Coq au Vin


You wouldn’t visit Egypt for the first time without visiting the Pyramids. Likewise, you wouldn’t learn French cuisine without making coq au vin at least once.

Coq au vin translates to “rooster with wine” in English (or cock with wine, but in this day and age that phrase is easily misconstrued). It’s basically a chicken stew made with a ton of wine. There are many ways to make coq au vin. For my inaugural attempt(s), I decided to go with Julia Child’s version, which is designed for the American supermarket. It certainly requires more work than some of the other versions, but all of its ingredients are readily acquirable in a supermarket.

This is going to be a long blog for a long recipe. I will be showing you how to make everything in the recipe from scratch, which takes anywhere from 3.5-5 hours depending on your hardware and multitasking skills. I strongly encourage you to read through the recipe before attempting the dish in the event that there is some hardware or ingredient requirement you do not meet. Of course, if you do not feel like spending much time/effort, feel free to take any store-bought shortcuts you deem necessary.

Last but not least, a ton of thanks to www.teamliquid.net member endy for answering my newbie questions and lending his vast culinary knowledge.

Ingredients

If you consider yourself a mature individual, you’ll probably want to skip the captions ahead. Coq talk incoming (aren’t you glad I tipped you off?).

Prep Time: 3.5-5 hours
Note: I know this looks like a lot of ingredients, but there’s a lot of repeats. And yes, you need all parts.

I: Brown Chicken Stock

Chicken giblets & bones
1 medium carrot
1 yellow onion
3 cups water
1/2 tsp thyme
1/2 bay leaf
few sprigs of parsley
cooking oil

II: Brown-braised Mini-Onions [Oignons Glacés à Brun]

~ 2 dozen mini (or pearl) onions*
1.5 tbsp butter
1.5 tbsp oil
1/3 cups brown chicken stock**
2 sprigs parsley
1/2 tsp thyme
1/2 bay leaf
salt
pepper

III: Sauteed Mushrooms [Champignons Sautés au Beurre]

1/2 pounds (~225g) mushrooms (button or brown is fine)
2 tbsp butter
1 tbsp oil
2-3 tbsp minced shallots OR chopped scallions
salt
pepper

IV: Coq au Vin

A 4-5 pound chicken, cut into pieces***
3-4 oz salt pork OR bacon****
1/2 cups cognac
3 cups wine*****
2 cubs brown chicken stock
1 bay leaf
1/2 tsp thyme
3 tbsp parsley leaves, chopped
1 clove garlic
1 tbsp tomato paste
salt
pepper
2-3 tbsp butter
2-3 tbsp flour

*Do not use large onions. You should be able to find some small or pearl onions that are roughly 1 inch in diameter or smaller. They do cost about 10x the price of regular yellow onions though.
**The original recipe says 1/2 cups of stock, but if you “simmer slowly” as the instructions direct you’ll never be able to simmer away all the liquid by the end of 50 minutes. 1/3 cups should be more than enough especially since the pearl onions I (and probably you) use are smaller and should cook faster than those in the recipe.
***Try to procure a good chicken, like a free-ranged type. Since you will be shelling out a lot of money for all the other ingredients, it doesn’t make sense for the star of the show to be of low quality.
****What you really need is a lump of high-fat salt pork that hasn’t been smoked. If you cannot find these, use bacon. Full instructions will be included below.
*****You want a full-bodied red wine. White wines also work, but my personal experience is with red. Merlots are a good choice for a cheap wine that is still full-bodied. If you have money to spare, a Burgundy, a wine from the Vallee du Rhone region made from Pinot Noir grapes, or a Chianti should also work.

Cooking I: Brown Chicken Stock

The cooking process for coq au vin begins and ends with the chicken. If you purchased a whole chicken, it should come with some giblets and a neck. Set these aside and de-bone your chicken. You should end up with two breasts, two thighs, two wings, two drumsticks, the spine, a few extra pieces of skin and fat, and the ribcage. Cut the spine in half to produce two additional pieces of dark meat chicken.

I’m not exactly an expert deboner. But your grandmother is, when she’s naked.

Bag the breasts and stick them in the refrigerator. They will not be used for this dish. Set aside the giblets, skin, and bones, and refrigerate the other pieces for now. These random pieces of chicken will be the base for the brown chicken stock.

Taking chicken stock to brown town. Coqs are involved.

Chop one onion and one carrot. Pour a tablespoon of two of oil into a pot and brown the chicken, onion, and carrot. After browning, add three cups of water, bay leaf, thyme, and a few sprigs of parsley. Salt and pepper isn’t necessary at this point. Bring the water to a boil then turn the heat down. Simmer the stock for about 90 minutes. Strain the solids out and keep the stock for later.

I dub it the coq stock

Cooking II: Brown-braised Mini-Onions

Wash and peel your mini-onions (you can do this while your stock is simmering). Place your butter and oil in a non-stick pan over medium to medium-high heat. The butter will melt, then begin to form foam bubbles on the surface of the oil. Wait until the foam has subsided; this indicates that the oil is ready to receive your food. Dump your onions into the hot oil and brown them on all sides to the best of your ability, rolling them around to brown all surfaces.

Pearl onions, because you can’t have coq au vin without the family jewels.

