Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Coq au vin

Since Ken is arriving home today after a couple of weeks in the US, I thought I'd make something French for him. I'm sure he's been enjoying seafood, barbeque, and hamburgers at home in North Carolina. So, as a change, I made my version of the classic French coq au vin (chicken in red wine).

The sauteed pork, onions, carrots and garlic, along with armagnac and red wine.

Rather than use an old coq (rooster, the traditional ingredient), I used haut de cuisse (thighs), with bone in and skin on. First I sauteed some smoked lardons (bacon) and followed that with diced carrots, garlic, and some whole small onions. I seasoned with pepper, and added tarragon and thyme (I didn't add salt because the bacon is salty -- I'll correct if necessary once it's finished). Then I browned the chicken. When the chicken was golden, I removed it from the pan, put the vegetables back in, and sprinkled some flour on them to give the sauce a little body.

Browned chicken thighs. As an alternative, the chicken can be marinated in the wine with the vegetables overnight before it's browned.

Next, with the vegetables back out of the pan, I de-glazed with some armagnac. I put all of the ingredients into an oven dish along with some bay leaves and black pepper, then poured in a bottle of our local red. That went into the oven to cook slowly for a few hours. It spent the night in the refrigerator and will be reheated this afternoon -- dishes like this are often better the next day. At that point I'll add some mushrooms that I sauteed this morning.

Nearly finished, after three hours in a slow oven. There's a layer of clear fat to be skimmed off the top, but you get the idea.

Ken may be too jet-lagged and tired to eat. But maybe not.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

A horse is a horse, of course

I mentioned that Clos Roussely (the winery I visited on Sunday) is an organic operation. One of the things that means is that they don't use herbicides to keep the weeds down in the vineyard. Organic growers will either mow or more commonly plow the rows in between the vines. Plowing helps control the weeds but probably also helps by aerating the soil.

Munching on a bit of spring grass. The plowman is standing behind.

Most growers plow with a tractor. But Roussely works with a guy who uses his horse to manually plow up the rows. Apparently he hires his services out to other local vintners as well. I asked him what breed the horse is and naturally forgot it as well as her name. But I do remember that she's a young'un at four years old. She was having a well-deserved break while we tourists had a look.

Pointing the way to the horse (but the drawing looks like a donkey). "Hee-haw! Come give us a hug!"

Monday, April 14, 2014

Clos Roussely

Friends K&J invited me to tag along with them to a local winery open house on Sunday. The owner, Vincent Roussely, recently (a few years ago) bought his family's former wine operation and updated it. He grows the traditional Touraine varietals, gamay, cabernet, côt, and sauvignon, all organically.

Vincent Roussely outside his winery in Angé, Touraine.

The event was held inside the winery's cave (cellar) and featured winemakers from Champagne, Hautes Côtes de Beaune and Chablis (Burgundy), and Sablet (Côtes du Rhône villages), along with Vincent's own wines. There were also some local food producers providing samples of their goat cheeses, baked goods, and other treats. I had a good time tasting (I wasn't driving) and brought home twenty liters of local wine (gamay and rosé) along with six bottles of Chablis (chardonnay).

Tasting in the cave.

It was another beautiful spring day with plenty of warm sunshine and the views of the Cher Valley from up on the heights where the grapes grow was spectacular. The forecast for most of this week is the same. Yay!

Sunday, April 13, 2014

The church in Saint-Aignan

It's called une église collégiale (collegiate church) because it was the realm of a college of cannons, or clergy, and not a monastic church. Catholicism can be very bureaucratic, to say nothing of hierarchical. I took this on Saturday morning after doing my shopping at the weekly market in town.

Saint-Aignan's romanesque collégiale and the château (out of the frame to the right) dominate the town's skyline.

The day started out a little hazy, but it was not cold and the sun won out making for a gorgeous springtime day. I was inspired to wash windows, so all the windows in the loft/attic are now clean. I also did the window in the living room (not the one that's being replaced next month) and washed the curtains. Spring cleaning continues. I also sat out in the sun for a little while.

This new wine shop in town just opened a week or so ago. I haven't been in yet.

Here's a closer view from the first photo. It's a new wine shop in Saint-Aignan called Astuces Vins. That's hard for me to translate. Une astuce is the noun form of astuteness, a clever trick, shrewdness. It's like an insider's trick to succeeding at something, in this case, choosing a wine. But calling it "wine tricks" doesn't sound quite right.

Saturday, April 12, 2014

River view

This is the Cher just downriver from Saint-Aignan. It looks as though I'm on a boat, but I am standing on the bank at a point where the river bends toward the north. I think I've mentioned before that this is not a deep river. I'll bet there are spots where one could wade across, but I've never attempted that.

The Cher River on a springtime afternoon. Looking upstream.

If you head downstream from here, there are a couple of locks to get through (although with a kayak you could just walk it around) before you pass by the town of Montrichard. After that, it's not far until you glide beneath the arches that hold up the Château de Chenonceau, one of the most recognizable, and most popular, of Loire Valley castles.

Friday, April 11, 2014

River walk

On Tuesday evening, Callie and I took a walk along the river. It's a nice walk when it's not muddy, but the problem is crossing the road at the bottom of the hill; the cars zip by pretty fast and it scares the dog. But she made it across ok. She won't go near the road until I tell her it's ok, then we run across.

Callie pauses to be sure I'm following as we walk along the river, which is just out of the frame on the left.

Once on the other side, it's a short walk to the riverbank. Then we walk along next to the water for a while before heading back up to cross the road again and climbing the hill toward home. Callie loves sniffing around in the woods, especially woods she doesn't see all that often. And there are ducks!

On Wednesday, the guy who owns the vines around us electrified his fence between the vines and the woods on the north side of our house. He does it every spring to help keep the deer from eating the new shoots and grape buds. The rest of the year, when the electricity is off, he lowers a section of the fence so that people can walk from the vineyard down through the woods toward the river. As of now the fence is up and hot. We won't be going that way again until later in the summer.

Thursday, April 10, 2014


Dandelions. Also called dent-de-lion (lion's tooth) in French. That's, in fact, the origin of the English name. But they're also called pissenlit (which can translate literally to pee-in-bed), perhaps because of their diuretic properties.

Our house is up on the hill that you can almost see in the background on the left. The river's at my back.

This field is filled with them. It's down at the bottom of our hill next to the river. Of course, I see dandelions everywhere right now. Our yard, the vineyard, and every other place I go. Dandelions are among the early spring flowers and are also among the first to set seed.