In this space, I bring you recipes for food stories from the globe's most cookin-est DJs, paired with carefully selected music for culinary enhancement.
Minneapolis' Mike Davis AKA Mike 2600 is what you might call a "polymath," a Renaissance Man, or a Jack of All Trades. Not only is he a great DJ, he's also a big part of the indie graphic design firm Burlesque of North America, and, as we learn, he's the co-owner of an Asian-style beef jerky manufacturing company. In this installment, Mike teaches me how to cook a French farmer's stew called Coq-Au-Vin, and together we create a comprehensive list of beef jerky's "pop culture moments." It turns out there are only two, and one of them is related to house music.
THUMP: Hey, Mike. Tell the folks about yourself—any professional cooking credentials?
MIKE 2600: I'm Mike Davis, sometimes known as Mike 2600. I was born in Nashville, Tennessee, and I live in Minneapolis, Minnesota. As a DJ, I guess I'm best known for my Things Kings Doand Heavy Sessionmixed CDs, my Red Bull Thre3style performances in 2012 and 2013, and for being one of the organizers of the Dre Day parties, which began here in Minneapolis but have expanded to over a dozen cities across the globe. I am by no means a professional cook. Not even close.
You may not be a professional cook, but you do own a beef jerky company.
I do indeed. My wife is from Laos, and her Aunt has been making traditional Laotian beef jerky since the 1980s. It's much sweeter than American beef jerky, and not nearly as rubbery. She makes it mainly for her friends and sells it at an Asian grocery store somewhere in the outskirts of Minneapolis. Our friends would eat it when they'd come over for birthday parties and freak out over how good it is. They'd ask us where they could get it and told us they'd pay money for it. So, we started buying big batches of [my wife's] aunt's jerky and selling it.
In 2010, we came up with the name Cool Jerk and ran with it. We've developed four different flavors and now work with a processor who has mastered our recipes and prepares everything in his USDA-certified kitchen. We've been focusing on getting our jerky into stores around the Twin Cities and beyond. We're trying to make big moves in the dehydrated meat game.
Can you name five beef jerky moments in pop culture?
Five? Damn, really? I mean, number one without a shadow of a doubt is Macho Man busting into the high school play and yelling, "ART THOU BORED?" in a Slim Jim commercial. RIP [professional wrestler] Randy Savage, and also Miss Elizabeth. Man, I really don't know where else in pop culture beef jerky has had a major presence. I will say that the worst look for beef jerky in pop culture is when a company tries to market it to men who read Maxim like it's edible Axe body spray. Also, I don't really mess with turkey jerky or vegan jerky.
Masters at Work! Damn, that one slipped past my beef jerky radar.
Right, they used a sample from that scene in Trading Places. Anyway, what are we cooking? What's so great about it?
Coq Au Vin. This is an old French country dish. It's essentially chicken cooked in wine. There are a lot of variations of it, but after reading a few recipes and watching a few videos online, I worked out a recipe of my own that turned out nicely. I don't cook too often, but I found this dish to be pretty simple to make, especially considering how many different steps there are.
This is a dish that gets better after a few days, once it's had a chance to really sit and do some time.
How did you discover this recipe?
My wife has a book called All About Braising, which offers over 100 recipes and really breaks down the science of braising. The writing goes above and beyond anything I've ever seen in a cookbook, and I got kind of obsessed with it a couple years ago. I made two dishes from the book, but never got around to making the coq au vin until last month.
Do I have to be a master chef to make this? What's the trick to making this dish work?
Far from it. Once you understand the basic changes that each ingredient is undergoing in every step, it's super simple. The main trick to making it work is using one single pot to keep all of the flavors together. Patience is also key. I have a short attention span and tend to move things around or flip them in the pan before they're ready, so knowing when to leave things be and when to move them makes a big difference here.
What should we be listening to while we cook this?
Serge Gainsbourg's L'Histoire de Melody Nelson. It's a psychedelic masterpiece from the King of French pop. Or, Je Suis Funky, Je Suis Frenchy, a great compilation of boogie/last disoc/electric 80s R&B from France. The key tracks here are the big covers of Toto's "Georgy Porgy" and The Whispers' "The Beat Goes On."
MIKE 2600'S COQ AU VIN INGREDIENTS
1 ½ chickens, butchered into breast, thigh, etc (thighs are the best part for this dish)
4-6 strips of bacon
4 cloves of garlic
5 shallots or 3 onions
3 or 4 sprigs of fresh thyme
1 lb of button mushrooms
1 bottle of Pinot Noir
1 32 oz container of chicken stock
1/4 stick of butter (optional)
Salt and pepper
1. Clean and sort out your chicken. Make sure all the pieces are dry, and sprinkle salt and pepper onto both sides.
2. Cut the veggies into big chunks; aim for bite-and-a-half sized pieces. Set them aside in little organized piles. Doing this is called "mise en place," and will make your whole shit look like a cooking show for anyone who happens to walk in while you're working. Having all of your pieces ready before you start cooking will make the actual cooking parts go much more smoothly.
3. Cut the bacon strips into half-inch sections. In a large braising pot or Dutch oven, brown the bacon on medium to high heat. Get it nice and crispy, then remove it from the pan and set it aside for later. With a spoon, remove the excess liquid fat. Leave about two tablespoons behind in the pot.
4. In the same pot, on the same medium to high heat, add the chicken, skin side down. Cook it in the bacon fat. You want to keep all the flavors together in the same pot—If you're ever reading a recipe for this dish that uses the words "in a separate pan," stop reading. Brown the chicken for about five minutes on each side, just long enough to get a golden crust on all the outer surfaces. Don't move the pieces around while they're cooking, just let them sit and develop a crust.
5. Once your chicken is browned, remove it from the pot and set it aside.
6. Remove the excess liquid chicken grease, but, once again, leave about 2 spoonfuls. Add the garlic, mushrooms, carrots, and onions. Stir fry them on the same medium to high heat using a wooden spoon. Once they start sweating, you'll see the brown bits on the bottom of the pan (which are called "fonds") begin to loosen up. This is where the magic starts to happen: all the bacon and chicken flavor ghosts will begin to work their way back in. Keep on cooking the vegetables until they're nicely browned.
7. Put the chicken and bacon pieces back in the pot. Add equal amounts wine and stock into the pot until they just about reach the top of your chicken and veggie pile. Arrange thyme sprigs on top. Drop a bay leaf in as well if you like. Cover and lower heat to a simmer. Leave everything untouched for an hour and a half. During this time, the liquids are going to be evaporating and then condensing and dripping back onto everything and all of the flavors will be mixing together and the chicken is gonna be falling apart.
8. Carefully remove the chicken from the pan. Pieces should be starting to fall off the bone, so pick them up carefully. Now you want to reduce the liquid in the pan and turn it into a thicker sauce. Crank up the heat to a boil. You'll see some of the excess fat rise to the top in the form of a light-colored foam. Scoop it out with a strainer and keep things moving. This process can take a while. You can add butter to thicken things up here too. Some people will add flour as well. Continuous high heat will be your best help. Once the sauce has reached your desired thickness, put the chicken back in and turn off the heat.
Mike 2600's 12th annual Dre Day party is coming up on February 22 at Triple Rock Social Club in Minneapolis. You can follow him on Twitter at @mike2600.
Michael Fichman met Mike 2600 in the parking lot of a Vietnamese restaurant in 2010. Follow him on Twitter at @djaptone.