When you think of classic French cooking, it's hard to beat a good Coq au Vin.
Traditionally, Coq au Vin was made with a cockerel, hence the name. These days, the challenge in getting this dish right, is figuring out how to get the same depth of flavor using the young hens we commonly cook with today. This recipe is all about ways to get the traditional taste, with some tricks. A word of warning - it does take a couple of hours, so be patient.
First of all I suggest only using chicken thighs and legs, as these cuts have the most flavor. Going against convention, I do remove the skin from my meat as it's so much healthier - and with the flavorful lardon fat in this dish, I don't think you miss it.
Another technique I deploy in this recipe, is to reduce the red wine sauce and infuse it with aromatics, in advance of adding the chicken. If you cook the chicken in the red wine for too long, the chicken will become dry and overcooked. But if you don't cook the red wine sauce for long enough, you won't achieve a rich sauce. The solution is to prepare the red wine sauce ahead of adding the chicken. This way you can create a rich sauce, without overcooking your meat.
I also add beef stock (not chicken stock) to my sauce for extra richness, as well as tomato paste. And lastly, I pre-cook the mushrooms and baby onions in the rendered fat from the lardons, before adding them to the stew, allowing the flavor of the mushrooms and onions to develop more.
This recipe is a bit of a labor of love, but I don't think you'll be disappointed with the outcome!
- 1 bottle red wine - I used a Cote du Rhone
- 1 yellow onion, roughly chopped
- 1 carrot, roughly chopped
- 2 celery stalks, roughly chopped
- 2 cloves garlic, roughly chopped
- 2 bay leaves
- 6 sprigs thyme, or 1 teaspoon dried thyme
- 6 chicken legs
- 6 chicken thighs
- ½ cup plain flour
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- ¼ cup Armagnac or Cognac
- 1 tablespoon tomato paste
- ½ cup rich beef stock
- 1 ½ cups lardons or bacon, cut into small chunks
- 2 cups mushrooms, either whole button mushrooms or white mushrooms cut into quarters
- 15-20 baby onions, peeled - if the process of peeling becomes too tedious, you can top and tail the onions and then blanch them in boiling water to loosen the skins
- Salt and pepper to taste
- Pour wine into a Dutch oven (or similar heavy based pan with a lid) and bring to the boil over high heat. Add onion, carrot, celery, garlic, bay leaves, thyme, tomato paste, and beef stock. Reduce heat and simmer for around 30 minutes.
- While the wine is infusing with the aromatics, remove the skin, and any excess fat, from the chicken.
- Scatter the flour on a flat surface and season with salt and pepper. Then lightly coat each piece of chicken with the seasoned flour. Set aside.
- Heat a saucepan over medium-high heat and fry the lardons until around half of the fat has rendered. Remove the lardon pieces with a slotted spoon, and set aside.
- Season the baby onions with salt and pepper. Using the same saucepan, with the rendered fat from the lardons, fry the onions until they are lightly caramelized. Set aside.
- Now season the mushrooms with salt and pepper, and using the same saucepan again, fry until juicy. Set aside with the baby onions. If you need a little more grease for frying, you can add some additional olive oil, although I didn't find it was necessary.
- Finally, in the same saucepan, sear the chicken pieces until all sides are golden brown. Set aside with the cooked lardons.
- Your red wine sauce should have reduced significantly in this time, and become infused with the flavors of the aromatic vegetables and herbs. Strain the mixture and discard the solids. Set aside.
- Now transfer the chicken pieces and bacon to the Dutch oven. Cover with Armagnac and set alight with a match. When the flames have extinguished, cover the meat with the red wine sauce and simmer over low-medium heat for 50-60 minutes.
- This is a good time to evaluate your sauce. If you want to add a bit more thickness, mix 1 tablespoon of plain flour with 4 tablespoons of cold water in a cup, then add to the mixture and stir to combine.
- Lastly, add the mushrooms and baby onions to the Dutch oven, and simmer for a final 20 minutes with the lid off.
- Serve with a side of green beans and your favorite style of potatoes - mashed, gratin, or boiled.
- My preference is to cook Coq au Vin the night before, because I think it tastes better the following day. Make sure to skim any fat off the surface of the stew before reheating on the stove top.
- This recipe doubles easily and freezes well.