Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Classic Meals: Coq au Vin

In every town in America there is probably a French bistro type restaurant. During my childhood, we frequented several of them throughout the DC area, which wasn't known for its food until well after I left. Le Refuge, Le Fanion, Bistrot Francais and Chez Andre all come to mind and they all had their high points. In particular was Chez Andre's filet mignon with bernaise sauce. However, at none of them was I ever tempted to try the classic but pervasive French dish, Coq au Vin. In fact, to me, Coq au Vin always seemed to me like some sort of dingy, dry and boring stewed junk for people without taste buds.
Fast-forward ten or twenty years to last year and picture me at Daniel Boulud's restaurant, Bar Boulud. I've adored each and every meal I've had at Boulud's restaurants so, when I saw the Coq au Vin on the menu, I risked it. It was a transporting experience. Coq au vin is basically chicken stewed in red wine, not dissimilar to boef bourguignon, served over either pasta or mashed potatoes or even spaetzle. I don't remember what Boulud served it with, but his Coq au Vin was succulent and juicy and the sauce was not really a sauce, but a deep, thick and flavorful liquor. I dream about it sometimes.

Well, over the holidays, baby girl's grandma (or Amma) offered to watch her while the hubby and I went to see Up in the Air. We had a little time to kill beforehand so we stopped into the Barnes & Noble and, of course, I was immediately drawn to the cookbook section and then to Anne Willan's The Country Cooking of France. My father always revered her book, La Varenne Pratique so I knew I was in good hands. I somehow opened to the page where she describes Coq au Vin and then her recipe for it and I committed what I could to memory before being dragged off to the enjoyable, but somewhat boring (sorry critics!), Up in the Air.

I made it this past week and it was really amazing, not transporting like Boulud's but really really good. I think I might even add more red wine next time!

Coq au Vin
(This recipe requires a time commitment, not in terms of active kitchen work but, to really get the deep flavor, the chicken needs to marinate in the fridge for two days. Willan suggests 3 or 4, but I just couldn't do that!)

What You'll Need:

1 Onion cut into quarters
1 Carrot cut in half lengthwise
2 Celery stalks
1 Garlic Clove peeled
1 tsp Peppercorns
1 Bottle of Red Wine (I used a French Pinot Noir)
1 tbsp Olive Oil
1 Whole Chicken cut up into breasts, thighs, wings and drumsticks

6 oz Bacon
3 tbsp Flour
2 cups Chicken Broth
2 Shallots chopped
2 Garlic Cloves minced
1 Bouquet Garnis (Mine was compose of several sprigs of parsley, thyme and 2 bay leaves)

1 lb Cremini Mushrooms sliced
1 lb pearl onions peeled
Parsley for garnish

Into a stock pot, pour the wine and add the onion, celery, garlic and carrot and peppercorns. Bring to a boil, simmer for a minute or two and then turn off the heat and let the marinade cool.

Place the chicken in one layer in a large baking dish and pour the marinade overtop and then the olive oil. Gently press down the chicken to get as much of it submerged as possible. Cover the dish and place it in the refrigerator to marinate. Check on it every 12 hours for two days and flip the chicken each time. You'll find it turns a deep purple!

About three hours before you plan on eating, Preheat the oven to 325 and set a large dutch oven over a medium high heat. Remove the chicken from the fridge and then from the marinade (don't discard the marinade!!). Pat the chicken dry and then put it in the dutch oven and brown it on all side. Remove the chicken and set aside. Meanwhile, strain the marinade, saving the liquid and discarding the vegetables.

Once the chicken is browned and removed, add the bacon to the dutch oven and cook until almost crispy. Pour off most of the bacon fat and add the shallot and garlic. Once they are softened, add the marinade and bring to a boil. Turn it down to a simmer and reduce by half. In a separate bowl, mix the flour and a bit of broth into a slurry and then, while whisking quite vigorously, slowly add the flour mixture to the red wine. Mix in the chicken stock. Once well mixed, place the chicken in the dutch oven in one layer and nestle the bouquet garnis in there. Cover it and cook in the oven for about 2 hours or until the chicken is tender.

About 20 minutes before you want to eat, set a saute pan over a medium high heat and add a pat of butter or a splash of olive oil. Once the oil is shimmering, add the pearl onions. When they begin to soften add the mushrooms and cook together until the mushrooms have given up their water. Remove from the heat.

To serve, place the chicken atop some spaetzle (recipe to come!), mashed potatoes or buttered noodles

Approximate Dinner Cost:
Groceries: $30
Cost per Meal: We got about 6 servings out of this meal at $5 each!

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  1. Sounds delicious. If I EVER thought that far ahead about my menu, I'd give it a go.

  2. Yes, that is the only drawback. This must be planned! But, it tastes darn good and lasts for a few days:)

  3. This looks wonderful. I can almost smell it! And I didn't like Up in the Air either!

  4. Mmm...it looks so fantastic! What a great way to warm up the house on a rainy Sunday. I'm very much looking to the spaetzel recipe. And yes, had we all spent the time prepping for this deliscious dish instead of seeing Up in the Air, we would all be quite a bit more satisfied.

  5. Aaah! So the truth comes out: Up in the Air really wasn't that great!! Thank you for reassuring me that I'm not the only one who didn't love it. hee hee.

    Oh, I will have to post about Spaetzle. I actually used LaFujimama's recipe as a base and it was perfection. Will post soon!

  6. This looks amazing! I adore coq au vin but have never attempted to make it myself! It doesn't seem so daunting when you marinate the chicken first and do the rest the day of cooking.

  7. I think you only didn't find it as transporting because you were the one who put in the effort. I often find that I enjoy food cooked by others than food cooked by myself. I guess it's that little bit of love that makes it taste a little better.

  8. Jennifer, you're totally right. Breaking it up over a couple of days makes it seem so easy! And, I liked looking at it every day and seeing its color deepen more and more.

    Alisa!! How right you are! Wonderful food prepared and served for me in a wonderful setting without a wonderful baby screaming wonderfully in my ear does allow for a transporting experience!!

  9. Coq au Vin is a classic and your images have captured the beauty of your culinary style!

    Culinarily yours,

  10. Definitely looks worth the effort. Plus, my kids love spaetzle, so we might have to give this a try.

  11. I've never thought of making coq au vin. it's one of those things i only eat at restaurants. now, however, i'm inspired!

  12. The photos are so gorgeous, I'm very tempted to try this, despite the fact it looks challenging! Thanks for inspiring us to try something a little "fancy"!

  13. mmmmmm... yummmy. I'm going to have to try this one.

  14. I know it seems like something you'd only eat out, but I'm telling ya, the only thing you have to have is a little patience for the marina. Everything else is no different than making a pot roast.

  15. Beautiful photos for a delicious dish. It sounds challenging but I just might attempt this.



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