Coq Au Vin
A coq au vin is the perfect dish for a lazy, snowy weekend. Not only does it taste great and stick to your ribs, but it’s even better when made ahead of time (which means it’s perfect for leftovers). So it’s also perfect for those lazy weekends where you might feel like welcoming friends to your table but don’t want to slave away by the stove, or weekends where you want to cook in advance for the rest of the week. Coq Au vin is not meant to be a pretentious dish; it is a homey and rustic dish that developed out of farmers’ need to use the abundance of wine and chickens and roosters. While there are as many recipes out there as there are French grandmothers, there are a few things to keep in mind for authenticity. Firstly, the only liquid in coq au vin is red wine (no tomatoes or tomato paste! No chicken stock! No white wine!). While variations are tasty, they’re not coq au vin. While coq au vin quite literally translates to “rooster in wine,” red wine is implied. (A similar dish is made with white wine, called coq au vin blanc/jaune, and is truly delicious, especially with morels.) Secondly, many coq au vin recipes call for cognac that one can either flamber in the dutch oven after browning the meat, or add at the end and allow to cook off. Feel free to use this if you have some on hand. I didn’t and didn’t feel like buying a bottle for a one-time use. Adding cognac definitely adds a little something special, but is not a requirement for authenticity. All of that said, I believe it is sometimes more important for a dish to be tasty than authentic, so I encourage you to try whatever regional variation floats your boat. This recipe includes an ingredient that struck me as unconventional – dark chocolate – but since it’s in a book authored by purists, I feel it is justified.
Ingredients: • 6 strips of bacon • 8 oz frozen pearl onions • ½ lb sliced mushrooms (cremini, button…) • 2 shallots finely chopped • 1-2 carrots, chopped into 1” pieces • 1 whole chicken, cut into parts (3-4 lbs) • 1 bottle of strong red wine (like a pinot noir) • Herbes de provence • 1 tablespoon of flour • 2 cloves garlic • 2 squares of dark chocolate • 1. In a bowl, marinate the chicken in the wine overnight. When ready to start cooking, remove the chicken from the wine and pat dry. Salt the chicken, and add a thin coating of the herbs to the chicken. Keep the wine and put aside for later. 2. In a dutch oven, crisp the bacon bits until all of the fat has been rendered and the meat is browned. Once the meat is crisped, remove the bacon and fat from the dutch oven and drain on a paper towel. Next, add the pearl onions to the dutch oven and sautee in the residual fat from the bacon. Remove and set aside once they have lightly browned. 3. Again in the residual fat, sautee the shallots, then the carrots. If there’s not enough fat to properly sautee, add some extra olive oil. Remove and put aside. 4. Using the same dutch oven, add a tablespoon of olive oil and butter and brown all of the pieces of chicken. Make sure not to crowd the pan and work in batches if necessary. Once browned, remove the chicken and set aside. 5. Add the flour to the pan and scrape and mix with all the drippings. Now add the chicken back into the pan, along with the bacon, carrots, and shallots (leave the pearl onions out). Add the wine to the pot and make sure not to cover the chicken entirely (the liquid should just barely cover the meat). If you don’t have enough wine you can add some water. At this point, add the remaining herbs (garlic, bay leaf,…) and the chocolate. 6. Bring the liquid to a boil, and lower the heat to barely a simmer. Cook for 40 minutes. When ready to serve, remove the chicken and cook down the sauce to desired thickness. (The sauce should be thick enough to coat the back of a wooden spoon. Usually I cook the sauce down by half.) If the sauce is still not the desired thickness, you can take a tablespoon of butter and flour, mashed together in a separate bowl, and then added to the sauce. This will act as a thickening agent. 7. In a separate pan, cook up the mushrooms: mushrooms often contain a lot of water, and so I cook them first by just adding them to a hot pan with salt to cook out the moisture. Once the moisture is cooked out, then I actually saute them with oil and butter. Once cooked, add the mushrooms to the sauce, along with the pearl onions. Add parsley before serving.