Coq au Vin is a traditional French chicken stew cooked in white or red wine and usually served with mashed or boiled potatoes and green beans. It is a comforting meal to share with family on a Sunday for lunch and yet elegant enough to serve to guests for supper. The process does involve a few steps but the truth is, that once you learn the French technique for making a stew you will use it to make dishes such as Boeuf Bourguignon, Civet de Lapin etc. Best of all, stews cooked in wine tend to taste even better the day after in my view, so cooking your Coq au Vin the day before your dinner party can make entertaining in style stress free. Serve it with fresh greens’ salad and buttered vegetables and you are ready to make a memorable impression.
3 spring chickens (or 2 chickens, 1.3kg each)
1-2 Tbs duck fat (or 1 Tbs butter and 1Tbs canola oil)
1 large onion, finely chopped
3 carrots, roughly chopped
6 garlic cloves peeled
1 Tbs flour
2 Tbs French brandy or cognac
1 large ripe tomato, grated
1 1/2 cup chicken stock
1 1/2 cup white wine
10 black pepper corns
1 bay leaf
1 small bunch of fresh thyme
1 Tbs butter
400g button mushrooms
200g baby onions
salt an pepper
1. Brown the chicken: Cut each chicken in 4, separating the legs from the breast and wings. If using bigger chickens cut them in 6 pieces. Clean all the excess fat and other impurities. Wash well and pat dry with towel paper. Sprinkle with salt. Melt the duck fat in a large enough dutch oven or a thick-bottomed pot. Working in batches brown the chicken over medium-high heat for about 2-3 minutes per side. Transfer the chicken to a large plate and put a side.
2. Lower the heat, add the chopped onion to the pot and sauté in the same duck fat for 2 minutes or until transparent. Add the carrots and cook for 3 more minutes. Add the garlic cloves and cook for 30 more seconds. Lower the heat. Stir in the flour and cook for 2 more minutes. Deglaze the pan by adding the brandy or cognac and let the alcohol evaporate, about 1 minute.
3. Arrange the chicken legs in the dutch oven and pour in all the juices which have accumulated on the bottom of the plate, keep the breast in the plate. Add the chicken stock, white wine, grated tomato, pepper corns, bay leaf, thyme and a pinch of salt to the pot, cover it and bring to a simmer. Simmer for 1 hours. Then add the chicken breasts and simmer for 15 more minutes.
4. Brown the mushrooms and baby onions: Clean the mushrooms and peel the baby onions, taking care to keep them whole. Keeps the onions in water while browning the mushrooms. Melt the butter in a large saucepan and add the mushrooms. Do not crowd the pan or they won’t brown. Add the mushrooms to the chicken stew. In the same pan gently brown the onions. Add them to the dutch oven. Taste and adjust the seasoning.
Serve: Traditionally Coq au Vin is served directly from pot, so place you cast iron pot over a wooden board and serve on the table accompanied with potato puree, boiled or Hasselback potatoes and buttered French beans.
Wine Suggestions: Pinot Noir.
Tips: Browning the chicken with duck fat, not only gives it a beautiful color but also adds an extra layer of flavor to this dish, if you don’t have it just use butter and oil.
Coq au Vin can be made with white or red wine, I sometimes even make it with Rosé. When using white wine however I use freshly grated tomato instead of tomato paste because it does not affect the color of the stew as much as the paste would. Therefore, the exact same recipe can me made with red wine and tomato paste.
Adding the chicken breast to the stew later, prevent it from overcooking and makes a juicy and tender white meat.