Happy Valentines' Day to each and everyone one of you!
Just before I make you salivate over the excellent dinner 209 wines and I organized for this Sunday, let's have a little history class!
In case you didn't already know, February 14th hasn't always been known for the chocolates and roses. The exact origin of the day is not set in stone. There is the pagan festival Lupercalia, which celebrated fertility in peculiar ways during the Roman time. It is also believed that the celebration was named after the martyr Valentine, who performed weddings for soldiers that were forbidden to wed, still during the Roman times. Then February is the month when you'll start seeing lovebirds that show the first signs of spring. However, one thing for sure is that the oldest Valentine's Day poem was written in 1412 by Geoffrey Chaucer.
That's why I like the Swedish name for Valentine's day; it's called "allahjartans dag." 'Everyones' heart's day' celebrating the love you have for family and friends, thus, that focus on being in a relationship, or the somewhat silly feeling of embarrassment or regret of being single on this day is nonexistent.
We can hate it for the overpriced roses or the overly cheesy romantic movies but secretly, between you and I, who would say no to some good food, good music, a couple of candles, and a delicious bottle of wine? Whether you want to that on Sunday, or any other day, or mentally lose yourself in our little virtual dinner we organized.
Valentines' Day Menu for 2
Coq au vin with heart-shaped potatoes
Garden salad with feta and white wine vinaigrette
Chocolate Fondant with red wine
There are endless recipes for coq au vin and trust me when you eat it in France, every restaurant and family has their version, and so this is mine, a little less fussy, a little less complicated but still packed with wonderful flavors.
The Coq au Vin with Heart-Shaped Potatoes
( you will need a heart-shaped cookie cutter but carving with a knife is doable, however, it will take longer)
Coq au vin
1 whole chicken cut into two or simply your favorite body parts(if you have a coq by all mean, use that instead)
200gr white mushrooms
Fresh thyme ( herbes de Provence works just as well)
500ml wine ( any red works, I had some Chateau Fakra left)
300ml meat/chicken stock or a cube
Olive oil at your disposal
optional: 4 garlic cloves, as its valentines day, I excluded them
Marinate the chicken in the wine, with salt, pepper, fresh thyme/herbs, the meat stock or dissolved cube, and the sliced onions for at least 12 hours in the refrigerator. I did it the evening before.
3 hours before eating
Take out a pan, pour olive oil, generously, add the chicken pieces, skin down - we are doing this to get that crispy skin. Wait a couple of minutes of sizzling, add half the wine from the marinade, the onions, let it simmer a little, add some water.
If you have a nice iron pot, a.k.a Creuset, etc. Put the fire on very low heat, add the chicken, vegetables, the sauce from the pan and let it simmer. You can also put it in the oven on low heat if you prefer. Both work. Check on it every hour, make sure there's always liquid.
For those, like me, who do not have such equipment, you can use a casserole dish instead. Turn the oven on low heat, take out your dish, transfer the chicken, the onions, the chopped carrots ( wait with the mushrooms) add all sauce from the pan. Keep the leftover wine from the marinade for later. Let it cook for 2 hours, checking it every hour, and when needed add some water ( there should always be some liquid). An hour before, add the mushrooms. 20min if you want a very crispy skin - turn the grill on.
Again, we all have our ways of doing this, I prefer having a thick sauce with the chicken but if you are happy with the sauce from the chicken, that is more liquid then skip this part. Take out a small cooking pot, add the rest of the wine, most of the sauce from the chicken dish, this should be done after the chicken is ready, leave a tiny bit, and put it back in the turned-off oven to stay warm. Let the sauce come to a boil, in a little bowl/glass put 1 tablespoon of potato starch/cornflour/ normal flour, add 3 tablespoons of water, mix until its a liquidy paste and add into the sauce. This is to thicken the sauce but without getting lumps. My aunt in Sweden taught me that years ago. Stir for a couple of seconds, and once you start feeling the sauce thicken, take it off the heat and stir.
As many as you want, at least 4
1 slice = 1 heart
Peel the potato, slice it 1cm thick, use the cookie cutter to cut out the hearts, or your knife skills. Boil the hearts for 15min in salted water until soft, and then transfer them to the pan with some hot olive oil, flip them over so they get that beautiful crusty golden exterior. The leftover potato, because peeled, can be boiled and turned into mashed potatoes for another day!
Favorite lettuce ( I used Rocca)
Feta cheese or any similar cheese - I used the feta from the village
dressing: 50ml white wine, 100ml olive oil, salt and pepper to taste, one teaspoon of mustard, preferably dijon.
whisk with all the vinaigrette ingredients with a fork until homogenous, and pour it over the salad bed with crumbled feta.
50gr dark chocolate
1 tablespoon oil ( coconut oil or any nut oil) or butter
10gr maizena/wheat flour
2 tablespoons of red wine - I used some leftover Petit Couvent 2018
Set the oven at 200°C. Melt the chocolate in a microwave-proof bowl, 30 seconds, move it around, put it back, move it again, repeat until chocolate has melted. Add the flour of your choice and mix. Separate the yolks from the whites and whisk the whites until stiff peaks form. Add the yolks to the chocolate mixture and keep mixing until homogenous. Then slowly and gently add the whites to the mixture using a spatula or big spoon, slowly incorporate one another. Pour into muffin molds and let them stay for around 8 to 10 min, the middle section should still look somewhat uncooked to get that runniness. Serve immediately.
I would recommend opening the bottle an hour before drinking, such a wine needs a little more time to breathe. It works perfectly with the dishes because it holds a certain level of body without being too stubborn. It works with the coq au vin as well as the dessert because it isn't too high in tannins, so it won't overwork your saliva glands, which allows the food to somewhat flow more easily into your happy stomach.