Thursday, December 11, 2008

Christmas around the World: France with Coq Au Vin and Sable Cookies

Joyeux Noel!

Merry Christmas from France, our third stop on Christmas Around The World. French families celebrate Christmas with a creche (or nativity) in their homes and also at church. Carols are sung as baby Jesus is placed in his manger bed. The three wise men are not placed with the creche until Epiphany Eve on January 6th. At that time a "Cake of Kings" is baked with a hidden bean inside. The finder of the bean receives a lucky crown and becomes king of the party. (This is definitely the favorite part of my two charges, although I admit the indulgence of placing two beans and having two crowns at the ready. Happiness and harmony is what matters most with children, to quote the mother of Veruca Salt-and we all know what a good job she did with her little angel.) Children in France leave their shoes out by the fire on Christmas Eve, in hopes that Pere Noel will fill them with little surprises. Naughty children may receive a birch stick as a reminder to behave a little better in the coming year. (Sounds a bit more aggressive than a lump of coal, don't you think?) Adults attend a Christmas Eve midnight mass followed by an extravagant "Reveillon" supper, considered the culinary high point of the year.
And as today is also Barefoot Thursdays, the twice monthly baking club that prepares Ina Garten's gorgeous recipes, I've made coq au vin with my fellow Barefooters. Although it is a very classic French dish, it certainly wouldn't not be considered a Christmas dinner. But, besides being absolutely delicious, it sure takes the snap out of the air on a chilly December night. And any leftovers make a wonderful warm lunch as well. Click here for Ina's five-star rated recipe. (I made a few substitutions in my coq au vin-I used a mixture of white grape juice, tomato paste and red wine vinegar for the red wine. I also used boneless chicken breasts instead of a whole chicken cut into parts. For my fellow penny pinchers, estimated cost using my methods is about $6.00 for four servings)
I've also included a buttery "sable" recipe, a French cookie with an appealing sandy texture. My family polished off a dozen in about as many minutes. With colored sugar, they're festive enough for your Christmas cookie tray.
Money Saving Tips: This is a great time of year to buy butter, since many stores will try to entice you in with their baking sales. I'm always hopeful to find butter for no more than $2 a lb.
Dorie Greenspan's Sable cookies
Estimated Cost: $2.50 for about 4 dozen
Notes: I think it's easier to make good sables without a mixer, so I'll give directions accordingly.
1 cup butter (2 sticks), at room temperature
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 cup confectioner's sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 large egg yolks, at room temperature
2 cups flour
additional egg for decorating
coarse sugar for decorating
In a medium bowl, stir butter until creamy, about 1 minute. Stir in both sugars and salt and mix until incorporated. Stir in egg yolks. Add flour, all at once and stir only until flour is in the dough. Shape dough into 2 nine inch logs. Wrap logs in plastic wrap. Refrigerate for at least 3 hours. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Brush logs all over with additional beaten egg. Sprinkle outside with coarse sugar. Cut logs into 1/3 inch slices. Place on cookie sheets and bake for 15-19 minutes, or until edges are golden brown.
Up Next:
Christmas in Sweden

37 comments:

chocolatechic said...

We loved the coq au vin.

Lisa said...

I loved the coq au vin recipe. I like how you used tomato and vinegar in yours.

Maria said...

I want to try the buttery sables!!

Mary Ann said...

I love your Willow Tree Nativity and also all the other Willow Tree figures behind it. We collect them too and gift them to each other for different occasions. I liked what you did with the Coq Au Vin. I had to shake it up a little bit too and the sables look delicious. If only I lived in your neighborhood- I am thinking I would get a pretty delicious goodie plate right about now!

Cathy said...

I love your red wine sub! And I know that this is not in the spirit of the season, but I covet your Willow Tree nativity -- I've had my eye on that forever! I also love that you provide two beans and two crowns -- yes, sometimes preserving harmony is way more important than stubbornly following a tradition to the letter (we let ours take turns finding the pickle on the tree!) Your coq a vin and your linzers look fabulous!

Teanna said...

Your cookies look absolutely stunning! And so does your coq au vin! I really need to try making that dish!

Marjie said...

That's an awfully pretty coq au vin. I make mine with the wine, although I cook the sauce with some cornstarch so it clings to the chicken better. The sables are quite pretty, too!

1freshstart said...

If you buy butter at Sams it's about $1.65/lb.

I love your Christmas around the world stories and those cookies look absolutely amazing. Totally agree about the grape juice, that's quite a bit of wine for two youngsters to be slurping with dinner.

