Coq au Ale: Drunk French Chicken
I’m in a back room of a brewery a few minutes after delivering the keynote address at a beer conference and I settle in to listen to a presentation about glassware. I’m bracing for the typical arguments, still vaguely uncertain that a “proper” glass has anything more than a minimal impact on my experience. Is it possible that it’s a placebo effect? The visual excitement of the glass convinces me that it does, in fact, taste better?
I’m given a Spiegelau stout glass, filled with, well, a stout. I’m also given a shaker pint, filled also with a stout. “Taste the shaker pint,” we’re all instructed and we comply. It’s good. It’s a great stout and I like it. “Now, taste the beer in the stout glass.” It’s bigger. The flavors are more pronounced and the carbonation is more even, it has a better head that has survived the trip from the tap-room far better than the first beer. These aren’t the same beer, I can tell. The second is a much better beer with bolder flavors. Then comes the bombshell that has firmly convinced me that glassware matters as much as beer storage, “It’s the same beer. It’s a Shakespeare Stout, you can try the experiment again in the tap-room if you don’t believe me.” He’s right. It’s such a pronounced difference that it tastes like a different beer.
Proper glassware has a few key impacts on that brew you love so much. First, it protects the carbonation helping it to survive longer, it does the same with the head. The head of a beer acts like a net for oils, fermentation byproducts, yeast and other aroma producing compounds altering the experience you have when you drink it. This is a key reason that flat beer tastes different: there has been a lot that has left the beer. A proper glass helps hold the aroma producing compounds in the glass where your nose will be able to partake, which has an impact on the perception of taste.
Think about it: have you ever drank wine from a coffee mug? Would you? Try this experiment yourself, even if you don’t have proper glassware. Pour half of a stout into a regular glass or mug, pour the other half into a large bowl wine glass or a whiskey snifter. Try them side by side and they will taste different. This doesn’t mean that you need to invest in hundreds of special glasses for each beer you might want, just have a few at your disposal for when you want to open a bomber of the good stuff. If I could only have one beer glass it would be a tulip pint. Start there, spend some time drinking out of a glass that helps your beer stay at it’s best and expand your collection.
- 6 chicken thighs (bone in skin on)
- salt and pepper
- 3 tbs all purpose flour
- 4 oz salt pork or thick bacon, chopped
- 2 tbs chopped fresh thyme
- ½ lbs mushrooms, chopped (crimini and white button)
- 1 white onion, chopped
- 2 carrots, chopped
- 2 ribs celery, chopped
- ½ tsp black pepper
- 1 tsp kosher or sea salt
- 2 tbs tomato paste
- 12 ounces stout beer
- 1 cup chicken stock (or low sodium chicken broth)
- Preheat oven to 325 (unless preparing in advance).
- Sprinkle the chicken thighs with salt and pepper, then with flour. Rub the flour in until well coated. Set aside and allow to rest while you prepare the rest of the dish.
- Add the salt pork or bacon to a large skillet over medium heat (medium heat will render more fat than high heat). Cook, stirring frequently until most of the fat has rendered and the pork is crispy, 8 to 10 minutes.
- Using a slotted spoon, remove the bacon and add to the bottom of a large Dutch oven.
- Place the chicken in the skillet, skin side down, allowing to cook until the skin has browned and most of the fat has rendered, about 8 minutes. Turn over, cook until just browned. Transfer the chicken to the Dutch oven.
- Add the mushrooms and the thyme to the skillet, cooking until the mushrooms have turned a darker browned and softened, about 6 minutes. Using a slotted spoon transfer the mushrooms to the Dutch oven.
- Add the onion, carrots, celery, 1 teaspoon salt and ½ teaspoon black pepper, cooking until all the vegetables have softened and started to brown, about 6 minutes.
- Add the beer to the pan, scraping to deglaze the bottom. Allow to simmer for about 5 minutes.
- Stir in the tomato paste, then sprinkle with flour, whisking until sauce has thickened.
- Add a strainer over the Dutch oven, pour the sauce into the strainer, straining out the onions, carrots and celery. Pour the chicken broth into the strainer to make the process easier. Using a spoon, press the vegetables to make sure all the sauce and broth gets into the Dutch oven. Discard the vegetables.
- If possible, cover and refrigerate for up to three days. This is will give you a deeper, richer flavor but the dish is ready to cook immediate.
- When ready to cook,cover and transfer to a 325F oven, baking until the chicken is cooked through, about 30-45 minutes (if the chicken is cold from the refrigerator, the baking will take longer).
- Remove the chicken from the pot and add the pot to a burner over high heat, simmer until thickened. Add additional salt and pepper to taste. Place the chicken back into the pot.
- Serve hot over rice or noodles.