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"Cork and Knife" by Emily and Matt Clifton (Pages Street Publishing/TNS)

Emily Clifton edits movies and TV shows and her husband, Matt, runs an I.T. consulting firm, but their common passion is food. Since 2013, they’ve posted the recipes they create on their blog, Nerds With Knives. Along the way, they noticed that most of their recipes had a common ingredient — booze. Their new cookbook, “Cork and Knife,” shares 75 recipes that have some form of alcohol — wine, beer, bourbon or other spirits — as an ingredient.

“We started to really look at why alcohol plays such an important role in developing flavor,” they write in the cookbook’s intro. “We’re not talking about getting drunk off your pan sauce (although we won’t judge, if that’s your thing), but about layering flavors to add complexity and depth to dishes.”

They describe this chicken dish as a “lighter, creamier cousin” of coq au vin, with lots of Riesling white wine substituting for the red wine of the iconic French stew.

Look for a semi-dry Riesling or similar white to use here, and be prepared to be tempted to drink the sauce straight out of a glass.

Coq au Riesling

  • 8 ounces thick-sliced bacon, sliced crosswise into 1-inch pieces
  • 8 chicken thighs, with skin and bone (or 1 whole chicken cut into 10 pieces)
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 8 ounces mixed mushrooms (cremini, shiitake, oyster), sliced
  • 5 shallots, peeled, with a little of the root end attached, cut into quarters
  • 4 large cloves garlic, peeled and minced
  • 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 1 (750 ml) bottle semi-dry Riesling (or other rich, not-too-sweet white wine)
  • 1 cup crème fraîche (or heavy cream)
  • 2 tablespoons brandy (optional)
  • 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
  • 1/4 cup chopped Italian parsley
  • 3 tablespoons chopped tarragon (optional)
  • Rice, buttered noodles, potatoes and/or crusty bread, for serving

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F and set a rack in the middle position. Heat a large enameled cast-iron casserole or deep, heavy skillet on the stove, set over medium heat. Add the bacon and cook, stirring often, until it begins to brown and most of the fat has rendered, about 5 minutes. Use a slotted spoon to transfer the bacon to a bowl, leaving as much fat behind as possible.

Generously season the chicken on both sides with salt and pepper. Turn the pan up to medium-high heat and add the chicken, skin side down. Do not overcrowd the pan; work in batches if necessary. Cook until the skin is deep golden brown, about 7 to 10 minutes. Transfer the browned chicken to a plate and set aside.

If there is a lot of fat in the pan, pour some of it out, leaving about 3 tablespoons. Add the mushrooms and sauté until they are brown on one side, about 4 minutes. Stir the mushrooms, add the shallots and garlic, and cook until the shallots begin to soften, about 3 minutes. Sprinkle in the flour and stir it with the vegetables until it’s coated in the fat, about 1 minute.

Add the wine, scraping up any browned bits on the bottom of the pan with a wooden spoon, and bring it to a boil. Once the wine is boiling, turn the heat to low and return the bacon to the pan. Nestle the chicken in, skin side up. Partially cover the pan, place it in the oven and cook until the chicken is very tender and almost falling off the bone, about 45 minutes to 1 hour.

Transfer the chicken to a plate, and set aside. Place the pan back on the stove top, and turn the heat to medium. Add the crème fraîche, brandy (if using) and mustard. Cook, stirring constantly, until the sauce has thickened, about 2 minutes. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Place the chicken back in the pan, and sprinkle with the fresh chopped parsley and tarragon, if using.

Serve immediately with rice, buttered noodles, potatoes and/or crusty bread.

Makes 6 to 8 servings.

Reprinted with permission from: “Cork and Knife” by Emily and Matt Clifton; Page Street Publishing Co.

Chris Ross is a section editor for the San Diego Union Tribune and covers food, travel, and home and garden. Email her at chris.ross@sduniontribune.com

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