french classic

Coq au Vin

Right Folks,

What I am about to share with you is only the best way to go about making Coq au Vin. As with most of the savoury dishes I share with you, it is more of a method and technique rather than an exact recipe. Just follow the key techniques and buy fantastic ingredients and your coq au vin can be as delicious as mine. I learnt how to make coq au vin the correct way when I worked in a restaurant in London called 1 Lombard Street. The chef/owner and the executive chef were incredibly proud of their coq au vin and would swan around the kitchen telling people so. It was indeed very very good. Tim the head chef would use every single frying pan and sauce pan in the building, sealing the chicken and vegetables off individually, and reducing various red wines down to burn the alcohol off. You don’t need to do that, but, little warning, coq au vin is a two-day process; a day to marinate and a day to cook. Also, you do need to buy the best chicken you can afford and de-bone it. So, it isn’t the quickest of dishes to make, but it is well worth the hassle. It also keeps very well in the fridge for up to a week.

Coq au vin means chicken or rooster in wine. It is as French as it gets: rich, full of amazing flavours and quite a crowd pleaser. It is also best enjoyed sparingly. What I mean is, you don’t want to feast on this stuff on any kind of regular basis. It’s what I would call a special-occasion food, if I were to use that kind of language. Anyway, the French have been at it for a while and there are apparently variations of the recipe dating back centuries. It is traditionally made with Burgundy wine and calls for older chickens with tougher legs. Whenever I shop at the Place D’Armes market in Monaco I buy the Poulet de Bresse. Apparently the Bresse chickens are the best in the world. They do have amazing flavour; however, they also have very tough lean, skinny legs. That’s when you realise they have been running and frolicking around for a couple of years instead of sitting in a cage. Further proof - not that we need any more proof - those juicy, meaty chicken legs most of us are used to are unfortunately unnatural.

Finally, before we get to it, here is a photo of the slightly disappointing presentation of my most recent coq au vin. My boss doesn’t care for button onions and mushroom. Bacon is a no as well. So, I am missing the three ingredients that are key to garnish the coq au vin. In cooking, I use the turkey instead of the pork bacon, but it is not the same. Oh well, c’est la vie. Here, for garnish I added a heart shaped croute and some crispy chicken skin. Please send in your presentation photo of your finished coq au vin to make even more of a mockery of mine!

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Ingredients:
2 good quality chicken wings
2 legs (You can separate the thigh from the drumstick)
2 breasts
2 Bottles of Burgundy
2 Carrots
150g Streaky Bacon, the fatty stuff
1 Large Onion
1 Stick Celery
Bay leaf / Thyme / Rosemary / Parsley
500ml / 1 Pint Chicken Stock
500ml / 1 Pint Veal Stock

Method:

Roughly chop your vegetables and place into a deep container, capable of comfortably fitting all the ingredients including the wine. Add the 8 pieces of chicken, the bacon all the herbs and the 2 bottles of wine.

A note on the herbs: use 4 or 5 sprigs of thyme, 2 or 3 sprigs of rosemary and 10 flat parsley stalks. However, please ONLY use 1 bay leaf, they are very strong. I would be happy if you only used half a bloody bay leaf. They add character and a depth of flavour, but need to be used with care. Very much like my rich tomato sauce recipe.
A note on the wine: Spend 10 - 20 dollars, euros or pounds on each bottle, it has got to be fairly good to drink if you expect the coq au vin to be any good. Obviously if you are in Burgundy or around the valleys and slopes of the Saône you will find excellent Burgundy a lot cheaper.

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After roughly 24 hours, take out the vegetables and chicken from the wine. Have a large colander ready and another saucepan underneath to capture the wine.

Using clean t-towels, pat the chicken dry of any moisture before you begin sealing them in a hot frying pan.

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Now you need to pan fry the different parts of the chicken in a hot frying pan. You want to give the skins some lovely colour, then in the same pan fry all the veg, bacon and herbs. Do this in batches, a handful at a time. This way you will get some lovely colour on both the meat and the veg.

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Giving the chicken and veg a little colour in a pan will really add to the flavour when you begin braising. So, give the chicken some colour, drain it of any excess oil and place in a thick bottomed pot. Exactly like the two photos below. I like to use an oval shaped Le Creuset dish for coq au vin.

A note on the chicken: I have cleaned the wing bone of the breast and chopped the knuckle off the top of the drumstick. This is not necessary. It looks good but not needed. If this is something you would like to do, contact me and I will talk you through the process.

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Take the drained red wine and place it into a large, wide pot. The wider the pot, the large the surface area, the quicker it will reduce. You need the wine to reduce by half. There may be some scum coming off the top of the wine as it reaches the boil. This is totally normal, since the wine has had chicken and vegetables in it for 24 hours.

When the wine has reduced by half, place in the pot along with the chicken and vegetables.

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Add the veal and chicken stock to the pot and slowly bring the whole thing to the boil. Immediately turn the heat down to a gentle simmer. Little bubbles, soft movement. Place the lid on top leaving a gap so the pot may breathe and let it braise for 1 hour. You can even place it in an oven at this stage, however if you are using an actual Le Creuset pot it is preferable to do it on the stove.

After 25 minutes you can take the chicken breasts out. I place them in and container and put some of the liquid on top.

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It is important to keep the hot chicken covered. When you take a meat or fish out of a hot liquid, the steam that you see coming off is all moisture that we want to keep. We like moisture. When cooling braised meat always keep it under some cooking liquid. Lamb shank, lamb rumps and bourguignon of beef, all the same. If you take the meat out to thicken the sauce or what not, the meat will become dry. Allow plenty of time, cook in the morning, allow to go cool then reduce and thicken in the afternoon, ready for serving in the evening. This is a top tip here, you can thank me later!

Continue braising until an hour has passed. Then turn off the heat. Allow to cool

A note on serving the dish and a fresh garnish: The vegetable in the pot have now run their course, they are spent vegetables, with zero nutrients left in them. Remove them along with the herbs and bacon and throw them away. When serving the dish you should make a fresh garnish. In my case some fresh veg, hopefully in your case the classic garnish of bacon lardons, button onions and button mushrooms. Have everything about the same size. Leave the button onions whole, half the mushrooms and have the lardons about that size too. Pan fry to cook the garnish, drain of any excess oil and leave to one side.

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Place the cooked chicken pieces with the cooked fresh garnish. Drain the cooking liquid and discard the vegetables etc. Bring the strained liquid to the boil and reduce until thick, about 10 minutes, if you are happy with the flavour but the sauce is not thick enough you can at this stage add a little cornflour.

Service with mashed potatoes.

Fabulous.

Any questions, just ask.

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Michael xx