An early Happy Bastille Day! Joyeux quatorze juillet! Bonne Fête Nationale! It’s actually tomorrow, but I’m giving you a day’s notice so you can gather everything you’ll need to make Coq au Vin to celebrate.
Coq au Vin means “Rooster in Wine” in French. “Coq” is where we get our term “cock” from, the kind that crows at sunrise, not the one that sometimes grows at sunrise. If you see an old recipe that still uses rooster, it will call for braising in wine for a long, long period of time. That’s because rooster is very tough and needs to be tenderized. If you use chicken, which I think most North Americans would, don’t do this, your chicken will turn into a very unappealing soggy mush. Chicken is tender enough. The other thing is a traditional French recipe will call for lardons, which are strips of fatty pork. Good luck finding that. Pancetta is, I believe, the same thing. I am assuming that neither are to be reasonably had, so use good old (and considerably cheaper) fatty bacon.
This will serve 4, and it’s a little [Ed. note: to put it mildly] too much work to halve the recipe and just make it for 2. But maybe you are in the first bloom of romance and would. I’m years past that stage. I save this for when we have another couple over.
Ready? Into the kitchen we go.
3 pound chicken pieces, can use boneless or bone-in
4 ounces bacon
½ pound button mushrooms
12-24 fresh pearl onions, peeled and a small “X” cut in bottom of each root stem [Matt’s note: If you don’t make the little x’s the onions will fall apart.]
2-3 cups dry red wine, like a Burgundy [Matt’s note: Coq au Vin is a Burgundian recipe so use Burgundy.] [Additional note: More for drinking to
get you through this grueling process make the occasion even more festive.]
1-2 cups beef broth [Matt’s note: not stock]
1 tablespoon tomato paste
2 cloves garlic, minced [Matt’s Note: I use more, say 3 to 4]
1 bay leaf
½ teaspoon dried thyme
¼ cup cognac
salt and pepper to taste
For Beurre Manié:
3 tablespoon unsalted butter, softened
3 tablespoon flour
Cut bacon into strips and sauté over medium heat until light brown in a heavy bottomed, large casserole or dutch oven. Remove and set aside, leaving bacon fat in the pan.
Season chicken pieces with salt and pepper, add a few teaspoons of olive oil to the pan, if needed, and brown chicken on all sides. Return bacon to the pan with the chicken, cover and simmer for 10 minutes (skip this 10 minute cooking step if using boneless chicken).
Uncover pan, increase heat to medium-high, add cognac and flambé (or just reduce slightly until some of alcohol evaporates). Add red wine and reduce slightly. Reduce heat to low, add stock, stir in tomato paste, garlic, bay leaf, and thyme. Bring to a simmer, cover and simmer for about 25-30 minutes or until chicken is cooked through.
While the chicken is cooking, heat a teaspoon or two of olive oil in a medium sized skillet over medium-high, add the pearl onions and sauté until browned. Add ¼ to ⅓ cup of water to the pan (enough to cover the bottom and come up half way to onions), cover and steam them until tender, about 15-20 minutes or until tender. Remove the cooked onions to a bowl.
Using the same medium skillet, heat a teaspoon or two of olive oil over medium-high heat and sauté the mushrooms until light brown. Add the cooked mushrooms to the onion in the bowl and set aside.
When chicken is finished cooking, remove from pan and skim off excessive fat.
Make the beurre manié by creaming butter and flour together in small bowl. Heat the chicken cooking liquid over medium heat and beat the beurre manié into the liquid with a whisk. Simmer for a few minutes or until sauce is thickened.
Add chicken back to pan with the cooked onions and mushrooms. Stir well, taste and adjust seasonings, then simmer for a just a few minutes to pull all flavors together and to heat everything through.