Thursday’s Dish: “Lighter” Coq au Vin

I’m hearing from friends, acquaintances and people I barely know in the grocery store how 2010 is the year they’re going to finally a) lose that weight; b) get more exercise; c) get organized; or d) all of the above. Well, me too, of course, because who wouldn’t want to do all that? However, I think we can all agree that just saying it’s a “resolution” never made anyone truly resolute. But I like a fresh start as much as the next person, especially after all that holiday fare, so I choose Option A: Lose that weight. Next problem: How?

Healthy food that tastes good, and a little less of it, sounds like a decent place to start, so I headed to the library to see what kind of inspiration awaited me there. I came away with The Sonoma Diet Cookbook by Dr. Connie Guttersen and The Healthy Kitchen by Dr. Andrew Weil and Rosie Daley. I had big hopes for these tomes, which proposed to help me “live healthier without sacrificing flavor” and “nourish the mind, delight the senses and calm the mind.”

I have to be honest, though, my senses are less than delighted. Both books hearken back to those early Eighties Weight Watchers’ recipes that just made me recoil in horror, things in which fat and salt were replaced mainly with … bell peppers. I kid you not, just try looking at one of those WW cookbooks from that era and you’ll see what I mean. The same goes for the Lean Cuisines of my teenagehood (which my mom and I called “Mean Cuisines”). Apparently, the fine folks who made those meals decided that a “confetti” of multicolored bell pepper should give any meal enough panache to make you want to gag it down. Gag, indeed, for a confirmed bell-pepper hater like myself.

Okay, so there it is. I hate them. I really do. I can’t help it. If I could, I would obviously be skinny as a rail because, I swear, all things “light” (or the dreaded “lite”) have them. Alright, not ALL things, but so many, so many, you can hardly believe it. And damned if Drs. Guttersen and Weil don’t employ the same principle for many of their recipes. I’m quite certain that bell peppers have great health benefits, but I would love to see a healthy recipe book that doesn’t contain even a single bell pepper.

Tell me about the light or diet recipe books that have worked for you. Which recipes have become staples?

While I await en”light”enment, I’ll share a great recipe from my favorite source for such things, Cooking Light. I love their approach: Just take some of the fat out, add some fiber here and some flavor there, and all will be well. Yes, they do use bell peppers from time to time, but when it makes sense … and I’ll just skip those recipes.

One note on this recipe: I’ve mentioned before that I’m kind of a kitchen germaphobe. Well, rather than reuse the marinade from the chicken (even though it gets cooked well later), I make a new batch to use in the rest of the recipe. If you want to do the same, double the amounts needed for the first seven ingredients.

Coq au Vin

2 cups red wine

1 cup chopped yellow onion

1 cup chopped carrot

1 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon dried thyme

1/2 teaspoon dried rosemary, crushedAdvertisement
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

2 (8-ounce) chicken breast halves, skinned

2 (4-ounce) chicken thighs, skinned

2 (4-ounce) chicken drumsticks, skinned

1/2 cup all-purpose flour (about 2 1/4 ounces)

3 bacon slices, chopped

1/2 cup pitted dried plums, quartered

2 bay leaves

Chopped fresh parsley (optional)

1. Combine first 10 ingredients in a large bowl; cover and marinate in refrigerator for at least 4 hours or up to 24 hours.

2. Remove chicken from marinade, reserving marinade, and pat chicken dry. Place flour in a shallow dish. Dredge chicken in flour; set aside.

3. Cook bacon in a large Dutch oven over medium-high heat until crisp. Remove bacon from pan, reserving drippings in pan; set bacon aside. Add half of chicken to pan; cook 4 minutes, browning on all sides. Remove chicken from pan. Repeat procedure with remaining chicken.

4. Remove onion and carrot from marinade with a slotted spoon, reserving marinade. Add onion and carrot to pan; sauté 5 minutes or until softened. Stir in marinad, scraping pan to loosen browned bits. Add chicken, bacon, plums, and bay leaves; bring to a simmer. Cover, reduce heat, and simmer 1 hour and 20 minutes or until chicken is tender. Discard bay leaves. Garnish with parsley, if desired. Yield: 4 servings.

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