Tuesday, May 28th, 2013
Tomorrow, May 29, is National Coq au vin Day. This is not to be confused with Coq au Vin Day which is March 22nd. This classic French dish is so good they gave it 2 days on the food calendar. There are a lot of different elements to this recipe but the good thing is you can do most of it separately and in advance. The dish, like a fine wine gets better with age, for a couple of days at least.
Coq au Vin literally means “Rooster with Wine,” but has become chicken with wine as it’s hard to find rooster in your local market and your neighbors will get pissed if they catch you poaching some of their roosters. The chicken and wine are braised in the oven or simmered slowly on the range.
When I was living in the NYC it was easy to get fresh chicken from a poultry store including rooster as well as beautiful pieces of pork fat. Although you can find pork fat here in the mountains it’s Salt Pork and when they say salt in the South they’re not kidding. You’d have to scrub the salt off and then soak it. It’s just a lot easier to use the thickest bacon you can find. Besides I have learned to appreciate, no love, the Smokey goodness of bacon.
I like to use chicken thighs as they won’t dry out and they make a good portion serving the Coq au Vin over egg noodles One way to go gluten free is to use corn polenta.
For years I’ve used Julia Child’s recipe from Mastering the Art of French Cooking. The recipe printed here is a hybrid. Part Julia but with traditional mirepoix and some of my own ideas thrown in.
Here’s What You Will Need:
Here’s How I Do It
I always start off with cooking the bacon so I can use the fat along with some butter to brown the chicken, mushrooms and onions.
While the bacon is cooking I’ll cut up the carrots, celery and onions. This is called a mirpoix (meer-pwah). When the bacon is browned but not crisp take it out and set aside straining and saving the bacon fat. When cool wrap the bacon and put it in the refrigerator.
Place the mirepoix in the bottom of a large heavy enameled Dutch oven. Throw in thyme, bay leaf and garlic and tomato paste. Lay the chicken thighs on top of the mirepoix. If the Thighs are very large you may want to cut them in half. The chicken will loose size after cooking. Pour the wine over the chicken then add the chicken stock. Make sure to cover the chicken completely. Place a lid on top of the Dutch oven and refrigerate over night. (You can brown the chicken before marinating and it will save some steps and time the next day.) I like to marinate the chicken raw.
The following day remove the pot from the refrigerator. Take the chicken out and place on a wire rack and drain the mirepoix and return to the Dutch oven. Heat the wine in a separate pot. Sprinkle the chicken with salt and pepper and dust with flour. Brown the chicken in the reserved bacon fat and place on top of the mirepoix. After you brown the chicken you should deglaze your pan with wine or in this case some cognac. Be careful as this can ignite.
Pour over the chicken along with the hot wine. Cover and place in a 225º oven for about 2 hours. Checking occasionally to stir and to make sure the sauce is lightly simmering the chicken. Boiling will make the chicken tough. Internal temperature should be 165º.
While the chicken is cooking prepare the onions and mushrooms. Once again this is something you can do the day before. If so bring the mushrooms and onions to room temperature, cover and refrigerate.
Cut off the root end of each pearl onion and make an “x” with your knife in its place. Bring 3 cups of water to a boil and drop in the onions for 1 minute. Remove the onions from the pot, allow them to cool, and then peel. You should be able to slide the onions right out of their skin. Set aside to dry.
Place a tablespoon of the bacon fat and a tablespoon of butter in 12-inch sauté pan and cook over medium high heat for about 5 minutes, shaking the pan occasionally to brown the mushrooms evenly. Set aside. In the same pan, using the remaining fat and some butter if needed add the pearl onions, sprinkle with salt and pepper, and saute until lightly brown, approximately 8 to 10 minutes. Deglaze the pan with some chicken stock. Remove the onions from the pan and set aside.
Once the chicken is done, turn off the oven and remove chicken to a heatproof container, cover, and place it in the oven to keep warm. Strain the sauce in a colander and remove the carrots, onion, celery, thyme, garlic, and bay leaf. Return the sauce to the pot, place over medium heat, and reduce by 1/3. This should take about 30 minutes. Depending on how much liquid you actually began with, this should take 20 to 45 minutes.
Some people will discard the mirepoix and other will serve it with the chicken. But this makes the dish look like chicken stew and this is Coq au Vin. Here is something I do that is time consuming and a pain in the ass but I believe it makes the sauce richer. I remove the thyme and bay leaf and put the cooked onion, garlic, celery and carrot through a food mill returning it to the wine before reducing. I believe this adds additional flavor to the sauce. After I reduce the sauce I then strain it through cheesecloth to remove the vegetable puree. See what I mean, a real pain but a labor of love.
Once the sauce has thickened, add the pearl onions, mushrooms, and bacon and simmer for another 15 minutes or until the heated through. Taste and adjust seasoning if necessary. Place the chicken over egg noodles and ladle the sauce on top.
If the sauce is not thick enough at the end of reducing, you may add a mixture of equal parts butter and flour kneaded together, roux. Start with 1 tablespoon of each. Whisk this into the sauce for 4 to 5 minutes and repeat, if necessary.
You can do everything above returning the chicken to the pot. Let the Coq au Vin cool then cover and place in the refrigerater and slowly reheat the next day. This allows the maximum amount of flavor to come out.