Coq au vin

This classic French braise is almost certainly derived from a peasant dish. It would have been made in a large cauldron over an open hearth and once an ingredient went in it did not come back out until the dish was done. Similarly the wine would probably have been rather rough and a few days past drinkability. I have tried to find a middle ground between the farm and the haute cuisine restaurant, eschewing some of the more precious touches that have crept into the recipe. After all, this was originally a way to make a “retired” laying chicken tender. I’m sure it is still best made with a tough old bird full of flavor. But, alas, such are nearly impossible to procure today. I like to use leg quarters rather than whole chicken because the breast meat of today’s young frying chickens is just too delicate for the long cooking this recipe requires. Although some insist that one must use a good wine for cooking, I find that a reasonable box or jug wine is just fine. Traditionally the sauce was thickened with chicken blood mixed with pounded liver and brandy; modern recipes use beurre manie. Rice flour works well if you can to make the dish gluten-free. Be sure to allow plenty of time for the chicken to cook, especially if you are using an older bird otherwise it will be tough.

Ingredients

 

Bacon

60 grams

2 ounces (about 2 rashers)

Chicken fat, butter, or oil

15 milliliters

1 Tablespoon

Chicken pieces

2 kilograms, approx.

5 pounds, approx.

Pearl onions

120 grams

4 ounces

Carrot, diced

60 grams

2 ounces

Celery, diced

60 grams

2 ounces

Garlic, minced

6 cloves

6 cloves

Mushrooms, thickly sliced

120 gram

8 ounces

Cognac

65 milliliters

¼ cup

Dry red wine

about 500 milliliters

about 2 cups

Dried thyme

5 milliliters

1 teaspoon

Salt

to taste

to taste

Freshly ground pepper

to taste

to taste

Butter, unsalted, softened

30 grams

2 Tablespoons

Flour

30 grams

2 Tablespoons

Method

Preheat oven to 160°C (325°F).

Cut the bacon into lardons, i.e. pieces about the size of matchstick. If you have sliced bacon cut it crosswise into 3 mm (⅛-inch pieces). Heat the fat in a Dutch oven over medium-high heat and render the bacon until crispy. Remove to a bowl leaving as much fat behind as possible.

Turn the heat up a bit and, working in batches, brown the chicken pieces well on all sides. Remove to a plate and set aside.

Reduce the heat to medium. Sweat the onions, carrots, and celery until they begin to soften. Add the garlic and mushrooms. Continue to cook the mushrooms give off their liquid.

Return the chicken pieces to the pot and pour in the brandy. Turn off the vent hood, if it is on. and light the vapors with a long match. When the flames die down, add the wine to just cover the chicken. Return the lardons to the pot and season everything with thyme, salt, and pepper. Bring to a boil, cover, and place in the hot oven. Bake for about 30 minutes—several hours for an old bird. Remove the cover and return the pot to the oven for another 15 minutes.

Skim the fat off of the liquid and add to the softened butter. Mix in the flour to make a smooth paste, beurre manie. Stir into the broth and bring to a boil to thicken.

Serve hot over noodles or potatoes. Or, best of all, by itself with some crusty French bread.

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