Friday, January 21, 2011
Strangely, I'd never had Coq au vin until last winter. I almost never order chicken out because I make it quite often at home, but we were in Vermont at a little French restaurant called Mistral's. They were offering a 3-course dinner special and one of the entrees was Coq au vin. It could also have been called bacon-flavored chicken - and it was yummy. The chicken was meltingly tender and they managed to get the skin crispy before serving it. I thought of the dish last weekend and decided to make it at home.
My go-to resource for French bistro food is the Balthazar cookbook and a quick look revealed a great recipe for coq au vin. The original calls for hen legs - I just used a whole cut up chicken. I halved the breasts before browning them and it was perfect for two meals for the two of us. I served it over polenta.
Next on my list of must-try French bistro food: Cassoulet. Never had it or made it but I think I'll give it a whirl. If you've made it, leave me a comment with your experience or share your favorite French food to make at home!
Coq au vin
adapted from the Balthazar cookbook
1 whole chicken, cut up, breasts cut in half
1 large yellow onion, cut into 1/2-inch dice
1 large carrot, cut into 1/2-inch dice
2 celery stalks, cut into large chunks
1 head garlic, halved horizontally
1 bottle red wine
1 bouquet garni (8 sprigs parsley, 2 sprigs thyme, 1 bay leaf wrapped in cheesecloth and tied)
Coarse salt and freshly ground pepper
2 Tbsp. olive oil
3 tablespoons tomato paste
3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
3 cups Veal Stock or beef stock
1 pint pearl onions, peeled
1/2 pound smoked slab bacon, diced
1 pound small white mushrooms
3 tablespoons chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
In a large bowl, combine the chicken, onion, carrot, celery, garlic, wine and bouquet garni. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 24 to 36 hours.
Strain the chicken and the vegetables from the marinade, reserving the liquid and separating the poultry and vegetables. Season the legs with salt and pepper.
Cook the bacon in a large casserole or Dutch oven. Remove with a slotted spoon. Set aside, reserving fat in pan.
While bacon fat is still hot, add the chicken, in batches if necessary, being sure not to crowd the pan. Brown evenly and deeply on all sides, about 8 minutes per side. Set the finished pieces to the side. Drain the bacon fat, reserving 2 Tbsp.
Heat 2 tablespoons olive oil in the same pan, add the chicken and the reserved vegetables to the pot. Cook until they soften and begin to brown, about 5 to 8 minutes. Stir in the tomato paste and cook for about 2 minutes, then add the flour, stirring again for about 2 minutes. Add the reserved wine marinade and, as it bubbles up, use a wooden spoon to scrape the bottom of the pot and incorporate any flavourful bits into the broth. Simmer until the liquid has reduced by half, about 20 to 25 minutes, then add the stock. As it reaches the boil, reduce the heat to low and maintain a slow and gentle simmer for 1 hour, at which point the meat should be very tender.
Meanwhile, prepare the rest of the ingredients: blanch the pearl onions in boiling water for 5 to 7 minutes, until tender. Drain and set aside. Heat the reserved bacon fat in a skillet. Add the mushrooms to the pan and cook until brown, about 5 minutes, then remove with a slotted spoon. Add the blanched pearl onions to the pan, sauteing until they too are brown, about 5 minutes.
Remove the chicken from the braising liquid and strain the contents of the pot, reserving the liquid and discarding the vegetables (I kept the carrots, they were delish). Bring to a strong simmer and skim the surface of the sauce as it bubbles, removing any visible fat. When the sauce has reduced by half, return the chicken to the pot along with the bacon, onions and mushrooms and simmer for an additional 15 minutes. Just prior to serving, add the chopped parsley.