)
3. Fry the bacon in a largeish saute pan (or large skillet). When the bacon is crispy and well-cooked, set it aside in your serving bowl, leaving the drippings in the pan.
4. Fry the chicken in the bacon fat (high heat, ~3-4mins a side, don’t move it around too much), until the skin is golden brown on both sides. Set aside (but not in your serving bowl as it isn’t completely cooked yet).
5. Fry all the vegetables in the chicken and bacon fat. When they have begun to caramelise, add several generous squirts of tomato paste and stir for thirty seconds or so until that is caramelised too.
6. Add the wine and deglaze the pan. Cook on high for a few minutes so some of the alcohol boils off; then add chicken stock or broth. Return the chicken and vegetables to the pan and let simmer for several minutes, seasoning with generously with thyme, rosemary, parsley, black pepper, and barbecue sauce (yes!), and adding more wine, stock, and/or tomato paste to taste. Cook down until the sauce is nice and thick, and the chicken is cooked through.
7. Top with the crisp bacon bits (and optional fresh chopped parsley for more colour) and serve in a large bowl.


Curried tomato and arugula pasta

As we all know, wilted arugula + pine nuts + garlic/lemon/parmesan + thin spaghetti = dinner when you have less than fifteen minutes and need to get in several of your five a day in one sitting.  One day I ran out of parmesan, but had cherry tomatoes and curry powder; the rest is history.

1. Cook the spaghetti (life is short, so I used angel hair) in a large pan, seasoning generously with salt. Drain and set aside.
2. Meanwhile, slice several cherry tomatoes into quarters.
3. Wipe the pan down, then place back onto the hob on medium heat. Place the pine nuts to one side, and add a dash of olive oil to the other. Fry the tomatoes, seasoning with lots of curry powder, pressed garlic, and Italian seasoning.
4. Once the tomatoes begin to soften (this usually takes just a couple of minutes), throw in a large handful (or three) of arugula and toss until slightly wilted. Season lightly with salt. Add the spaghetti back to the pan, and mix well before serving.