Coq au vin is a very old dish. I mean really old.
Purportedly, it was a favorite dish of Julius Caesar after his gladiators came across it while invading Gaul.
While I can’t confirm that, I can confirm that coq au vin (French for “poultry in wine”) is one of those dishes you would find on the menu of a French fine dining restaurant in the 1950s and ’60s. While it was celebrated by famous chefs of that era as the epitome of classically French cuisine, it actually is super easy to make, tastes great and is relatively inexpensive as well.
Traditionally, coq au vin is made with a rooster or capon, which is an older chicken with tougher meat. The long braising process breaks down the connective tissues between the bird’s muscles to make the tough meat tender. But for this version, I just use chicken.
Coq au vin also is traditionally made with wine from the Burgundy region of France, which are made from pinot noir grapes. Any pinot noir will do, or any red wine for that matter.
(An aside on cooking with wine: The rule of thumb is never to cook with a wine you wouldn’t drink. That makes sense to me because the only wine I have hanging around is wine I drink! Why would I keep wine I wouldn’t drink?)
Finally, the traditional coq au vin is made with pearl onions. I couldn’t find any pearl onions this time of year other than those little pickled cocktail onions you sometimes see in martinis. I opted to use diced white onion and it turned out just fine, although I’m sure the French would be outraged!
Coq Au Vin
2 TBS EVOO
2 slices of bacon cut into 1-inch peices
12 oz package of white button mushrooms
1 medium white onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, crushed
1/2 tsp dry oregano
1/2 tsp dry thyme
1 whole chicken, about 3 lb
1 cup chicken stock
1 cup dry red wine
2 TBS tomato paste
1/2 tsp sea salt
Fresh cracked black pepper
2 TBS all-purpose flour
1. Use poultry shears to cut backbone out of chicken. Lay flat on cutting board skin side up and press down so the breastbone breaks and the chicken lies flat. Season both sides with sea salt and fresh cracked black pepper. Put cast iron pan on the fire. When hot, add oil. When smoking, carefull place chicken in pan skin side down, being careful not to splash yourself with hot oil. Cook until brown and crisp, about three minutes, then flip over and brown the other side.
2. Preheat oven to 350F. Put Dutch oven on the fire. When hot, add bacon and cook until bacon is crisp and all oils have been released, about 4 minutes, then add onions, carrots and celery and cook until onions translucent, about five minutes. Add mushrooms and cook until browned, about three more minutes. Add garlic, oregano and thyme and cook about another minute, then put chicken on top, skin facing up.
3. Combine stock, wine and tomato pase in a small mixing bowl and whisk together, then pour mixture over the chicken. Bring to boil, then reduce to simmer. Cover and place the entire Dutch oven in oven and bake for one hour.
4. Remove from oven. Carefully remove the chicken and let rest on sheet pan. Use a ladle to remove about one cup of the liquid from the pot and whisk in flour. Return flour/liquid mixture to pot and put on flame until boiling. The sauce will thicken as it boils, so stir frequently. Remove from heat.
To plate, carefully separate breast/wing and leg/thigh peices from the chicken. They should be falling off the bone. Place onto bed of rice or potatoes and spoon the sauce/vegetable mixture over the top. Voila!
What classic French recipes do you like to make? Share your ideas in the comments section below. And thanks for looking at my blog!