My First Coq au Vin
Coq au vin is one of those dishes that I've always wanted to make and for some reason never got around to it, until yesterday. I'm not sure what drove me to make it other than an unusual abundance of red wine in the house and a brisk fall day that I think this dish is perfect for.
Often before I cook something for the first time, I cross-reference recipes. For this dish I consulted Balthazar's cookbook and Elizabeth David's French Provincial Cooking. As David states there are many ways to prepare coq au vin. Her recipe calls for a whole chicken and brandy. Since I didn't have either, I opted to loosely follow the recipe in Balthazar's cookbook. I have to say I was really happy with the results.
Here's an approximation of the recipe. The beauty of a dish like this is that the recipe doesn't have to be exact.
4 chicken legs
1 yellow onion chopped medium
1 large carrot chopped medium
2 celery stalks chopped medium
4 cloves of garlic, peeled
1 bouquet garni consisting of a few sprigs of thyme, parsley and a bay leaf
1 bottle of decent red wine
White, unbleached flour
3 cups of chicken stock. Balthazar's book calls for veal stock, which I didn't have, but I imagine it would add a nice dimension.
1lb of small white mushrooms
5 streaks of bacon
10-12oz pearl onions peeled
First step: Marinate the chicken in the wine, chopped onion, celery, carrot and garlic with the bouquet garni for 24-36 hours. Now whenever I see this as the first step, I always get upset that they wait until then to tell you. I wanted to make it that day, not the next day, so I marinated it for about 3 hours. Also, I was using good quality organic free-range chicken, not an old hen that would need to be marinated.
Second step: After marinating, strain the wine and keep. Remove as much of the vegetables from the chicken as possible. Brown the chicken in about 1/4 cup of olive oil in the Dutch oven on the stove top. I did this over high heat so the skin would become nice and crispy, but the inside wouldn't cook. Do this in batches if necessary. Remove chicken and discard oil. Add fresh oil and saute the onion, celery, carrot and garlic for about 5-8 minutes over medium heat. Then add 2 tablespoons of tomato paste. Mix until absorbed. Add 3 tablespoons of flour after that and stir until thickened. Then pour in the wine and reduce on med-high heat for about 20-25 minutes.
Third step: Add the chicken and chicken stock and simmer for about an hour. (Balthazar actually forgets to tell you when to add the chicken back!)
In the meantime: Boil the pearl onions for about 5-7 minutes until tender. This seems like a an unnecessary step, but believe me, the onions are delicious this way. Cook the bacon until brown, remove the bacon and cook the mushrooms in the bacon grease until brown. Remove mushrooms and saute the pearl onions until brown. Save the bacon, pearl onions and mushrooms for later.
After cooking the chicken for about an hour the meat practically falls off the bone. Remove the chicken legs from the sauce. Strain the sauce and discard the vegetables and bouquet garni. Add the liquid back to the Dutch oven and reduce by half. Add the chicken, bacon, mushrooms and pearl onions back to the Dutch oven and simmer for about 15 minutes. There will be some fat surfacing you can skim this off as you reduce it, or run it through a gravy separator.
I served it with crusty bread and a salad.
Please note, this is not a professionally written recipe. It's more of a guideline. I don't feel people need to be told every little obvious step. Part of the fun of cooking is winging it.