7.13.2013

The French Bistro

Someone recently told me that the French word "bistro" was actually derived from býstro (быстро), a Russian word meaning "quickly."

Always the skeptic, I headed straight to Wikipedia for a reference. (The live-in encyclopedia wasn't available...) While the above mentioned etymology is mentioned, it is thought to be apocryphal, as the word "bistro" didn’t come into use until the end of the 19th century - 80 or more years after the Russian occupation of Paris in 1815, when the Cossacks were said to have yelled, "Býstro!" to the waiters in Parisian cafés.

The French have another possible story. In certain restaurants, they serve an apéritif called bistrouille which combines a liqueur and coffee... and perhaps those were the eateries that became bistros.

In the end, no one really knows the etymology of the word. Whatever the case, bistros in France are great places to get a well-prepared meal with minimal fuss, in a modest setting, and with a smaller bill at the end. And they serve comfort food.

This is the kind of food we love, and there is one bistro we visit every time we go to Lenox, Massachusetts, to visit Mark's mother. Bistro Zinc.

When we were there in May, we stopped in one evening for a salad - crispy goat cheese with roasted beets, chopped smoked Marcona almonds and a honey-balsamic vinaigrette. We had the pleasure of being served by Ashley, a former spa employee. We chatted comfortably with her about gardening vegetables and good food.

At the other end of the bar sat the chef, Ryan McIntyre, who soon joined our conversation about food. When we asked Ashley about the food at the spa where she worked, she said, "Actually, the food was pretty good." Ryan asked if they used butter, to which she had to admit they did not. "Then it isn't good,” he said.

Ryan is a firm believer in the use of butter. I liked him immediately. (Oddly, today's recipe uses no butter.)

I mentioned to him that I was happy to see his recipe for Coq au Vin in the RSVP section of Bon Appétit recently, and that I had enjoyed that dish during our last trip. He said he was honored to have been asked by BA for his recipe, but was a bit put off that they had not given him credit by name. I promised that I would post his Coq au Vin here on Cocoa and Lavender, and give him some of the credit he is due. It is a superb dish, and exactly like one I would expect in Paris.

Although we may think of Coq au Vin as a winter dish, it is served year-round in bistros throughout France. We opted to serve it to Christine and Bill as they prepare to leave for Cabo San Lucas for the next eight months. Figuring they will have their fill of good Mexican food, we opted for this iconic French dish...

Thanks, Ryan, for this great recipe and for all wonderful food you serve at Bistro Zinc, and ¡Buena Suerte! to Chris and Bill as they head south!

And, this is a perfect choice to make for your Bastille Day celebration! Joyeux Le Quatorze Juillet!

~ David

Coq au Vin Chef Ryan McIntyre, Bistro Zinc, Lenox, MA
[my few edits appear below in brackets]


2 tablespoons vegetable oil, divided
4 or 5 skin-on, bone-in chicken legs (thigh and drumstick)
kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
12 ounces thick-cut bacon, cut crosswise into 1/3-inch slices 

    [I used salt pork to avoid a smoky flavor]
3 carrots, peeled, chopped
3 celery stalks, minced
1 onion, minced
4 cups dry red wine, such as Burgundy, divided
1/2 cup tomato paste
1 quart low-sodium chicken broth
12 sprigs thyme
6 sprigs rosemary
1 pound assorted wild mushrooms, cut into bite-size pieces (about 8 cups)
    [I used baby bellas, shiitake, and oyster mushrooms]


Preheat oven to 350°F. Heat 1 tablespoon oil in a large ovenproof Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Season chicken with salt and pepper. Cook chicken in batches until browned, 5-6 minutes per side. Transfer to a plate [and drain fat from pot].


Add bacon to pot; cook until rendered. [Drain all but 1 tablespoon fat from the pan.] Add carrots, celery, and onion; cook until onion is translucent, 7-8 minutes. Stir in 1 cup wine and tomato paste; simmer for 2-3 minutes. Add remaining 3 cups wine. [Gently] boil [stirring occasionally] until wine is reduced by half, 15-20 minutes. Return chicken to pot.


Add broth. Tie thyme and rosemary sprigs together; add to pot. Bring to a boil and cover pot. Transfer pot to oven and braise until chicken is tender, about 1 1/4 hours.


Meanwhile, heat 1 tablespoon oil in a large pot over medium-high heat. Add mushrooms; sauté until browned, about 5 minutes.


Transfer chicken from sauce to pot with mushrooms; keep warm. Simmer sauce over medium heat until reduced by 1/3, about 20 minutes. Season with salt and pepper. [Go lightly on the salt until you taste it.] Add mushrooms and chicken to sauce.


