Chicken cooked in wine is a classic French dish, one that isn’t difficult but that’s so delicious and easy to prepare ahead that it works very well for entertaining.
We have already shifted into grilling season, but our kid went to a loto (like bingo night) and won. In typical French fashion, the prize was 90% edible–a good farm chicken, a big artisanal hard sausage and a pot of paté–along with some baubles and a gift certificate for a manicure.
So coq au vin went on the menu stat.
The Carnivore generally disdains feathered food, except for duck, goose, pheasant, pigeons, guinea hen….hmmm. I guess he does likes volaille, as the category is called, but he does NOT like chicken, calling it “cardboard.” Unless it was farm-raised, not industrial, and has “flavor.”
He took charge of dissecting the beast. In fact, he took charge of the entire meal, including photographing the process for you. He is as excited about spreading French savoir vivre as I am.
Coq au Vin
1 chicken (about 3 kg/6 or 7 lbs.), cut into pieces
1 bottle of full-bodied red wine
250 g (9 oz.) lardons (like cubes of bacon; you could do bacon and crumble it)
250 g (9 oz.) Paris mushrooms (like button mushrooms), sliced
1 onion, chopped
2 carrots, cut into rounds
2 cloves of garlic
2 tablespoons of herbes de Provence
1 tablespoon of whole peppercorns
50 cl (2 cups) beef broth
5 cl (3-4 tablespoons–oh, just go for 4) cognac
a couple of tablespoons of olive oil
a big tablespoon of flour
salt, pepper to taste
(2 medium potatoes per person, to serve on the side)
The day before, place the chicken pieces in a non-reactive dish (glass is good). Add the onion and carrots, then pour the wine over so the pieces are covered. Sprinkle on the herbs and the peppercorns. Cover and refrigerate overnight.
About three hours before you want to eat, take out the chicken pieces and dry them (wet meat won’t brown). Strain the vegetables from the marinade. Keep the marinade!
Heat the oil in a large pot (we have a mega le Creuset that is so heavy I can barely lift it, but it’s wonderful for cooking).
Brown the pieces of meat on all sides and set aside. Then add the vegetables and let them brown for about five minutes. Then sprinkle the flour over them and stir so they’re well-coated. This will thicken the sauce.
Put the chicken back in the pot, along with the garlic (crushed).
Warm the cognac, then light it to flambé and pour over the vegetables. (It wouldn’t be French if you didn’t flambé!)
Pour in the marinade and the beef broth. Bring to a boil then cover and let it simmer for 2 1/2 hours. Check the flavor and add salt/pepper to taste.
About half an hour before serving, prepare the potatoes (peel if you like, but we don’t–the skin has vitamins and it’s less work–win-win) and quarter them. Place them in a big pot and fill with cold water to cover them. Cover and crank up the heat to boil. If you add the salt after the water boils, it will make less of a stain on the bottom of your pot. Cook the potatoes about 20 minutes; check doneness with a fork.
While the potatoes are going, about 25 minutes before serving, brown the lardons/bacon and add the mushrooms to brown in the bacon fat for about 7-8 minutes. Add them to the coq au vin, so they can mix with the flavors for a good 15 minutes.