Coq au Vin
A modern, approachable take on this French classic comfort food.
Coq au vin is a classic French chicken stew, traditionally made with rooster, not hen (hence the name "coq") and Burgundy wine (that's the "vin"). The braising method makes tender a yard bird with tougher, older working muscle. Today coq au vin simply means a chicken & wine stew, but using a Burgundy wine is still desirable (and only one that you would be willing to drink). Chicken pieces, dark or light, are perfectly suitable, but whole legs (drums and thighs attached) portion and present beautifully. Coq au vin is neither quick nor simple. There are many components and several steps, but they are all well worth the effort. After all, it's about technique, not torture!
Equipment: cutting board; chef's knife; paring knife; vegetable peeler; wet and dry measuring cups; measuring spoons; large mixing bowl; small sauté pan; strainer; paper towel-lined sheet pan; Dutch oven or stockpot with tight-fitting lid; wooden spoon; tongs
4 whole chicken legs
3 cups red wine from Burgundy
3 slices slab bacon, cut crosswise into ½-inch strips 3 large carrots, peeled and sliced on bias ¼-inch thick
2 small (1 medium) yellow onions, peeled, trimmed, and thinly sliced
3 cloves garlic, finely minced
2 tablespoons tomato paste
¼ cup Cognac or other brandy
1 cup chicken stock
8 fresh thyme sprigs
kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
3 tablespoons unsalted butter, room temperature, divided
1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
8 ounces button mushrooms, wiped clean, stems trimmed, quartered
1 cup pearl onions (fresh or defrosted from frozen)
1 teaspoon granulated sugar, divided 2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
1 batard, sliced in half crosswise, one half cut into quarters (or 4 ½-inch thick sourdough slices)
1. Pat dry the chicken legs and place in a large mixing bowl. Cover with the 3 cups of red wine and set aside to marinate briefly at room temperature.
2. Meanwhile, blanch the bacon. Place the bacon pieces in a small sauté pan and cover with cold water. Place over medium-high heat. Once the bacon comes to a simmer, immediately remove it from the heat and strain.
3. Place the blanched bacon in a Dutch oven and turn the heat to medium-high. Cook the bacon, stirring frequently, until crisped. Remove the pan from the heat. Remove the bacon with tongs or a slotted spoon and place on paper towels to drain. Set aside.
ILOC tip: blanching the bacon both a) removes excess salt so that the bacon flavor shines without tasting salty and b) begins to render the fat so that the bacon becomes perfectly crisp.
4. Remove the chicken from the wine and place on a paper towel-lined rimmed sheet pan to drain and pat dry. Reserve and set aside and the wine. Season the skin side generously with salt and pepper. Return the Dutch oven with the rendered bacon fat to the heat over a medium-high flame. Place the chicken in the pan, skin side-down, cooking in batches if necessary to prevent crowding in the pan. Season the chicken pieces in the pan, flesh. side-up, generously with kosher salt and freshly ground pepper. Cook each side for approximately 5 minutes, until golden brown. Set the browned chicken aside.
ILOC tip: do not turn the chicken more than once. Be patient, let the skin side brown, and then after five minutes, turn the chicken pieces.
5. Place the sliced carrots and onions in the Dutch oven and sauté for 6-7 minutes, until the onions soften and brown very lightly. Season with a pinch of salt and more freshly ground black pepper. Add the minced garlic and cook, stirring constantly, for 1 minute. Stir in the tomato paste and cook for another minute, mixing well to combine.
6. Add the Cognac to the vegetable mixture, and then add the chicken stock, scraping the bottom of the Dutch oven to incorporate any fond on the bottom of the pan. Add the wine used to marinate the chicken. Return the cooked bacon to the pan. Tuck in the four chicken legs into the vegetables and braising liquid. Sprinkle with the thyme sprigs.
7. Once the liquid comes to a simmer, cover the Dutch oven with its lid and reduce the heat to low. Simmer for 45 minutes.
8. Meanwhile, prepare the mushrooms and onions glacer a brun, lightly caramelized and golden brown. Place 1 tablespoon butter in a small sauté pan. Turn the heat to medium. Once the butter foams, add the quartered mushrooms and toss to coat in the butter. Sprinkle with half a teaspoon sugar and a pinch of kosher salt. Sauté, stirring constantly, until the mushrooms turn golden brown, approximately 5 minutes. Remove from the pan and set aside. Clean and dry the pan thoroughly before proceeding with the onions.
9. Place 1 tablespoon butter in a small sauté pan. Turn the heat to medium. Once the butter foams, add the pearl onions and toss to coat in the butter. Sprinkle with the remaining half a teaspoon sugar and a pinch of kosher salt. Sauté, stirring constantly, until the onions turn golden brown, approximately 5 minutes. Remove from the pan and set aside.
10. Prepare the beurre manié by combining the remaining tablespoon of butter and tablespoon flour, using your fingers to mix them into a paste. Set aside.
"Beurre manié is a roux that is cooked in liquid instead of cooked on the surface of a pan. It serves the same purpose: to act as a thickening agent for liquids and sauces."
11. Carefully remove the chicken legs and the thyme sprigs from the braising liquid and set aside. Stir the beurre manié in the braising liquid and raise the temperature to medium, stirring gently and constantly until the beurre manié is incorporated and the liquid thickens to the point of coating the back of a spoon, approximately 10 minutes.
12. Once the sauce is the desired thickness, lower the heat to low. Taste and adjust the seasoning by adding more salt or pepper as needed. Stir in the mushrooms and pearl onions, then carefully return the chicken to the pan to warm the chicken thoroughly.
ILOC tip: if you want to strip the thyme leaves from the stems and stir them into the braising liquid, they will be cool enough to handle at this point and will fall off effortlessly.
13. While the chicken warms, toast or grill the bread slices.
14. To serve, place one piece of toasted bread in each of four shallow bowls. Top each toast with a chicken leg and generously spoon with the sauce and vegetables. Sprinkle with chopped parsley and serve immediately.
Makes 4 servings.