My Favorite Coq au Vin
The French peasant cuisine is at the basis of the culinary art. By this I mean it is composed of honest elements that la grand cuisine only embellishes. ~ Alexandre Dumaine
I find it difficult to believe that after four years of sharing some of my favorite recipes, intriguing stories of chefs and farmers, and special destinations in this space, I have failed to include a recipe for Coq au Vin. Truly one of my cherished go-to dishes, I am reminded every time I prepare it why it is one of my most loved recipes. While known as a peasant dish that is served in French bistros, it is also one of the most delectable dishes in flavor and perfect to serve to your family or special guests.
I first made Coq au Vin (Chicken in Wine) from Julia Child’s recipe many years ago. While there were quite a few steps involved in the process, getting to the end result was so worth the effort. Something that tastes this good takes time. The outcome is a luscious chicken stew with a real complexity in flavor; the sauce and vegetables are just delicious. Each process along the way creates layers of flavors; from the searing of the chicken to the browning of the mushrooms, it all comes together beautifully in one pot.
Always a hit at dinner parties, this recipe for Coq au Vin has a few minor changes from Julia’s recipe and perhaps takes a shortcut or two. One of these is the substitution of frozen pearl onions for fresh, but I find the taste to be quite similar and if it saves a few extra minutes in the kitchen you might be more inclined to make this version more often.
Tired of turkey leftovers and traditional holiday fare, I opted to prepare Coq au Vin for our Christmas dinner. It was phenomenal served over egg noodles and accompanied by a spinach and arugula salad topped with toasted walnuts, roasted beets, Feta cheese, and a sherry vinaigrette. I also made a homemade French bâtard (recipe coming soon) and we paired the meal with a lovely Burgundy wine. It was a perfect special occasion meal.
There are just a few notes and suggestions to achieve great success with your Coq au Vin. Some people complain that their chicken turns purple from the red wine, which can be somewhat unappealing. I have never had that happen in preparing this recipe. First of all, it only calls for 1 1/2 cups of red wine ( 1/2 of a bottle), so you get to sip the rest while preparing your Coq au Vin. 😉 You need to use a quality Pinot Noir/Burgundy that is light in style and one that you would be happy to drink. Some Pinots are heavy and dense and will overpower the dish. Never use a big red wine, such as a Cabernet, Syrah, or Grenache when preparing Coq au Vin.
I also believe that a perfect sear on the outside of your chicken pieces is essential in keeping your chicken meat the color of chicken and not red wine. And as I always suggest, purchase the best ingredients you can source for the dish. It will have an impact on the final result. I used a Bell & Evans chicken from Whole Foods, a good Pancetta, organic chicken broth, and organic produce. You can taste the difference. If you have a Le Creuset Dutch oven or similar piece of cookware (enamel coated cast iron), I recommend using that since the heat is conducted evenly and you will be cooking and searing on the stove top as well as putting the cookware in the oven.
Coq au Vin would be a great dinner to serve to usher in the New Year – 2014. If you haven’t made this version, I hope you will give it a try and let me know how you think it compares to your favorite recipe. If you’ve never prepared Coq au Vin, then New Year’s Eve is the time to start.
Cheers to the rest of your 2013 and the holiday season!
Coq au Vin
This recipe is from Ina Garten (Barefoot Contessa). As with most of her recipes, this version of Coq au Vin is almost perfect and needs no additional seasoning, if prepared as the recipe states. Serve with the traditional side dish of egg noodles or mashed potatoes for a hearty and delightful meal.
2 tablespoons Extra-virgin olive oil
4 ounces good bacon or Pancetta, diced (I have used both and prefer the flavor from Pancetta)
1 (3 1/2 pound) chicken, cut into 8 pieces
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
1/2 pound carrots, cut diagonally in 1 inch pieces
1 medium yellow onion, sliced
1 teaspoon chopped garlic (about 1 clove)
1/4 cup Cognac or good brandy
1/2 bottle (375 ml or 1 1/2 cups) good dry red wine such as Burgundy
1 cup good chicken stock, preferably homemade (I used Swanson's Organic chicken broth or homemade stock if I have it)
10 fresh thyme sprigs
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature, divided
1 1/2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1/2 pound frozen small whole onions
1/2 pound cremini mushrooms, stems removed and thickly sliced
1. Preheat the oven to 250 degrees.
2. Heat the olive oil in a large Dutch oven, such as Le Creuset. Add the diced Pancetta and cook over medium heat for 8 to 10 minutes, until lightly browned. Remove the Pancetta to a plate with a slotted spoon.
3. Meanwhile, lay the chicken out on paper towels and pat dry. Liberally sprinkle the chicken on both sides with Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper. Sear the chicken pieces in batches in a single layer in the Dutch oven over medium-high heat for about 5 minutes on one side, then turning to brown evenly on the other side. Remove the chicken to a large plate with the Pancetta and continue to brown until all the chicken is done. Set aside.
4. Remove all but about 2 tablespoons of the fat from the Dutch oven and lower the heat to medium. Add the carrots, onions, 2 teaspoons salt, and 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper to the pan and cook for 10 to 12 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the onions are lightly browned. Add the garlic and cook for 1 more minute. Add the Cognac and place the Pancetta, chicken, and any juices that collected on the plate into the pot. Add the wine, chicken stock, and thyme and bring to a simmer. Cover the pot with a tight fitting lid and place in the oven for 30 to 40 minutes, until the chicken is just not pink. Remove from the oven and place on top of the stove.
5. Combine 1 tablespoon of the softened butter with the flour until the mixture is like a paste and then stir into the stew until it dissolves. Add the frozen onions. In a medium sauté pan, add the remaining 1 tablespoon of butter and cook the mushrooms over medium-low heat for 5 to 10 minutes, until browned. Add to the stew. Bring the stew to a simmer and cook for another 10 minutes. Season to taste. Serve hot over egg noodles.
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