Coq-A-Doodle-Do! Conquering the Holiday Dinner

I am 35 years old and other than a very misguided Thanksgiving dinner I attempted in my 20s when I lived far away from home, I have never made a holiday dinner. Never. My husband and I get enough heat from our respective parents over “whose year” it is for Christmas, Thanksgiving, and Easter we wouldn’t be able to do a quiet holiday at home even if we wanted to. I’m fine with this – my husband’s mother in particular makes a glorious turkey and I am perfectly happy to let her cook for us. But this Easter, with my parents just returning from a vacation and Mr. Larue’s Mum leaving for a trip the next day, no one wanted to tackle the Easter ham. So I bit the bullet and had my in-laws over for dinner.

I don’t know why I was anxious – I cook almost every night and consider myself a master of the casual dinner party. I even have my in-laws over for dinner once in a while. And it’s not like Easter is particularly special to us: while my family is Catholic, none of us actually practice and the husband’s fam are tried-and-true atheists. So why all the pressure over Easter dinner? It’s just a slightly fancier meal used to usher in spring, right?

Right. I decided to up the challenge by turning to the great oracle of fancy cooking, Julia Child, for my meal plan. I have a complicated relationship with Child’s Mastering the Art of French Cooking (I’ll save that one for another post), but I feel compelled to cook from it on special occasions. Since I refuse to eat the disgusting abomination that is ham and I’ve already made Child’s beef bourguignon, I decided to tackle coq au vin. And guess what? It wasn’t that hard!

Coq Au Vin with carrots and potatoesCoq au vin is basically the chicken version of beef bourguignon, that is, chicken browned in bacon grease and butter, then stewed in an entire bottle of wine with some onions and mushrooms thrown in. It’s time intensive and involves lighting some cognac on fire. It’s also incredibly delicious. If you’ve never cooked before I wouldn’t recommend starting with this as your first ever cooking project. You have to be able to gauge when things are properly browned and the stress of potentially wasting a whole bottle of wine if you screw it up may sabotage you. But all in all, you really shouldn’t be afraid of Julia Child or her coq au vin. The Coq is your friend!

So was my first Easter dinner a success? You betcha! Throw in some simply prepared veg, a pile of garlic mashed potatoes and a basic chocolate cake for dessert (not from a box, by the way) and you’re set. It’ll be enough to make you want to celebrate Easter, Christian or not.

(If you don’t happen to have a copy of Mastering the Art of French Cooking sitting idly on your shelf, you can find the coq au vin recipe here).

By Sissy Larue

30-something, mother-of-two, former rock 'n' roll reporter, currently into retro house-wifey things, bad TV and any movie that I can sneak out of the house to watch.

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