Friday, after the kids were out of school, I zipped over to Stop & Shop to get a few things, including some ingredients for the veggie burgers Bill was making as part of our dinner that night.
Now, not all the stores have the same layout, but the one near my house is set up so that if you go in the door by the produce section, you pass through all the fruits and vegetables…the deli is to the left, then the bakery is beyond that, also on the left, and sort of behind all the produce, parallel to the bakery area, is the organic food area – boxes of cereals and flours and sauces and baby food and snacks and chips and all that.
Then, if you keep walking past that, you hit the seafood and the meats.
(I know, it’s deadly dull stuff, but stay with me.)
Now, just after the produce but before the organics, there’s a big, rectangular freezer/refrigerator thing – looks like a big, four-sectioned bin – with a rotation of sale items. Right before St. Patrick’s day, for instance, one whole section was full of packages of corned beef. In the summer you find pre-made burgers and bulk packages of hotdogs. It’s seasonal sale stuff.
Anyway, when I was done getting what I needed in produce, I headed toward the back of the store, toward the organics, to get some chips to go along with our veggie burgers. I glanced over at the big cold sale bin thing, because you never know what might be in there and maybe I could stock up on something.
Nothing appealed to me until I saw these packages of large poultry cut in half down the middle. So the package basically had two chicken halves. Big ones. No major name brand – not Perdue or White Gem or whoever else they usually stock. Just in-house shrink wrap. I checked out the label.
I never see much beyond regular old chickens for sale, with the occasional duck or goose or – of course, turkey.
I almost just grabbed a package, but the sales run Friday – Thursday, and I was just carrying a basket, not pushing a cart, and the basket was nearly full already, and so I figured I’d come back over the weekend and grab one or two. I can’t remember the price per pound, but the cost on the sticker looked quite reasonable. Cool!
Didn’t go shopping at all yesterday; too busy. But this morning I went back because for one thing, they had pork shoulder on sale for 99 cents/lb, and we could have a couple of those in the freezer for future pulled pork adventures.
And – Bill said he could make coq au vin as an early dinner today.
Coq au vin is kind of his dish in our house. Don’t really know why that is, but it’s one of those things. And he does a great job, so why mess with that?
Now, in case you don’t know what coq au vin is, it translates (from the French) thusly:
“Coq” is short for flirt, or coquette.
“Au” is of.
And “vin” is French for minibus. So “coq au vin” actually means “groupie.”
No it doesn’t.
(And then I was going to make up another translation, but that would get old, so I won’t.)
Coq au vin simply means “rooster with wine.” Now, usually roosters have tougher meat than chickens, so the bird would soften up if braised, that is, roasted in liquid. If you just roasted it in a pan, you’d have tough, dry meat.
So, first you brown some salt pork (yes, you can see just from that first step that it’s going to be good), then remove the browned pork (save it for later), remove some of the rendered fat, and brown your cut up rooster (or chicken) in the fat. Remove the chicken, remove most of the fat, then put in (this is our version, anyway) pearl onions, mushrooms, garlic, fresh herbs, and the browned chicken/rooster parts. You add red wine (traditionally) and a little water if necessary, slap the lid on, and cook until the meat is tender or – even better – falling off the bone.
Remove the chicken, mushrooms and onions and set aside. Reduce the resulting liquid, and season to taste. There’s your gravy. Serve as-is or with noodles or potatoes. Oh, and garnish with the little browned bits of salt pork.
So, with that in mind, I hurried to the store this morning, on a mission.
I got my mushrooms and little onions, and then I bee-lined to the cold bin.
And – the section where the roosters had been was completely empty.
But, determined to work on my optimism today, I thought maybe they sold MOST of them and moved the remaining few packages over to the main poultry section.
Yes! That had to be it!
So I rolled my shopping cart over there and paraded back and forth in front of chicken parts and turkey breast and ground turkey and chicken sausages and chicken livers, just looking.
But I didn’t see those packages I’d seen on Friday.
Darn it all!
I KNEW I should have bought one then!!!
But…maybe….just maybe they’d have more in the back!
They hadn’t restocked them yet!
That had to be it!
There was an employee restocking the ground beef or something not too far away.
Shy as I am (I don’t know why) about asking for help with anything, coq au vin is not a dish to be skipped over just because I lack a spine or adequate social skills.
So I marched over to the guy in the butcher’s coat and said, pleasantly and confidently, “Do you remember all the roosters you had in that bin over by the produce? Do you have any more?”
And the guy, a younger man with a neatly trimmed beard, looked at me for a moment, a slightly amused expression on his face.
And I figured yeah, it’s not everyone who would buy a rooster. I was all ready to wax rhapsodic about poultry braised in wine, when he answered.
“Did you mean the roasters?” he asked. “We had big roasting chickens that we’d cut in half….”
Heh heh. My mistake.
“We’ve got more – I can cut one in half for you,” he offered the stupid woman standing before him.
“No…no…that’s okay,” she stammered. “It’s not the same.”
I finished up the rest of my shopping in a hurry, certain that every other patron in the store had heard and was hooting with laughter at that unfortunate exchange.
Oh, and I grabbed a package of chicken thighs before fleeing the poultry section.
We had coq au vin anyway.