Originally considered peasant food, French farmers made Coq au Vin from an old rooster, marinated then slowly braised until very tender. Julia Child’s wonderful version is from her classic cookbook, The Way to Cook, and consists of chicken in red wine with small braised onions, mushrooms, and lardons of pork. It’s a very hearty and satisfying dish. It’s also a great excuse to open a couple of bottles of Pinot Noir that you might have hoarded away for a rainy day.
Julia Child’s recipe for Coq au Vin
- 1/2 cup (4 ounces) lardons – 1 by 1/4 inch strips of blanched slab bacon or salt pork (see Special Notes)
- 2 1/2 to 3 pounds frying chicken parts
- 1/3 cup good brandy, optional
- 2 Tbs butter
- 1 Tbs olive oil or good cooking oil
- Salt and freshly ground pepper
- 1 or 2 large cloves of garlic, puree
- 1 imported bay leaf
- 1/4 tsp or so thyme
- 1 large ripe red unpeeled tomato, chopped, or 1/3 cup canned Italian plum tomatoes
- 3 cups young red wine (Zinfandel, Macon, or Chianti type)
- 1 or more cups chicken stock
- Beurre manie for the sauce (1 1/2 Tbs each flour and softened butter blended to a paste)
- Fresh parsley springs, or chopped parsley
- 12 to 16 small brown-braised white onions
- 3 cups fresh mushrooms, trimmed, quartered and sautéed
- For Chicken: Before browning the chicken, sauté the blanched bacon or salt pork and remove to a side dish, leaving the fat in the pan.
- Dry the chicken parts thoroughly then brown the chicken in the pork fat, adding a little olive oil, if needed.
- Flame the chicken with the brandy, if you wish. It does give its own special flavor, besides being fun to do.
- Then add the garlic, bay, thyme, and tomato. Pour in the wine and enough stock barely to cover the ingredients. Bring to the simmer; cover, and simmer slowly for 20 minutes or until the chicken is tender when pressed.
- Remove the chicken to a side dish and spoon surface fat off the cooking juices. Pour the juices into a saucepan and taste very carefully for strength and seasoning. Boil down rapidly if it needs strength, adding more of the seasonings if you think them necessary.
- Off heat, whisk the beurre manie to make a lightly thickened sauce. Bring briefly to the simmer. The sauce should be just thick enough to coat a spoon lightly.
- Wash out the casserole; return the chicken to it. Strew the braised onions and sautéed mushrooms over the chicken, baste with the sauce, and simmer a few minutes, basting, to rewarm the chicken and to blend flavors.
- For brown-braised onions: In a pan just roomy enough to hold them in one layer, sauté the peeled onions in a little clarified butter or oil, swirling the pan to turn them; they will not brown evenly but will take on a decent amount of color. Then add chicken broth (and, if you wish, a little red wine) to come half-way up. Season lightly with salt and perhaps a bay leaf or a pinch of dried herbs. Cover and simmer slowly 24 to 30 minutes, until the onions are tender when pierced but still hold their shape.
- For sautéed mushrooms: Set the frying pan over high heat with 1 Tbs butter and 1 tsp light olive oil. When the butter foam begins to subside, toss in the mushrooms. Toss often, swirling the pan by its handle, for several minutes, while the mushrooms absorb the butter. In a minute or two it reappears on their surface; toss with 1/2 Tbs chopped shallot or scallion a moment or two more if you wish to brown lightly. Toss with a sprinkling of salt and grinds of fresh pepper.
To blanch bacon or salt pork:
When you use bacon or salt pork in cooking, you want to remove its salt as well as its smoky flavor, which would permeate the rest of the food. To do so, you blanch it, meaning you drop it into a saucepan of cold water to cover it by 2 to 3 inches, bring it to the boil, and simmer 5 to 8 minutes; then drain, refresh in cold water, and pat dry in paper towels.
Julia suggested accompaniments for the Coq au Vin, including arranging the chicken on a hot platter and then decorating it with small steamed potatoes and parsley or mounding it on a bed of rice or noodles.