by Ann Verme
Date I made this recipe: April 30, 2012
Two weeks ago, actor Jonathan Frid, best known by me and many others as vampire Barnabas Collins on the TV show, Dark Shadows (aired from 1966 to 1971), died at the age of 87. Movie director Tim Burton is releasing a “remake” of Dark Shadows starring Johnny Depp, but this movie looks to be a spoof of the real deal and while I’m sure it will be entertaining, you youngsters out there have no idea what you missed.
And frankly, if it was not for some sneakiness on my part, I wouldn’t know what I missed, either. My mother forbade me from watching this show but hey, when you’re at a friend’s house and it’s on TV, what can you do? So I watched and was hooked and then when my mom was out shopping, I turned on the set, practically punched my younger brother into secrecy, and watched it anyway. As soon as I saw my mom coming down our driveway, I turned off the TV while at the same time pleading “Oh please, oh please” that the white dot, signaling that the TV had been turned off, would disappear before she got in the door. (Back in the day, when you turned off your TV, the picture would fade away until only a white dot was left and then the TV would go all black and the power would go off.)
As you might imagine, by the time she did get in the door, my brother and I were all “lalalalalalala” in the living room acting as if nothing had happened.
So back to the storyline, believe it or don’t, Dark Shadows was a Gothic soap opera, featuring all kinds of werewolves, witches, warlocks and of course, vampires. The story was set in the town of Collinsworth, Maine, where young orphan, Victoria Winters, resided and tried to unravel her past. (Does your past include vampires? I didn’t think so.) At any rate, everything was creepy and spooky (and altogether “ooky”) and mesmerizing. Unlike my mom’s standard soap opera lineup (As the World Turns, The Secret Storm and The Edge of Night), this one had a creep factor that was just too hard to turn away from. And so I watched…secretly….sssh…..
Now if I had the Dark Shadows Cookbook (there is one but it costs $180.00 so it’s not in my collection), I would have made something from it in Jonathan’s honor but I don’t so the next best thing was to make a recipe from Mary and Vincent Price’s A Treasury of Great Recipes.
In case you need reminding, the late actor, Vincent Price, was the master of horror movies. He also had a pretty wicked laugh that was included in Michael Jackson’s Thriller recording. But he and his wife were also world travelers and very good cooks, as evidenced by their two cookbooks, Come Into the Kitchen Cookbook and A Treasury of Great Recipes and as between the two, I decided on “A Treasury.”
While many used copies of Come Into the Kitchen Cookbook abound, it took me forever and a day to locate a copy of A Treasury of Great Recipes and when I finally did, it was in, of all places, a flea market in Chicago. The year was 2007, many, many years after I started my cookbook collection, and the price was one that made me gulp a bit (I won’t tell you except it was way higher than most), but when you find the Holy Grail, you run with it. (Or, if you are the king in the movie Monty Python and the Holy Grail, you “run away, run away” with it!)
So all that was left was to find a recipe and this one did not disappoint: “Le Poulet En Civet Au Vieux Bourgogne,” otherwise known as “Ragout of Chicken with Onions, Bacon and Mushrooms.”
I have to tell you that although I love drinking red wine with everything, I wasn’t sure I’d like to cook the chicken in a red wine sauce. Silly me – it was delicious! And unlike Bouef Bourguignon, which takes hours to make, this took 45 minutes to make.
Mary and Vincent did not recommend a side dish but I felt the need to make mashed potatoes and so I did and then it was really excellent. You could do noodles or you could do nothing – your choice.
Ragout of Chicken with Onion, Bacon and Mushrooms (p. 54)
7-8 strips of bacon
1 medium onion, chopped
1 carrot, chopped
3-pound chicken, quartered
¼ cup cognac
4 tablespoons flour
2 cups red wine (the recipe suggests Burgundy but I used 2 cups of my “Two-Buck Chuck” Merlot from Trader Joe’s)
1 cup chicken stock
1 teaspoon salt
2 cloves garlic, Minced
6 sprigs parsley
¼ teaspoon thyme
¼ teaspoon peppercorns
1 small bay leaf
8 small onions, peeled
4 large mushrooms
4 slices toast for garlic croutons (optional)
In braising kettle put 3 strips bacon, diced, onion, and carrot. (Note: I have never heard of a braising kettle so I used a large saucepan - worked fine.) Cook over moderate heat until bacon is crisp and vegetables are lightly browned.
Add a 3-pound chicken, quartered, and cook until chicken is lightly browned on both sides. (Note: I used four large skin-on chicken breasts.) Then add the ¼ cup cognac, and ignite. When the flame burns out, sprinkle with 4 tablespoons flour and stir until flour is well mixed with bacon drippings in pan. (Okay, this part was a mess: the cognac didn’t ignite so the hell with that and there was not enough in bacon drippings to mix well with the flour so what I got was almost one big ball of flour. Luckily, this all evened out when I added the liquids.)
Next add 2 cups Burgundy, the chicken stock, salt, garlic, parsley (I used dried parsley), thyme, peppercorns and bay leaf. Bring the liquid to a boil, cover, and simmer over low heat for 45 minutes.
While the chicken is cooking, sauté 4 strips of bacon until crisp. Boil 8 small (peeled) onions until tender. Then sauté 4 large mushrooms in 1 tablespoon butter until lightly browned. Set aside and keep warm. Toast 4 slices of bread, spread with garlic butter and cut into triangles to make garlic croutons. (Note: I used 4 cipollini onions instead of the small pearly white ones and when I was done cooking them, I sautéed them lightly in the leftover bacon fat. I also sautéed the mushrooms (I sliced them instead of leaving them whole) in the bacon fat (reuse, recycle). As to the bacon itself, although I quite enjoy the thicker strips of bacon I buy at Whole Foods, it does not crisp up well.)
When ready to serve, season with salt and pepper (to taste). Arrange chicken pieces on a warm serving platter and strain the sauce over the chicken. Garnish the platter with the onions, bacon, mushrooms and garlic croutons. (Or, if you are me, don’t strain the sauce, and add the onions, bacon, and mushrooms – but not croutons (too much work) – onto the top of the chicken and sauce and mashed potatoes pyramid! Yum!).