I love stews and braises, but Steve isn’t too fond of them so I don’t make them as frequently as I would like, particularly during the cold months when I find them so inviting. But, the other day I got to thinking about the deepest, darkest, richest coq au vin I had ever tasted – in a little neighborhood bistro on the Left Bank of Paris – and thought it was time to try to replicate it.
And speaking of this delicious classic French dish, some years ago I did a book with Christian Delouvrier, one of the finest French chefs I’ve known and his coq au vin carried a double whammy as it was made with a coq au vin stock (you can find the recipe in his book Mastering Simplicity). Another coq au vin I have tried was made with vin jaune, a yellow, slightly sherry-tasting wine from the Jura region of France – the bottle was pricy (as I remember around $50-) and the result not any more interesting than one made with a decent red wine. On this day, I knew I wasn’t going to be that French – either with a special stock or wine, so I dredged up my memories of my early dependence on Julia Child and went into the kitchen and brought a little bit of France to a winter’s eve. Should a big pot of chicken in red wine sauce appeal to your winter sensibilities, here is my recipe. I served it with a big mound of mashed potatoes in the center, but buttered noodles would do just as well. And, you know what, Steve said “did you make enough for another meal?” It feeds 4 to 6 – 4 if you’re really hungry.
One 3 pound chicken, cut into serving pieces, well-rinsed and dried
Approximately ½ cup all-purpose flour
Salt and pepper to taste
¼ pound slab bacon, cut into medium dice
3 to 4 tablespoons butter, at room temperature
¼ cup cognac
3 cups dry red wine
2 cups chicken stock (or low-sodium, nonfat chicken broth)
2 teaspoons tomato paste
1 teaspoon minced garlic
1 bay leaf
1 sprig fresh thyme
1 sprig fresh oregano
1 package button mushrooms, rinsed, trimmed, and quartered
½ bag frozen pearl onions, thawed and patted dry
Lightly dredge the chicken in flour and season with salt and pepper to taste. Set aside.
Place the bacon in a Dutch oven over medium heat. Add a cube (about a tablespoon) of butter and fry, tossing frequently, for about 15 minutes or until all of the fat has rendered out and the bacon is brown and crisp. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the bacon to a double layer of paper towel to drain.
Drain off and reserve half of the fat. Return the pan to medium-high heat. Add the chicken, a few pieces at a time, and sear, turning frequently, for about 5 minutes or until nicely colored on all sides. Add additional fat if the pan gets too dry and sticky as you continue to sear all of the pieces. Using tongs, transfer the seared chicken to a platter as done.
When all of the chicken has been seared, drain off any excess fat from the pan. Keep the pan on medium-high heat and add the cognac. If you are not fearful, carefully light the cognac with a kitchen match and let some of the alcohol burn off. If this scares you, just bring it to a boil and let it bubble for a minute or so. Scrape any brown bits from the bottom of the pan and then add the wine along with the stock (or broth), tomato paste, and garlic. Bring to a simmer; then, add the bay leaf, thyme, and oregano and cook for a few minutes. Add the reserved chicken, season with salt and pepper, and again bring to a simmer. Lower the heat, cover, and cook for about 30 minutes or until the chicken is cooked through, but not falling off the bone. Taste and, if necessary, season with additional salt and pepper.
While the chicken is cooking, divide the reserved fat between 2 sauté pans. Add a tablespoon of butter to each pan. Place the pans over medium heat. When hot, add the mushrooms to one and the pearl onions to the other. Season with salt and pepper and sauté for about 10 minutes or until lightly colored and cooked through. Combine the mushrooms and onions and set aside.
When the chicken is cooked, add the reserved mushrooms and onions and cook for another 5 minutes. Transfer to a serving platter and sprinkle the top with the reserved bacon bits.
Read Full Post »