~Cat

1freshstart said...

Oh! I can't believe I didn't tell you how much I love that Nativity. I've wanted that for years... but we have a smaller one that has a bit of sentimental value. We bought it for Christmas during our first married year... it was $10... but at the time we only had $18 in our checking account. The Husband built a manger for it. I should share it with a photo or two.

~Cat

Peter M said...

Joyeux Noel and yes...I'm here for the coq au vin!

Mandi (a.k.a MissMandiGirl) said...

Looks delicious!!! Those cookies sound so yummy!!!

Rebecca said...

We loved the Coq Au Vin leftovers. A trés easy lunch to pack for Jeff.

gigi said...

I love your changes in the coq au vin. More to my tastes. Your information, dinner and cookie were a very fun read. Merry Christmas.

Patsyk said...

I love coq au vin! You are right, it's a nice dish to take the chill out of the air when you make it.

Those cookies look so pretty and festive!

VeggieGirl said...

Hooray for France! :-D

Allie said...

Yummy it all looks so tasty! I like your red wine substitute idea.

Aggie said...

I'm happy to hear you successfully used chicken breasts. I didn't get to make it yet but that's what I was going to try out...

Cookies look yummy!

Catherine said...

Thankyou for sharing all the Christmas ideas! I think my kids would love to find a bean in a cake that would make them king and queen of the party. I would do it exactly like you and put two beans in! "Happinees and Harmony" EXACTLY! =) The coq au vin looks delicious and I can't wait to try the sable cookies.

Peggy said...

I might have loved this more using your version since it was a bit strong with the wine taste for my sensitive palate! I'm not saying we didn't gobble it right down though. I've missed you! Love your nativity set. Happy December.

Sara said...

Love the little French history you are sharing with your readers. You are so creative. They both look delicious!

Natashya said...

Wow! I am always happy when I can find butter for under $5 a pound. Things are a little expensive up here...
Your feast looks wonderful! What a family-pleaser.

Girl Japan said...

Hi P! How the heck are you? I sure missed you. I just got back after a few weeks of vacation = ) I sure hope you are doing well and look at all the lovely savory eats.... are you getting ready for Christmas?

Emily said...

Okay this post just reminded me how much I love my W.T. Nativity! I seriously think it is my favorite wedding gift . . . oh la vie . . . okay I can remember hardly any French (I took in in 4th grade after school . . . so I guess that is to be expected!) I am just loving your Christmas posts! So mind expanding . . world opening! And you Coq Au Vin looks like a delight! Frohe Weihnachten!

The Blonde Duck said...

I love those cookies. Yum!!!

jenjen said...

I have that same nativity set. So cute! We are doing a Christmas Around the World dinner tomorrow night. I love coming over to see what you are doing for your Christmas Around the World. Your coq au vin recipe looks wonderful and the cookies oh-la-la!

I will have to make some of those! Thanks Prudie!

Debbie said...

I am enjoying your Christmas around the world posts! Just wanted you to know that.

Pam said...

I love your replacement for red wine - I don't care to cook with wine often but I wasn't sure what I should use as a replacement. Excellent recipe!

Prudy said...

I only WISH the nativity set was mine. I got the picture of a store on the Internet. Sorry to be unintentionally misleading!

alexandra's kitchen said...

Coq au vin would even be nice here in sunny Socal. There's a bit of a chill in the air. This sounds so comforting.

Those sugar cookies below are adorable, too.

Kelly said...

Oh this looks great..I want to try this..is it spicy?

Melissa said...

Your coq au vin looks fabulous. And the cookies - yum! No wonder they were polished off so quickly!

Michal said...

i love the quote from veruca salt's mum!

i can't wait to try those cookies.

Marie said...

Oh yummo! Now I know what I am going to make for the missionaries on Christmas Eve! Everything looks wonderfully tasty, but then what else is new! I gain ten pounds every time I come to you blog just by looking at all this delicious food you show us! Ok so I lied....I don't really gain ten pounds, but it's a wonder I don't!

Sherry Trifle - Lovely Cats said...

Such beautiful Christmas presentations! I love your "Around the World" theme - your postings are so interesting.

Dawn said...

I like this version of the coq au vin. I need to start my cookie baking, soon...

Carolyne said...

Auntie Erin, the coq au vin looks scrumdeliumptious! (To add another Charlie and the Chocolate Factory phrase.) :)

And your willow tree nativity is just gorgeous!

Hamilton said...

I love your changes in the coq au vin. More to my tastes. Your information, dinner and cookie were a very fun read. Merry Christmas.