If, this weekend, you were looking for the perfect winter dish to spend a long afternoon preparing, one that will drive you mad with its luxuriously rich smells – red wine, butter, onions and bacon – this is your answer. Coq au Vin is the alpha and the omega of stews. There’s really no two ways around that. I’m not sure if I’ve ever had a stew as perfectly supple, deeply-bodied, or intrinsically wintry as this. Of course, you will have to work for your stew. There are a lot of steps. I have lately found myself preferring less fuss where the kitchen is concerned, and this is a little bit more fussy. But don’t let that deter you, because it is undeniably worth it. The rewards are beyond compare. Sundays in January were made for making Coq au Vin.
I did not employ a coq in this Coq au Vin, but that is immaterial. I also did my best to reduce a couple of steps. Namely, I ditched the pearl onions. Pearl onions are fussy, and the only value they add to this is in the aesthetic. (And I could not find any frozen.) I also did not dredge the chicken in flour. I cut the butter by about half. I did not get slab bacon.
Also of note: The Amateur Gourmet has a really thorough, detailed visual breakdown of the process that is highly worth a visit. (Recipe linked below.)
COQ AU VIN
adapted from The Amateur Gourmet
4-5 pound chicken, separated by wings, thighs, legs, breasts, rinsed, patted very dry, and generously salted and peppered. (Here’s a demo on carving a chicken.)
4 slices thick-cut bacon
1 bottle dry red wine
1 cup chicken stock
1 medium yellow onion, chopped
2 carrots, diced
2 tablespoons brandy
1 tablespoon tomato paste
2-3 garlic cloves, minced
1 tablespoon fresh thyme, minced
2 tablespoons fresh parsley, minced
1 bay leaf
For the garnish:
1 medium yellow onion, chopped
12 ounces cremini mushrooms, sliced
2 tablespoons butter
1. Place the bacon in a cold Dutch oven or similar large, heavy-bottomed pot. Cook over medium heat, turning as needed, for about ten minutes. You want it to be somewhat browned but retain some of the fat. Don’t cook it to a crisp. Remove the bacon, chop roughly, and set aside.
2. Turn the heat up to medium-high. Give the pot a few minutes to heat more. Have your chicken ready to go. Make sure it’s nice and dry, as this is what you will need in order to get that lovely brown crust when you sear it.
3. Place half the chicken (one each wing, thigh, drumstick, breast) in the pot and leave it alone for about five minutes. To get that crust, you don’t want to jostle the meat at all. After about 5 minutes, flip each piece, and repeat. If it hasn’t developed a really nice brown sear, leave the meat in for a little longer.
4. Take the first batch of chicken from the pot, and repeat step 3 with second half.
5. If you have a lot of excess fat in the pot, spoon the extra out, being careful not to remove any brown bits.
6. Reduce heat to medium, and add a tablespoon of butter. Add the onion and carrot, and saute, stirring some, for about five minutes.
7. Add the tomato paste and stir. Carefully add the cognac, deglazing the pot with it. Scrape all that yummy stuff from the bottom, and saute for another few minutes to reduce the liquid.
8. Raise the heat a little again, and add the bottle of wine, garlic, thyme, parsley and bay leaf, and bring to a boil.
Simmer until liquid has reduced by half, about 15-20 minutes.
9. Add the bacon and the chicken stock and stir. Reserve 1/2 cup of the cooking liquid for your second batch of onions.
10. Return the chicken to the pot. Amateur Gourmet suggested a certain order, but I didn’t find that necessary.
11. Cover the pot, reduce the heat to very low on your stove, and simmer, undisturbed, for 45-60 minutes. You want the meat to be incredibly tender, but not quite falling off the bone. (Mine started to fall off the bone, no big deal.)
12. While your chicken is braising, prepare the garnish. Heat one tablespoon butter in a medium pan over a medium flame. Add the onions and saute for about 5 minutes.
13. Add the reserved braising liquid, season to taste with salt and pepper, and saute until most of the liquid has been reduced, about 10 minutes or so. Remove onions from heat and set aside.
14. Add another tablespoon of butter to the pan. Add the mushrooms and saute until the liquid has cooked off, another 10 minutes, roughly. Turn off heat, return onions to the pan, mix together and set aside.
15. Check on the chicken. If it’s ready, turn off heat and skim any fat if necessary. Add the mushrooms and onions to the braise, stir.
16. Ladle this luscious stuff into bowls, garnish with more parsley, and enjoy!
PS: The flavors will improve overnight.