Five Classic French Stews
Fall had started in earnest; a cool, light mist was falling. My wife Lisa and I decided to take our dog for a long walk foraging wild cèpes (porcini). I built a roaring fire in our small wood stove, placed a daube of beef on top to braise slowly, then walked out into the Mendocino woods.
We followed a narrow track that ran through the dense, overgrown pygmy forest collecting two shopping bags full of mushrooms before returning home to enjoy our feast.
Wood smoke commingled with the enticing aromas of slow-cooked meat that hung nose high in the clammy mist surrounding our cabin. With every step closer, the smells grew more ambrosial and inviting, causing us to quicken our pace.
Summer to Autumn
As summer segues into autumn, I cannot help but hope summer will linger on just a bit longer. But the pitter-patter of rain on my roof reminds me that won’t happen anytime soon.
The palate of flavors changes at my local farmers' market. Rich stews are inspired by the root vegetables and unctuous cuts of meat forgotten by summer’s table. The heartier fare provides comfort and solace during the darker cold nights.
Here are 5 of my favorite French stews to curl up next to a fire with.
1. Authentic Coq au Vin
Coq au Vin is as synonymous with French culture as hamburgers are with American. It’s a dish I grew up eating quite a bit and still find very comforting when I’m longing for my mother and France.
It’s important to let the raw chicken marinate overnight and let the wine and aromatics fully penetrate. The sauce is packed with flavor and begs for a starchy vehicle to soak it up. Classically boiled or mashed potatoes are served but I prefer creamy spätzle, potato gratin, or even buttered noodles. Like all great stews, flavors continue to develop as they sit so resist the urge to eat it immediately. I usually let mine sit for at least a day or two.