Friday, January 24, 2014

Coq au Vin

Last Year's Post: Lobster with Pasta and White Wine-Butter Sauce
Two Years Ago:  Lemon Chicken and Fennel Pot Pies

Coq au Vin (coke oh vah) is one of the most famous chicken dishes in the world, and justifiably so.  Made with red wine, bacon, mushrooms and garlic, really, what's not to like? Julia Child often made Coq au Vin on her cooking show and it was considered her signature dish.  Although a traditional Coq Au Vin uses a whole cut-up chicken and takes a really long time to make, I was happy to discover this recipe that uses boneless skinless chicken thighs and has very authentic flavor even though it only takes about 1-1/2 to 2 hours to prepare.  Still, 2 hours are 2 hours so this is probably best made on a leisurely Sunday afternoon, say, when the windchill is about zero.  It reheats beautifully so you could then enjoy it any night of the week and it's a perfect winter comfort dish.

Having said that, we decided to make it on a Monday night for some reason.  It took even longer than 2 hours because when we bought the giant package of chicken thighs at Costco we neglected to notice that they were skin-on and bone-in.  How could we not notice that?  We were probably distracted by the display of car tires in the next aisle, or the giant screen TVs on the other side.  Really, you gotta love Costco.

The Lawyer spent a fair amount of time learning how to bone and skin chicken thighs that night and is not looking forward to the other four packages in the freezer.  If you actually look at the package and manage to buy boneless skinless chicken thighs successfully (unlike us), the recipe is really quite easy.  The reason it takes a while is because you brown different ingredients in succession in the same pot, then simmer everything together for a while, then reduce the sauce some more.  Believe me, it's so worth it.  The flavor is rich and deep and just begs to be served with mashed potatoes to sop up the sauce.

For one small minute I considered buying fresh pearl onions after noticing them in the produce aisle at the grocery store.  Luckily, the original recipe stated that frozen pearl onions were just as good in the finished dish and much easier to deal with.  Can you imagine peeling 24 teeny tiny onions that are about 1/2" in diameter?  Having done some equally silly things in my past (peeling individual chickpeas for hummus comes to mind.....vividly) I don't want to go down that road again.

First you start simmering the sauce with some herbs.

While the sauce simmers, you cook the bacon and then brown the chicken in the same pot the bacon cooked in.

Then you remove the chicken and brown the onions and mushrooms in the same pot.

The sauce, chicken and bacon go back into the pot with the mushrooms and onions to cook until the chicken is tender.

Finally, you remove the chicken one last time and reduce the sauce even more before serving the delicious finished dish.

If you've ever enjoyed Coq au Vin at a French restaurant or just want to up your game with a classic French recipe, give this one a try.

printable recipe
Coq au Vin
Serves 4-6

1 bottle (750 ml) red wine (Pinot Noir or Rhone Valley Grenache), divided
2 cups chicken stock
10 sprigs fresh flat-leaf parsley plus 2 tablespoons minced parsley, divided
2 sprigs fresh thyme
1 bay leaf
4 ounces bacon, cut into ¼” pieces
8 boneless skinless chicken thighs, trimmed of fat and cut in half crosswise
Salt and freshly ground pepper
5 tablespoons unsalted butter, divided
24 frozen pearl onions (about 1 cup) thawed and patted dry
8 ounces cremini mushrooms, cleaned, stems trimmed, halved if small, quartered or cut into 6 if large
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 tablespoon tomato paste
2 tablespoons flour

In a large saucepan over medium-high heat, combine all but 1 tablespoon of the red wine (reserving for later use), chicken stock, parsley sprigs, thyme and bay leaf and bring to a simmer.  Cook until mixture is reduced to 3 cups, about 20 to 25 minutes.  Discard herbs and reserve the wine mixture.

Meanwhile, in a large Dutch oven over medium heat, cook bacon stirring occasionally until browned, 7 to 8 minutes.  Using a slotted spoon, transfer bacon to a paper towel-lined plate.  Reserve 2 tablespoons bacon fat in a small bowl and discard the remainder. 

Lightly season chicken with salt and pepper.  Return Dutch oven to medium-high heat.  Add 1 tablespoon of bacon fat and heat until almost smoking.  Add half of the chicken in a single layer and cook until lightly browned, about 2 minutes per side.  Transfer cooked chicken to a bowl.  Add the remaining tablespoon of bacon fat and heat until almost smoking, then repeat with the remaining chicken.

Melt 3 tablespoons butter in the now-empty Dutch oven over medium-high heat.  When foaming subsides add pearl onions and mushrooms and cook, stirring occasionally until lightly browned, 5 to 8 minutes.  Reduce heat to medium, add garlic and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds.  Add tomato paste and flour and cook, stirring frequently until well-combined, about 1 minute.

Add reduced wine mixture, scraping the bottom of the pot with a spoon to loosen browned bits.  Add ¼ teaspoon pepper, cooked chicken (and their juices) and cooked bacon.  Increase heat to high and bring to a boil.  Reduce heat to medium-low, cover pot and simmer until chicken is tender, about 25 minutes, stirring halfway through cooking time.

Using a slotted spoon, transfer chicken to a large bowl and tent with foil to keep warm.  Increase heat to medium-high and simmer until sauce is thick and glossy and measures about 3 ½ cups, about 5 minutes.  Remove from heat, stir in remaining 2 tablespoons butter and reserved 1 tablespoon wine.  Season to taste with salt and pepper.  Return chicken to pot.  Top with minced parsley to serve.

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