We’re in the 2nd week of February so that means it’s time for another date night in! The first date night in with a French theme was a casual Apéro, which is a great way to spend an afternoon or evening in. But Valentine’s Day is a week away and today’s French date night is très romantique.
What to Eat:
Often when people think of French cuisine, they think of delicious, complex recipes and hours of hands on time. Don’t be intimidated! I’m just your average home cook with a not so great kitchen, so if I can make these dishes so can you! Some of my French favorites to make are French Style Braised Short Ribs and Poulet a la Moutarde. They are not complicated and I feel confident preparing them which is important to me. Andrew makes an AMAZING Coq au Vin which is the recipe I’ll share below, it’s by Mark Bittman and you can find it in his cookbook How to Cook Everything. These meals are fun to cook together and make them even less daunting. It’s great to have a “sous chef” in the kitchen to help cut veggies while you do something else. Even if it’s just peeling garlic!
Chicken in Red Wine Sauce
Recipe adapted from Mark Bittman’s How to Cook Everything. This recipe is great on its own with some crusty bread or over mashed potatoes.
- 1 ounce dried porcini mushrooms
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- About 1 cup all-purpose flour for dredging
- Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
- 4 bone in chicken thighs
- 2 tablespoons butter (or olive oil)
- 8 oz white button mushrooms, trimmed and sliced
- 2 medium onions, chopped
- 1 teaspoon minced garlic
- A sprig of fresh thyme or 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
- 1 bay leaf
- 1 cup dry red wine
- 1/4 cup minced fresh parsley leaves, plus more for garnish
- Take your chicken thighs out of the fridge. Salt and pepper on both sides and allow to come up to room temperature. About 30 minutes to 1 hour. (It’s ok, I promise)
- Soak dried porcini mushrooms in hot water to cover for about 20 minutes.
- Heat the two tablespoons oil over medium-high heat in a large, deep skillet, Dutch oven or casserole. Put the flour on a plate or in a shallow bowl and season it with a little salt and pepper. When the oil is hot (a pinch of flour will sizzle), dredge the chicken pieces in the flour, shake off any excess. As you coat the pieces, add them to the oil and brown on all sides. Place pieces on a paper towel lined plate or cutting board once browned.
- Pour off some of the fat but leave enough to cook your white mushrooms. You may need to add a little additional oil/butter. Cook the white mushrooms for about 5 minutes, stirring.
- Drain the porcini and reserve their liquid. Chop the porcini mushrooms and add them and a little of their liquid (pour carefully, or strain it first if it is gritty), along with the onions, garlic, salt, pepper and thyme. Cook until the onions soften, about 5 minutes.
- Add the bay leaf, wine, parsley, the remaining mushroom-soaking liquid, and the chicken. Cover, turn the heat to low, until the chicken is cooked through, 20 to 30 minutes.
- Remove the cover. If the sauce seems too thin, remove chicken and raise the heat to high. Cook, stirring and scraping the bottom of the pan, until the liquid is reduced slightly. You can also do a thickening trick if you’re super hungry. Combine 1 tablespoon of softened butter and1 tablespoon of flour in a small bowl or liquid measuring cup. Add in one ladle of sauce, about ½ cup, mix with a fork to combine and then stir into your sauce.
- Remove bay leaf and you’re ready to serve. Garnish with fresh parsley.
For dessert try a delicious chocolate mousse, which is much easier to make from scratch than you would think. I wrote about my favorite one by Julia Child here. For a quick and easy dessert and if you have a Trader Joes near you, the macarons are pretty good. You can find them in the frozen section and they would be a lovely way to end your meal.
What to Drink:
Start your night with a nice aperitif. Remember the Lillet from Apéro night? A small glass of that over ice is the perfect way to kick off your date night. For the main meal I suggest a Pinot Noir or a Bordeaux if you made the Coq au Vin or Braised Short Ribs. You’ll be cooking with wine and you should never cook with a wine that you wouldn’t drink.
What to Listen to:
Edith Piaf is known France’s national chanteuse. We really like 50 Succès Essentiels, it really showcases some of her best songs and her powerful voice. Edith’s song list will definitely make you feel like you’re in a small bistro or cafe in Montmartre. The Amelie soundtrack is also nice background music. For more upbeat, cathy songs check out Francois Hardy and Anne Phillipe they are perfect to listen to while in the kitchen! You can find these albums on Spotify.
What to Do:
Movie Night! Amelie is one of my favorite French movies. It’s set in our favorite part of Paris and it’s just so quirky! I love quirky movies in case you didn’t know. It does have subtitles so if you are not in the mood for that perhaps The 100 Foot Journey, Midnight in Paris or get hooked on the Netflix series Versailles. You can also check out my favorite movies set in France here.
I hope that these date nights in are bringing you a little joy during this crazy time. Until we can travel again we’ll continue to “travel” from home. Let me know if you try anything or have any suggestions for a fun night in!