Once the onions are suitably browned, pour 1/3 cup of your brown chicken stock. Add salt and pepper to taste, thyme, bay leaf, and sprigs of parsley (you may notice a pattern in the herbs involved). Turn the heat down to low and cover the onions. Slowly simmer for 40-50 minutes, or until all of the liquid has evaporated. If you are using a dark (teflon) pan, it may be difficult to discern if there is still any liquid left or if there is only oil. You can always tip the pan a bit to find out, or taste an onion. It should hold its shape, but be soft enough to melt in your mouth.

Cooking III: Sauteed Mushrooms

This step can be done ahead of time, or later while your chicken is simmering in part IV. Wash and thinly slice your mushrooms. Meanwhile, melt your butter and oil in a pan (medium on gas stove, high on electric). Again, the way to tell that the butter is ready is when the foam rises then subsides in the pan.

Bubble pop, bubble pop.

Toss the mushrooms for about five minutes. The mushrooms will first absorb all of the oil, then gradually release it to coat all the mushrooms with a nice slick sheen. There should never be any water or juice in the bottom of the pan while you are sauteeing. If you do see water collecting, turn your heat up.

Chop some shallots or scallions while you are tossing the mushrooms. Add them to your sauteed mushrooms and toss for another two minutes. Salt and pepper to season. Remove from heat and set aside for now.

Up until now neither coq nor vin have made their appearances yet. But hold your fucking horses, it’s coming. By which I mean the coq.

Cooking IV: Coq au Vin

We are now ready to assemble the dish! Bring about 5-6 cups of water to a boil in a pot. Cut your bacon into pieces and boil them for 10 minutes to remove the smoky taste. If you are using salt pork, you can skip this step. Once your bacon is boiled, drain the water.

To do this step completely from scratch, first smoke your pork to make bacon, then boil the bacon to remove the smoky flavor.

Fry the bacon in a pan with two tablespoons of butter until the fat has been rendered from the bacon. Remove the bacon from the pan.

Take your dark meat chicken pieces out of the refrigerator. Use 6-8 pieces of paper towels to pat them dry. This step is very important! It may seem wasteful, but it is essential to dry the surface of the chicken so that you can brown them without steaming them.

Heat the bacon-infused butter oil until it is smoking, then brown your chicken on all sides. Salt and pepper them at this time. Make sure to cook your chicken on a single layer, and do not crowd your pan. If you have a small pan like I do, brown your chicken in batches.

Cutting it up and frying it in butter, the French sure have a way with coqs.

Once your chicken is browned, collect them in a pot. Add the bacon back to the chicken and cover the pot. Cook for 10 minutes, turning the pieces once.

Pour it on your coq and set it on fire.

Now, take the lid off the pot. Pour 1/4 cup of cognac all over the chicken and light that shit on fire, using either a match or a lighter.

It’s like that scene in the park in that movie Baby’s Day Out. You know what I’m talking about?

Carefully shake the pot from side to side while it is on fire, making sure not to catch on fire yourself. Now, add to the chicken two cups of brown chicken stock, three cups of wine, one mashed garlic clove, a tablespoon of tomato paste, 1/2 teaspoons of thyme, 1 bay leaf, 1 teaspoon of salt, and some pepper. Cover the lid, bring to a boil, then turn the heat down. Simmer for about 30 minutes.

Coq and vin, finally united.

At the end of 30 minutes remove the chicken from the pot. Yes, the pieces will be a dark purple. And that’s fine. There should also be a brownish film over the soup in the pot. Use a ladle to skim all of this off- this is most of the fat that have been used so far in the dish. Then, turn the heat as high as it can go. Boil the liquid down until you have about 2 cups left skimming off any scum that rises to the surface, then turn the heat down until the sauce is at a bare simmer.

That coq residue right there ain’t good for eatin’

Mash together 2-3 tablespoons of room temperature butter with equal parts flour. Dump this mixture into your reduced sauce, and whisk (use a plastic spatula if you are using a non-stick pot like I am!) the butter into the sauce to incorporate. Simmer for a few minutes more. Return the chicken to the pot, and add the mushrooms and onions. Fold into the sauce. Sprinkle chopped parsley on top and serve hot with potatoes, pasta, or rice.

You know a dish isn’t half-coqed when you’ve been cooking it for the past 5 hours.

The Result

Les filles, elles adorent mon coq.

A lot can go wrong when someone as immature as I am has to talk about tasting a dish called coq au vin. I’ll say that it is pretty good. Cooking all the ingredients separately means that they all have a unique identity in the dish. The chicken is nice, tender, and chickeny. The onions, sweet from caramelization, melt in your mouth. The mushrooms are nice and mushroomy, and when you chew them the rich flavor of butter come bursting forth. The rich wine sauce ties everything together nicely.

Conclusion

Man, this writeup was really long. It’s probably really long for you to read too, so I’ll keep this short. French cuisine is fucking fun to cook, I enjoyed every minute of the five hours or so it took to make the dish. Sure, if you’re not so into cooking you can buy stock from the store and significantly cut down on the cooking time, but I wouldn’t have it any other way. In the near future I have some baked goods projects planned, so stay tuned!

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