Friday, February 22, 2013

Pressure Cooker Coq au Vin by Ming Tsai

One lazy weekend afternoon I caught an episode of Ming Tsai's cooking show "Simply Ming" that featured this recipe for Coq Au Vin on PBS.  I wish I could have found a video to link to because the show was really quite cute as he prepared the dish with his parents.  After seeing that the recipe only needed 2 easy ingredient substitutions to be paleo and used a pressure cooker, I knew I had to try it.  I have always liked Ming Tsai's concept of mixing the flavors of the east and west to make dishes more interesting.  I've only used my pressure cooker for broth so far, so this was an opportunity to test its ability to get a meal on the table quickly.  

First, I gathered my ingredients.

Get your knife ready and a large bowl ready because there's lots of vegetable chopping to get out of the way first.  I put the veggies that needed to be washed in a colander in the sink and washed them as I grabbed them to chop.  I started by chopping my red onion.  

And then the green onion.  

There are two ingredients in this recipe I have not used before and the first is a fennel bulb.  The instruction is to slice the bulb.  Absent directions on how exactly to slice the fennel, I cut off the dill like greens of the fennel and the stem end.  I sliced the bulb in half and then sliced into thin half moons.  I also tasted a small piece.  I've been afraid of this ingredient because it is described as having a licorice flavor and I'm not a fan of licorice.  That flavor is there, but its mild.  I can't say I'd want to eat a bunch of raw fennel, but would likely try another recipe with it.  
The recipe calls for carrot nubs halved length wise which I guess are baby carrots.  I'm not a fan of the taste of baby carrots, so I peeled and cut up some carrots.

The recipe calls for a whole jalepeno sliced.  Absent better instructions, I just sliced the pepper into rounds.  I figured the pressure cooking process would break the pepper down fairly well.  

After peeling the ginger with my vegetable peeler, I minced it, and added it to my veggie bowl.  I minced 3 cloves of garlic with my garlic press right on top of the rest of the other veggies.  

Finally, I prepped the second ingredient I had not used before, shiitake mushrooms.  They've always seemed just a bit too exotic for me.   I removed the stems and quartered them.  

Finally it was time to cook.  I cut up my whole chicken but didn't take pictures.  I used pretty much the same process as I did when I made this. 

Here is the first ingredient substitution:  the oil.  The original recipe calls for canola oil so I substituted 1 tablespoon coconut oil.  Easy.  I turned the burner on medium-high.

Once the oil was hot, I started browning the chicken pieces.  I don't know why I didn't separate the drumstick from the thigh before browning.  I did after.  I also decided to cut the breast into halves crosswise.  I opted to save the wings for broth rather than include them in the recipe.  I removed the chicken to a bowl as it browned.  This took longer than I liked, but I think that was mainly because I was running late in starting to cook the recipe and had my dinner guest waiting on me.  I considered browning some of the chicken in another skillet to get the job done quicker but decided it really wasn't taking that long and I needed to chop the celery.  I'm not known for patience.  
Not quite brown enough chicken.

Once all of the chicken was browned on both sides, I added another tablespoon of oil to the pot and added all of the veggies except for the celery.  After adding a pinch of salt and a few grinds of pepper, I let them cook for a few minutes stirring occasionally  until they were soft.    

Pretty Colors!
The recipe calls for an entire bottle of wine.  It doesn't specify a type of wine.  While at the grocery store, I did a quick internet search and Alton Brown's version of this recipe suggests a Pinot Noir, so that's what I bought.  I found this bottle with Rooster on the label and decided it was too appropriate to pass up.  

After adding the wine, I added the second recipe substitution:  coconut aminos.  The original recipe called for soy sauce.  Finally, I added the bacon.  The recipe calls for thick sliced bacon, but I've not seen an Applegate farms bacon that is thick cut.  Here is my dish right before putting the pressure lid on to begin cooking.  

I locked the lid on the pot, turned the heat up to high and waited until the pot came to pressure (i.e., the pressure regulator weight was gently rocking).  The recipe instruction says to set your pressure cooker to setting #2.  My pressure cooker doesn't have any special settings, so I just went about bringing my cooker to pressure per my cooker's manufacturer instructions.  Once the pressure regulator weight was rocking, I turned the heat down to medium and set a timer for 30 minutes.  I know from making my broth that medium heat is about as low as I can go on my stove with this cooker and still keep high pressure.  I didn't take a picture, but if you want to see what my cooker looks like at pressure, there's an exciting video of it here.

The recipe then says to depressurize the cooker by releasing the valve or putting the pot under cold running water.  My cooker doesn't really have a valve to safely open, so that was out.  I've read about putting a pressure cooker under cold running water to quickly release the pressure, but haven't wanted to do it for fear that I'd end up with a pot full of water.  I put caution to the wind and turned the cold water on.  You'll hear the pressure releasing as the pot quickly cools.  

One thing that I get irritated about with a pressure cooker is that you can't really check on your dish.  I was really curious to see how the dish looked, especially after bathing the pot in water.  Here is the dish after I took the lid off (no stirring).  

Here is my plate.

Accessibility and Cost of Ingredients:  I shopped for this recipe at Whole Foods, that had everything I needed.  There are a few ingredients that you may have trouble finding at your "big box" grocery store:  coconut aminos, shiitake mushrooms, and fennel.  The shiitake mushrooms at whole foods were quite pricey at 14.99/ pound.  Would other mushrooms work?  Sure.  Other Coq au Vin recipes I've seen use button mushrooms.  The next time I go to the Asian grocery store, I'll check on shiitake prices there for comparison.    

If you've not used fennel before, the bulb I bought was organic and cost $2.99.

I bought the wine at Whole Foods as well.  They had a special 2 bottle pack for $9.99, so it wasn't only the Rooster that drew me to it. 

Preparation & Cooking Time: It took 35 minutes from start to locking the pressure cooker lid on to cook.  It took about 10 minutes for the cooker to come to pressure, then the 30 minute cook time and about 2 minutes to depressurize the cooker.  A grand total of 1 hour and 17 minutes.   

Clean Up: Everything that I used to prepare the vegetables and the chicken went into the dishwasher.  I hand washed my pressure cooker paying close attention to getting the rubber gasket clean and the lid vents clean.  

The Paleo Review:  Thumbs Up!  The wine flavor of this dish cannot be beat.  There is a subtle heat from the jalapeno that adds an unexpected dimension to the dish.  I liked the different textures of the vegetables and the meatiness of the shitake mushrooms.  Despite being pressure cooked, the vegetables were not all mush.  I said above that other mushrooms could work, sure they could but I think you'd be missing out of what makes this recipe unique if you didn't use them.  The chicken, especially the dark meat is very tender and juicy.  The next time I make this, I will probably use all dark meat.  

I wish there were more vegetables in the dish, but I know that the volume of the recipe is somewhat limited due to the capacity of the pressure cooker.  

This recipe is completely doable for me on a weeknight.  Sometimes good things come out of lazy afternoons watching TV.  If you have a pressure cooker, I recommend giving this recipe a try.

Storage Note:  I stored this in one food storage container that was somewhat deep and think now that this was a mistake.  The chicken really falls of the bone after being pressure cooker cooked.  As I went to get some of the chicken out of the storage container during the week, it became difficult to pick out the chicken from the vegetables and sauce (now thickened due to refrigeration). Because the chicken had fallen off the bone, there were now many little bones lurking in the sauce (which might reflect more on my poor chicken butchering skills) just waiting for the right moment to choke me.  Next time, I'm going to store the chicken separately or use a very shallow container so I can put the chicken to one side the veggies to the other.