Thursday, December 20, 2012

Coq Au Vin

December 20, 2012

Okay, so it’s 8:30 EST PM Thursday night before we’re hit by a big asteroid (or something otherwise dire) sometime after midnight.
So…..Todd and I are fixing a nice late-night steak dinner, before heading down to beach afterwards to watch the UFO’s land.
We think the first “take us to your leader” representative may be disguised as one of these: (SEE PHOTO AT TOP LEFT, taken by Todd one day when he spotted this guy scouting out the territory, as he was coming in our front door).
We actually like these guys better than the ones that look like chickens/roosters (LOUD MF’s) especially the ones that keep trying to keep coming in, and pecking & pooping in our living room.  Our dog Daisy could do a better job of keeping them out, but we’re all pretty glad she wisely gives them wide berth.
Live chickens are currency/personal property here, and no one wants to see one go before their time as road/dog kill….or let's wring its neck time.
That being said, inexplicably, one occasionally one goes missing. ** 

Coq Au Vin


Our food blogger, Jenna Weber, puts her spin on Julia Child's coq au vin recipe. She shares some tips for making this dish in a full post on the Fresh Tastes blog.

  • 4 slices thick cut bacon
  • 3 lbs chicken breasts and legs, skin on (two breasts and two drumsticks)
  • 1 yellow onion, chopped
  • 2 tsp minced garlic
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 sprig fresh rosemary, minced
  • 2 cups red wine
  • 2 cups chicken broth
  • 2 tbsp butter
  • 3 tbsp flour
  • 10 oz sliced mushrooms
  • ¼ tsp pepper
  • ½ tsp salt (or, to taste)


  1. Preheat oven to 250 degrees.
  2. Fry the bacon over medium heat in a dutch oven or large heavy-bottomed pot. After it’s fried, remove the bacon and place on paper towels to drain. Once cool, chop bacon and set aside. Keep the bacon grease in the pot.
  3. Turn heat to high and place chicken, skin-side down in the pot. Sear chicken until golden brown on both sides, about eight minutes. Then, add the onions, garlic, bay leaves and rosemary. Continue sautéing until the onions begin to soften, about six minutes.
  4. Add the chicken broth and red wine. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to a simmer. Cover and let simmer for 30 minutes.
  5. After 30 minutes, carefully remove the chicken from the pot and place in an oven-safe dish. Keep chicken warm in the oven while you work on the sauce.
  6. Stir the flour and butter (butter should melt instantly in the pot) into the red wine sauce. Bring back up to a boil and stir constantly----sauce should be begin to thicken. Add mushrooms, chopped bacon, salt and pepper and continue cooking for 10-12 minutes. Keep in mind that the sauce will also thicken up a bit when it cools.
  7. Place chicken back in sauce and serve with roasted potatoes, noodles or a big green salad.
Yield: 4 servings

** No animals were harmed during the writing of this essay.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Donkeys, Chimps, and Other Things

December 5, 2012
I just returned from Cuenca. I went over a few days ago to rendezvous with my brother Jack, who recently arrived, and friends/Olón neighbors Doug and Pam, who also own a townhouse in Cuenca. They went to Baños first before I got there, and we all returned back to the coast yesterday. Unfortunately, my husband Todd wasn’t able to come along for this trip because of other commitments.

And as always, I enjoyed my trip to Cuenca (my 8th visit since May, but without dental appointments this time, because we’re pretty much done with those for now).

On Saturday night, we went to “Joe’s Secret Garden” for dinner – hands down, one of the best and most unique places to eat in Cuenca. I’ve wanted to eat there for a long time. Joe’s Secret Garden is located in a lovely and private home and generally only serves dinner on Saturday nights, offering a prefix menu, with limited seating for around 50-70 (I suppose). Reservations are necessary, which book quickly once their themed dinner menu is posted earlier in the week. The food and the setting are spectacular, and we lucked out on getting in on Joe’s “fried chicken dinner night”.
There was an entertaining bunch of people the night we went, but in particular, it was a fun and surprising delight to run into Mary Beckman (of “South of Zero” fame) and her husband Steve.  South of Zero” is the premier website for Ecuador expats (or soon to be) with links to most all forums, blogs, official government entities for those here, or considering the move.  Steve and Mary, and his brother, Dave, just made the permanent leap within the last couple of weeks, and are getting settled in well. She and I have been friends for some time, and met in person a while back (see “Trash Truck Groupy”).

While enjoying an after dinner aperitif, and exploring the downstairs public area of the home (and listening to Joe treat us to a lovely piano repertoire) I discovered an original "Palm Springs 'Cheetah” painting on the wall. I was thrilled, because for years, I’ve been a fan, and have collected/gifted a number of those, and recognized the artist right away.  Todd and I lived about two blocks from “Cheetah” when we lived in Palm Springs (Racquet Club Estates Neighborhood). My “Cheetah’s” are still in Southern California storage.  It was fun to talk with Joe, who also lived in Palm Springs for some time. * 

It’s nice to be back home in Olón, but it can sometimes take me half a day or so to re-adjust to our little town after enjoying the more sophisticated pleasures of Cuenca (and on this visit – also reminded of how affectionately I think and miss our Palm Springs friends).

We don’t have any chimpanzees in Ecuador (that I know of), though we do have howling monkeys in the nearby Machalilla National Park.

We do have, however, a plethora of equestrian wild life.  Horses, donkeys, mules.
This guy (pictured adjacent) is a mule, we think.  He’s been hanging around our neighborhood for last few weeks.

Which has spurred a number of rather animated conversations between Todd and me and several friends about EXACTLY WHAT IS THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN A JACKASS, DONKEY, MULE (let alone a BURRO)?  

This is a fun one to “Google”.

"Mule" doing a little
grocery shopping.
“A mule is half horse and half donkey. When a female horse--a mare--mates with a male donkey--a jack--the resulting offspring is a mule. Mules are sterile and are generally unable to reproduce. Their adult size depends on the breeds of their parents. A rarely seen variation is a hinny--the offspring of a male horse and a female donkey.

What is the difference between a donkey and a burro? Burro is Spanish for donkey. Many people in the Southwest use the term to refer to feral donkeys on public lands. Burros are usually smaller than horses and mules”.

….but my favorite definition is this one from “”:

“There are subtle differences between burros, donkeys, mules, and a jackass. A burro is basically a mule. A mule is a domesticated hybrid between a horse and a donkey. A donkey is a domesticated ass. An ass is a wild donkey. The only difference between an ass and a donkey is the fact that a donkey is domesticated and an ass is not. A jackass is a male ass. Makes sense. I don't think I have every used ass more in one paragraph”.
Definitely Donkeys
* There is some controversy about authenticated/documented “Cheetah’s” who co-starred in the Tarzan movies.  There were a few of them.  See: