Coq au Vin

Drank a bottle of Pinot Noir tonight and proceeded to make coq au vin. I was ispired by Alton Brown’s Good Eats episode “Cuckoo about Coq au Vin” last week. It sounded like the perfect meal for these cold winter days here in New York City. I did a little research and found a few more recipes for Coq au Vin. The Guardian article by Nigel Slater “Perfect Coq au Vin” provided much of the inspiration for this recipe. He says “I love a recipe that really works, where you feel there is something unequivocally right about it. Where the cook has remained true to the dish, to its provenance, its history, its soul.” I couldn’t agree more. This dish speaks of tradition, confort and soul: down to earth and heart warming.
A note about this recipe: I strongly recommend that you follow Alton Brown’s advise to refrigerate this dish overnight before serving. The flavor is noticeably better the next day. You can either prepare the whole recipe and simply warm the next day or prepare to step 6, add the chicken to the wine sauce, cover and refrigerate overnight and begin at step 7 by warming the contents, removing the chicken and proceeding to thicken the sauce.
Coq Au Vin
1 stewing chicken, cut into pieces (or approx 6 lbs. of boned chicken pieces)
3/4 cups pancetta or 1/2 cup salt pork
2 medium onions
1 large carrot
2 ribs of celery
2 cloves of garlic
2 tablespoons flour
2 tablespoons cognac
1 bottle of red wine
4 or 5 small sprigs of thyme
3 bay leaves
1/3 cup butter
24 to 30 pearl onions, peeled
1/2 pound small mushrooms
2 cups chicken stock
1. Cut the pancetta or salt pork into short strips. Cook over medium heat in a large heavy casserole (cast iron or enamelled work best), stirring occassionally until golden. Remove the pancetta from the pan and set aside, leaving behind the fat in the pan.
2. Season the chicken pieces with salt and pepper and place them in the hot fat in the casserole. Brown the chicken on all sides until golden brown. (Note from Mr. Slater: “The skin should be honey coloured rather than brown – it is this colouring of the skin, rather than what wine or herbs you might add later, that is crucial to the flavour of the dish.”) Remove the cooked chicken and set aside.
3. While the chicken is colouring in the pan, peel and roughly chop the onions and carrot, and wash and chop the celery. With the chicken out, add the onions and carrot to the pan and cook slowly, stirring from time to time, until the onion is translucent and it has gone some way to dissolving some of the pan stickings. Add the garlic, peeled and thinly sliced, as you go. Return the chicken and pancetta to the pan, stir in the flour and let everything cook for a minute or two before pouring in the cognac, wine and tucking in the herbs. Spoon in ladles of the simmering chicken stock until the entire chicken is covered. Bring to the boil, then, just as it gets there, turn the heat down so that the sauce bubbles gently. Cover partially with a lid.
4. Melt the butter in a medium pan, add the small peeled onions and then the mushrooms, halving or quartering them if they are too big. Let them cook until they are golden, remove from pan and set them aside.
5. Check the chicken after 40 minutes to see how tender it is. It should be soft but not falling from its bones. It will probably take about an hour, depending on the type of chicken you are using. Lift the chicken out and into a bowl.
6. Strain the sauce and remove the vegetables.
7. Return the sauce to the pot and turn the heat up under the sauce and let it bubble enthusiastically until it has reduced a little. As it bubbles down it will become thicker – though not thick – and will become quite glossy.
8. Return the chicken to the pan along with the mushroom and onions. Serve with noodles or boiled potatoes.
Makes 6 servings.

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