Jim and I finished up the last bits of our coq au vin at 6 a.m. Friday morning. The breakfast—coq au vin, a small scoop of mashed potatoes, and a fried egg on top—has been had all week; it’s a pick-me-up before I go off to work and fuel for Jim’s creativity (he’s working on some fabulous short stories). I’m really going to miss it now that it’s gone—just possibly enough to make it all over again this weekend.
Thankfully, now that I’ve made “real” coq au vin, it’s no longer in my pile of “scary culinary dishes” that I’m afraid to try. I don’t even understand, now that it’s done, why I ever thought coq au vin was scary. It’s almost fibbing to say that it takes a few days to make since most of those days require no work whatsoever besides dipping into your marinade and moving things around a bit. And the real work (on the day you cook the bird) is hardly hard work. It’s definitely not brain surgery (or pastry making for that matter) and as long as you have a big pot and another pan handy, you’re up for the task.
It’s a bit time consuming—the chicken cooks for about 2 hours in the oven and you’ll spend a portion of that time prepping the bacon, onion, and mushroom “garnishes,” but it’s well worth it for that brown-food taste (any one out there Anne Burrell fans? Brrrooooown food!).
If you can get your hands on a stewing hen, do so—for tradition’s sake. But if you don’t have a local meat producer (you should search around if you aren’t sure) just use a good, organic bird (preferably one that’s a little older, with strong bones, if you are able to get it from a butcher or farmer). The longer you marinate the bird in wine and vegetables, the more delicious it will taste—you could start marinating on Thursday for a Sunday feast—and what wine you use really matters.
Wine matters in a coq au vin (you’re using a full bottle of it!) I urge you to try a Burgundy or something with a big body from France but you could also do a Cabernet Sauvignon from California for a slightly different taste. Try and buy in the $10-$20 range, and don’t go under $10 (ok, $8 if your budget is strapped). It was somewhat sacrilegious to me to use a whole $20 bottle in a recipe, so I sneaked a glass. I’m happy to report that it didn’t damage the coq au vin one lick.
I can’t really describe the coq au vin’s tastes to you, it’s too deliciously dreamy. I’ll just say this: chicken, bacon, onions, mushrooms, slow-cooked buttery wine.
Put that together with olive oil mashed potatoes and you head just might explode.
Real Coq au Vin
serves 2 over the course of a few days (or 4-6)
- 1 onion, sliced
- 1 carrot, sliced
- 2 stalks of celery, sliced
- 1 garlic clove
- 1 tsp. peppercorns
- 1 bottle (750 mL) red wine
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- One 5- to 6- pound stewing hen or large roasting chicken, cut into 8 pieces
- 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
- 6 oz piece of lean smoked bacon, cut into lardons
- 3 tablespoons flour
- 2 cups chicken broth, more if needed
- 2 shallots, chopped
- 2 garlic cloves, chopped
- 1 large bouquet garni
- 2 tablespoons butter, more if needed
- 16-18 baby pearl onions, about 8 oz, peeled
- 8 oz mushrooms, trimmed and quartered if large
- salt and pepper
- 1 tablespoon fresh parsley
For the marinade, combine the onion, carrot, celery, garlic, peppercorns, and wine in a saucepan, bring to a boil, and simmer for 5 minutes. Let the marinade cool completely.
Pack the chicken pieces in a deep, nonmetallic bowl and pour the cooled marinade over them. Spoon the olive oil on top to keep the chicken moist. Cover and leave pieces to marinate in the refrigerator for at least a day, turning them from time to time, and up to 3 days if you like a full-bodied wine flavor.
Take the chicken pieces from the marinade and pat them dry with paper towels. Strain the marinade, reserving the liquid and the vegetables separately. Heat the oven to 325ºF.
To cook the chicken, heat the vegetable oil in a saute pan or flameproof casserole over medium heat. Add the lardons and saute until browned and the fat runs, about 5 minutes. Transfer them to a bowl using a draining spoon and set aside. Add the chicken pieces, skin side down, to the pan and saute over medium heat until thoroughly browned, at least 10 minutes. Turn them and brown the other side, 3 to 5 minutes longer. Remove the chicken pieces and set aside.
Add the reserved marinade vegetables to the saute pan over medium heat and fry until they start to brown, 5 to 7 minutes. Stir in the flour and cook over high heat, stirring, until it browns, 2 to 3 minutes. Pour in the marinade liquid and bring to a boil, stirring constantly until the sauce thickens. Simmer for 2 minutes, then stir in the broth, shallots, garlic, and bouquet garni. Replace the chicken, pushing pieces down under the sauce. Cover the pan, transfer to the oven, and cook, turning the chicken occasionally, until the pieces are tender and fall easily from a two-pronged fork, 1 to 1 1/4 hours for a roasting chicken and at least 30 minutes longer for a stewing hen. If some pieces are tender before the others, remove them and set aside while the rest continue to cook.
Meanwhile, cook the garnish. Melt the butter in a frying pan over medium heat. Add the onions and brown them, shaking the pan from time to time so they color evenly, 5 to 7 minutes. Lower the heat, cover, and cook the onions, shaking the pan occasionally, until just tender, 8 to 10 minutes more. Lift them out with the draining spoon and add to the reserved lardons. Put the mushrooms in the pan, with a little more butter if needed, and saute until tender, 3 to 5 minutes. Add them to the lardons and onions.
When the chicken is cooked, remove the pieces and set them aside. Wipe out the saute pan, add the garnish, and strain the sauce on top, discarding vegetables and seasonings. Reheat the garnish and sauce on the stove top over medium heat. If the sauce seems thick, add a little more broth, taste, and adjust the seasoning. Add the chicken pieces, pushing them will down into the sauce, and heat gently for 3 to 5 minutes so the flavors blend. Coq au vin improves if you keep it, well covered in the refrigerator for at least 1 day and up to 3 days so the flavors mellow.
To serve, reheat the chicken with the garnish and sauce on the stove top if necessary. Transfer the chicken pieces to a serving dish or individual plates, and spoon the garnish with a little sauce over them. Sprinkle the chicken with the parsley and serve the remaining sauce separately.