Despite being a Wednesday evening, I decided that I really needed to make coq au vin. This is not exactly a quick, 30-minute meal for a busy weeknight, but I was not to be deterred. I was already picturing the shocking purple hue of chicken swimming in a sea of wine and cognac, with pearl onions and chunks of carrots. Also, it’s French, and that, in and of itself, is reason enough to cook.
The Sun Bucket started at 323 C (613 °F).
A tablespoon of extra virgin olive oil was heated inside of my heavy cast iron dutch oven, on top of the Sun Bucket. 4 slices of center cut bacon, diced, was added to the pot. While the bacon was frying, one cut-up chicken (the back excluded) was seasoned with salt and pepper. Seven minutes later, the bacon was golden and crisp, and removed from the pan. In batches, the chicken was browned in the bacon grease, flipping once.
While the chicken was browning, the vegetables were prepared. One pound of carrots were cut into large chunks, 3 cloves of garlic were minced, an onion was chopped, and 8 oz of mushrooms were sliced. When the chicken was browned on each side, it was removed from the pan so that the onions, garlic, and carrots could cook.
While the vegetables were cooking, I preheated my oven (yes, you heard me, an oven) to 350°F. So far on this blog, I’ve never used anything other than my Sun Bucket, but I often do utilize several methods of cooking when making a meal. You can think of this as energy stacking – I made use of stored solar energy and my gas oven.
Throughout the developing world there are numerous campaigns and projects to improve cooking – namely reducing the indoor air pollution in an effort to improve the health of the women and children who spend their time by their family’s hearth. 40% of the world’s population cook and heat their homes by burning solid fuels such as firewood, plant or animal waste, and charcoal, and the consequences to the family’s health, and to the environment, are staggering. There are many types of improved cookstoves (those that burn fuel more efficiently and with fewer emissions) and solar options throughout the world. Typically a household that obtains an improved cookstove or a solar cooker will stack their energy sources, meaning that they have several different options available to them. For solar cookers, a back-up is needed during the rainy season or in thick cloud cover. People all over the world will mix and match their energy sources as they cook meals for their family. Pay attention the next time you make a full meal – I bet you do, too, whether it’s your stove and a microwave, or oven and your grill.
So, my oven is preheating, and my vegetables are about done. It’s time for the good stuff. 1/4 C. of cognac was added to the pot, followed by a half bottle of a good, dry red wine, a cup of chicken stock, and a few sprigs of thyme. The chicken and bacon were then returned to the dutch oven to soak it all up.
At this point, the dutch oven was covered and popped into the oven to bake for about 30 minutes. After taking a short break, I sautéed up the mushrooms in a little olive oil. This took 6 minutes.
The chicken was cooked through at about the 35-minute mark. I then mashed up 1 T of butter into a few tablespoons of flour, added it to the dutch oven, and set it all back on the Sun Bucket to simmer for a few minutes. As the sauce thickened slightly, I added the mushrooms and a half bag of frozen pearl onions.
When everything was warmed through, the rustic stew was ladeled into bowls and topped with fresh parsley (because my well-loved Mastering the Art of French Cooking by Julia Child told me to, and you can’t argue with that, even if you mostly followed Ina Garten’s recipe).
The Sun Bucket was used for 37 minutes tonight and helped cooked nearly 3 kg of food. Bon appétit!