Serves 4-6.


Note: Coq au Vin can be made 3 days ahead. Chill uncovered until cold. Cover; keep chilled. Rewarm before serving.

26 comments:

  1. The rsvp section of BA has been my favorite through the years. I even sent out a request once for an eggplant timbale from a restaurant in Uruguay (handwritten and by mail).
    I love the comment about butter, so french. And they´re right. Without cholesterol issues we´d all be eating it with a spoon. I haven´t made coq au vin in ages, and should take advantage of the winter here. Such a comfort food!

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    1. I actually got a reply from RSVP once for a recipe I requested. Never printed but at least I got the recipe! It is funny how some recipes seem to go in and out of favor... I think I will try to being back this traditional French dish!

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  2. I love Coq au Vin and this is simple a gorgeous dish. Thanks for reminding me that I should make one soon. You've got me craving for it now.

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    1. Thanks, Amy! Even thought it is a bazillion degrees here, I still think of making this again because it is so good! (Hes said immodestly)

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  3. Coq au Vin was one of the first things I ever cooked, and to be honest I don't think I've made it since. I like that you've incorporated shiitake, one of my favourite mushrooms.

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    1. I love wild mushrooms and shiitakes are definitely among my favorites. Today, we found morels at the market and they were fabulous in a saffron cream sauce over salmon!

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  4. Lovely post and recipe. The dish looks delicious and you've managed to appeal to my inner linguistics nerd as well!

    I will forever associate Bastille Day with champagne, firefighters and coq au vin (in paris all the firehouses throw parties for Bastille Day and serve champagne!). Happy Bastille Day David!

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    1. Ahu - anyone who has an inner linguistics nerd in them is A+ in my book! ... You are so fortunate to have lived in Paris - such a magical city!

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  5. what beautiful ingredients, and what a stunning, unbelievably comforting dish this is. my favorite -- any time of the year. :-)

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    1. Now that we live in the desert, we are forced to make our most comforting comfort food even during the hottest stretches, as it never gets all that bad here! So we just turn down the (solar-powered) AC and enjoy!

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  6. It is winter here in Australia, the perfect time for this dish. This looks like a spectacular version, just looking at it makes me hungry!

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    1. I try to tell myself that I am making all these wintry dishes for all of you south of the equator, but really I just love them so much! AND, as the extra bonus, it is winter for you and a good time for some good stick-to-the-ribs meals!

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  7. Classic French.
    Beautiful dish, David!

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  8. Beautiful looking chicken!!! Love the deep dark brown color!! Bet its packed with flavor!!! Move over bland chicken... =)

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    1. The French definitely have so many ways of making chicken really amazing... the flavor is amazing!

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  9. Gorgeous photographs David! Ah, I love French food. If it wasn't for the calories I'd be eating sauce-laden French goodness daily! Coq au Vin is one French dish that I do think should be eaten regularly. It's devoid of cream in the most satisfying of ways... it's incredibly nourishing and manages to be both robust and delicate in flavour at the same time. I love the gorgeous lighting in this photoshoot. It's always a pleasure visiting your wonderful posts my friend!

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    1. Laura - I agree - one of the nicest things about coq au vin is how it really isn't too unhealthy! And the flavors makes it seem so decadent... Thanks for your really kind compliments! It is so fun to do this every week!

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  10. My jaw just dropped onto my keyboard! These look AMAZING!!!

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  11. David, now there is a wonderful story to go with a fabulous recipe. Not only do I adore the pictures you took (love those carrots and celery in the tall glass) and the fantastic recipe (who in this world does not like coq au vin and why, I wonder) but I really appreciate the fact that you feautured this recipe with all those kind credits. Living up to one´s promise is so easily forgotten, respect, David! Love that attitude!
    Not that I did not already mention this before, but I feel like saying it again: What a wonderful blog this is, full of great stories, terrific recipes and tolle Fotos!
    Noch einen schönen Dienstag!

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    1. Thank you so much, Andrea - those compliments coming from you are high praise and heartwarming! If anyone reads this comment and wants to see some incredible blog work, seek out The Kitchen Lioness - Andreas photos and recipes are absolutely amazing!

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  12. David, your photographs are particularly striking and provide the perfect support for that sumptuous-looking meal. That is the beauty of a good bistro--delicious and inviting meals that aren't too expensive! As usual, I can't wait to try it!

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    1. Susan - I thought of you when we were making this - and just imagined it being served in the courtyard in Lourmarin!

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  13. I love a good Coq au Vin . . and this one looks fabulous!

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    1. Thanks, Alice - it is a good one! Wish I could take credit for the recipe! :)

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