Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Coq au Vin


Ingredients for Coq Au Vin

Chicken with bacon
Sauteed mushrooms and pearl onions

Flambeeing the chicken

Simmering the chicken in wine

Combining butter and flour

Coq Au Vin

Coq Au Vin
4 oz bacon
6 tablespoons butter, divided
2 ½ - 3 lbs frying chicken, cut into 8 pieces
¼ cup cognac
3 cups full bodied red wine
1-2 cups brown chicken stock, or canned beef bouillon
½ tablespoon tomato paste
2 cloves mashed garlic
¼ teaspoon thyme
1 bay leaf
12-24 pearl onions, peeled
½ lb mushrooms
3 tablespoons flour
Salt and pepper
Parsley, optional
  1.  Remove the bacon rind and cut into lardons (1/4” across x 1” long).   Simmer in a pot of water for about 10 minutes.  Rinse in cold water, drain, and set aside.
  2. In a large casserole or Dutch oven sauté the bacon slowly in 2 tablespoons butter until very lightly browned.  Set bacon aside.
  3. Brown the chicken pieces in the casserole.  Season with salt and pepper.  Return lardons to the casserole.  Cover and cook slowly for about 10 minutes. 
  4. Uncover the casserole but have the lid ready.  Pour the cognac into the casserole.  Using a long match or utility lighter, ignite the cognac.  Shake the casserole back and forth several times until the flames subside.
  5. Pour the wine into the casserole and add enough stock to cover the chicken.  Stir in the tomato paste, garlic and herbs.  Bring to a boil.  Cover and simmer slowly for 25-30 minutes, or until the chicken is tender.  Remove chicken pieces and set aside.
  6. While the chicken is cooking, prepare the mushrooms and onions.  See instructions below.
  7. Simmer the chicken cooking liquid in the casserole for a couple of minutes and skim fat.  Raise the heat and bring to a rapid boil.  Reduce the liquid to about 2 ¼ cups.  Turn heat to low, and remove the bay leaf.
  8. Soften 2 tablespoons butter and blend with 3 tablespoons flour until it becomes a smooth paste (beurre manié).  Whisk the paste into the hot liquid.  Simmer for another couple of minutes.  The sauce should be thick enough to coat the back of a spoon lightly.
  9. To serve, arrange the chicken pieces on a platter and surround with the mushrooms and onions.  Pour the sauce over the chicken.  Sprinkle with minced parsley.
Sauteéd Mushrooms:
Combine 2 tablespoons butter and 1 tablespoon oil in a skillet.  Place over high heat.  When the butter foam starts to subside, add the mushrooms.  Shake the pan for about 4 minutes.  Remove mushrooms from the pan when they have browned lightly.
Sauteéd Onions:
Combine 1 ½ tablespoons butter and 1 ½ tablespoons oil in a skillet over medium heat.  When the mixture starts to bubble, add onions to the pan.  Cook for about 10 minutes, gently rolling the onions so they will brown evenly. 
This recipe is adapted from Mastering the Art of French Cooking, Volume One by Julia Child, Louisette Bertholle and Simone Beck, Knopf 1976.
I made this dish because it is one of the most popular French dishes.  I’ve made other French dishes so this was sort of a rite of passage for me.  I felt that I couldn’t say I’ve cooked French food without having cooked Coq Au Vin!
I was excited to make this dish as I imagined how the chicken would taste after having been simmered in stock, cognac and wine.  Yes, there’s that cognac waiting to be lit again!  You’ll notice that the recipe calls for a whole frying chicken but my pictures show several chicken breasts.  Like most recipes, it’s just a matter of preference: my family likes white meat, although I like dark.  You’ll also notice that my bacon/lardons look quite lean.   It’s because this is my homemade bacon which I cut on the thick side.  I’ll teach you how to make bacon in a future post.  
I learned something new with this recipe which is how to make beurre manié.  This is what transforms the simmering stock and wine into a velvety sauce.  It is similar to a roux in that they both contain wheat flour and fat, and are used as thickeners.  However, a roux is made at the very start of a dish and oil or lard may be used for the fat, while a beurre manié is made with butter and is incorporated into the dish while it is cooking. 
As I was making this dish I imagined Julia Child and her cohorts cooking at L’Ecole Des Trois Gourmandes.  It must have been exhilarating to talk about, develop and test all sorts of classic French dishes.  It must have also been neat to learn different cooking techniques from them.  I was feeling a bit like a gourmande as I cooked the different parts of the dish and then set them aside, and then cook something else and set them aside, and so on.  In the end when everything came together it was sublime!
For anyone who wants to learn how to cook French food, I highly recommend getting the book this recipe was based on.  It’s not merely a collection of recipes but a cooking school in print.  Sure there are cooking videos, but reading a recipe step-by-step recipe ensures you won’t miss anything there is to learn. 
Merci Julia, Louisette et Simone!

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