Saturday, September 25, 2010

French Classics Day 4: Coq au Vin

Everyone loves the comforting, fattening taste of Beef Bourguignon. I personally prefer it's nearly identical twin, which is Coq au Vin. The food Gods have hardly been more kind to us. Coq au Vin is an experience to behold, with its rich, smooth sauce of wine and stock, and the beautifully moist braised chicken pieces. When making Coq au Vin, there are two choices: rustic or elegant. I prefer the "elegant" because it seems to promote the French use of herbs and vegetables, which is different than anywhere else in the world. The French use herbs only to capture their flavor and essence. Once the herb has done its deed, it is removed so as not to disrupt the smooth texture of the sauce. This is done through an "herb bouquet," which is a series of herbs tied together and wrapped in cheese cloth. Don't feel bad about throwing the herbs out, they're not being wasted. Everything they had to offer in terms of flavor has been withdrawn from them.

Something I do - that is not traditional  - is use only dark meat chicken. When you have a mix of white and dark meat, you have to do some preliminary mathematics to find out when you should place the white meat into the sauce so that everything will finish together, and since the dark meat takes longer to cook - meaning more soaking up of the sauce - it's preferable.

If you prefer beef to chicken, you can most certainly follow these directions exactly as they are and have an excellent beef bourguignon. Pretty much the same.


3 Slices bacon, cut into lardons
4 Tablespoons butter plus 1 1/2 Tablespoon butter
Canola oil
15-20 button mushrooms, quartered
1 Bag frozen pearl onions, thawed
8 Chicken legs or thighs
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 carrots, roughly chopped
1 yellow onion, roughly chopped
1 Clove garlic, roughly sliced
1 Sprig fresh rosemary
4 Sprigs fresh thyme
2 bay leaves
8 Sprigs fresh parsley
2 or more Cups red wine - such as Zinfandel or Pinot Noir
1 Cup or more chicken stock - I only use Kitchen Basics
1 Large tomato, seeded, juiced, and diced
1 Tbsp. flour 


Choose a 12 inch stainless steel fry pan with a fitting lid. Heat the pan a little over medium.

Add the mushrooms WITHOUT ANY OIL OR BUTTER. Why? The mushrooms are like a sponge and they've already got a lot of moisture in them. The goal is to draw out all the moisture they've got and evaporate it. Once that happens, you can continue to saute the mushrooms in oil. But, if you start the mushrooms with oil, they'll just soak up that oil and have a rubbery texture. You'll want to cook the mushrooms until they've shrunk tremendously in size. Once they seem to start sticking ferociously to the pan, they've released their moisture and are ready for the oil. Saute them for 5-10 minutes. Remove from the pan and set aside.

Now to the bacon. Cook in the remaining oil in the pan until the lardons are crispy and well rendered, about 10 minutes. Remove from the pan and set aside.

Add 4 Tablespoons butter to the pan and about a Tablespoon of oil and add the pearl onions. Allow them to brown over medium-high heat. Remove from the pan and set aside.

With paper towels, wipe the pan clean of butter. Add about two tablespoons of oil. Salt and pepper the chicken liberally and put in the pan - skin side down. Sear about 3 minutes on each side, or until deeply golden in color. Remove from the pan and set aside.

Add some butter and the carrots, garlic, and onions to the pan and saute until slightly soft and sweating. Turn the pan to highest heat and add all the wine. With a wooden spoon, scrape up all the brown bits from the bottom of the pan and incorporate them into the wine. Tie all the herbs together and wrap in cheese cloth. Add the chicken stock, the tomatoes, the herb bouquet, and the chicken - making sure they're covered 3/4 of the way in sauce - to the pan. Cover and allow to gently simmer for approx. 20-25 minutes.

Meanwhile, mash the remaining 1 1/2 Tbsp. butter and the flour together to create a beurre manie.

When the chicken has finished cooking, remove from the sauce and plate. Strain the sauce and discard all of the herbs and vegetables. Degrease the sauce by placing in a fat separator. Return to the pan and place over medium heat. Add the beurre manie and ferociously whisk into the sauce. Once incorporated, add the mushrooms, bacon, and pearl onions to the sauce. Cook until the sauce becomes smooth, velvety, and slightly thickened. Spoon out the bacon, mushrooms, and pearl onions, and garnish the plates with them. Spoon a generous portion of the sauce over the chicken and the garnish and serve.



1 comment:

Pam said...

I've never made Coq au Vin but have always wanted to try. This recipe looks wonderful.

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