Coq Au Vin

If you have never made this classic dish, you absolutely should. It’s the perfect winter dinner, and winter is finally here in Chicago (who knew anyone would ever utter those words?).

While my version isn’t quite the same as Julia Child’s classic version, what is ultimately important is the technique, which is braising a chicken (or rooster, if you have one on hand) in wine. As always, I implore you to make the recipe your own, omitting and adding ingredients at your discretion.  Bon Appétit!

Coq Au Vin

Coq Au Vin:

3 oz. pancetta, small dice

1 Tbsp. olive oil

3# whole chicken legs (4 or 5 legs), trimmed of excess fat and skin

flour for dredging (rice flour for GF)

S & P

2 medium onions, medium dice

5 – 6 cloves garlic, sliced

2 Tbsp. tomato paste

3 C. dry red wine

8 oz. cremini mushrooms, thickly sliced

1 oz. dried mushrooms (I used chanterelles)

2 medium carrots, large dice

1 – 2 C. broth (mushroom or chicken are good choices)

2 nice sprigs fresh thyme

Sprinkle the chicken pieces generously with S & P and dredge them on both sides in flour, shaking off the excess.  Set aside.

Place the dried mushrooms in a bowl and cover with about half the wine.  Pop them in the microwave for about 2 minutes (or heat the wine on the stove first and pour it over the mushrooms).  Set aside.

Cook the pancetta over medium heat in a large dutch oven (or another large pan for which you have a tight fitting lid) until beginning to crisp and release its fat.  Set aside, leaving the fat behind in the pan.

Increase the heat to medium-high. Add the olive oil to the pan and brown the chicken pieces on both sides.  Brown only 2 or 3 pieces at a time so that you don’t crowd the pan. Crowding the pan will prevent browning because 1) too much food cools a pan down, and 2) too much food releases too much moisture, and moisture is an enemy to browning.  Once the chicken pieces are nice and brown, set them aside.

Add the onions to the pan with the hot fat.  Sprinkle with salt and pepper and cook for about 5 minutes, until just starting to get a little color.  Add the sliced garlic. I know almost every recipe asks you to mince or chop your garlic, but in the case of a braise (a long, slow simmer), you don’t really need the garlic pulverized.  In fact, I prefer that the garlic be recognizable in my braises.  Cook the garlic and onion together for another 5 minutes or so, stirring occasionally.

Add the tomato paste and stir to distribute. Let it cook for a minute or two.

Things should really be starting to stick to the bottom of the pan now, and that’s a good thing, because it’s time to deglaze the pan with the wine. Pour the wine off from the soaking mushrooms (set the mushrooms aside) and then add the remaining wine to make 3 cups total.  Stir to release the browned bits from the bottom of the pan.

Return the chicken pieces to the pan, nestling them down into the liquid.  Roughly chop the soaked mushrooms. Add them to the pan along with the fresh mushrooms, the carrots, the thyme sprigs, and the crisped pancetta.

Pour in enough broth so that the chicken pieces are about 80% covered.  This will vary depending on the size of your pan.  Let the mixture come to a boil, then reduce the heat to medium-low and cover.

Cook the chicken for 1 hour total, checking on it every 20 minutes so that 1) you are sure it is at a nice, low bubble, and 2) to spoon several spoonfuls of sauce over the exposed parts of the chicken.

At the one hour mark, remove the chicken pieces carefully from the pan. Increase the heat to medium high and continue to cook the sauce, uncovered, for 5-10 minutes more to reduce and concentrate the flavor.  Remove the thyme sprigs and return the chicken to the thickened sauce to moisten. Serve immediately.

*If you are making this dish a day or two in advance, 1) what a great idea, and 2) when the chicken is done at the one hour mark, stop.  Let the chicken and liquid cool together and then transfer them to the refrigerator.  Compete the recipe when ready to serve by warming the chicken and the sauce over medium-low heat for about 15 minutes (or until chicken is warmed through) and then proceeding with the reduction of the sauce.

This dish is wonderful served over mashed potatoes, but I love it served over polenta even more.

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