Last January, my husband and I butchered a handful of 12-week-old heritage breed roosters. Although they were still young, the first one we roasted was somewhat tough. For our second try, we decided to prepare the traditional French dish coq au vin. Here, the chicken is marinated, stewed, and allowed to sit in its own juices to tenderize the tough meat as well as develop flavor.
The dish gets its rich color from the red wine used to create the sauce. However, abroad, in rural settings where chickens are butchered locally, the blood is often saved and added to the gravy at the last minute to provide a deep color and thicken the sauce.
Give yourself plenty of prep time for this recipe. It takes time to cut the chicken, prepare the marinade, marinate the chicken overnight, stew it, and then let it rest for a day before serving. The end result, however, is well worth the work and wait! And since it can be prepared in advance, you're saving yourself a lot of effort on the day you decide to serve it. 🙂
Classic Coq au Vin
- 750 milliliter bottle French Burgundy wine (or any other dry red)
- 1 large onion, sliced
- 2 celery stalks, sliced
- 1 large carrot, peeled and sliced
- 1 garlic clove, peeled and crushed
- 1 teaspoon whole black peppercorns
- 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- 6-pound roasting chicken*
- 6 ounces thick cut nitrate-free bacon, preferably from pastured pork
- 2 large shallots, chopped
- 2 garlic cloves, chopped
- 4 large, fresh thyme sprigs
- 4 large, fresh parsley sprigs
- 2 cups chicken stock
- 3 tablespoons ghee or other fat of your choosing
- 1 pound of “baby bella” mushrooms (or whatever is available)
- 20 pearl onions, peeled
Serves 4. Adapted from The Bon Appétit Cookbook.
*remove the backbone and cut the chicken up into 8 pieces: 2 drumsticks, 2 thighs, 2 wings, and 2 breasts.
Combine wine, large onion, stalks, carrot, and garlic clove in a large saucepan and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium and simmer for 5 minutes. Cool completely before adding the olive oil. Place the chicken pieces in a large glass bowl or Ziploc bag. Pour the marinade over the chicken and toss to coat all pieces. Refrigerate at least 1 day and up to 2 days, turning the chicken occasionally.
To cook, remove chicken pieces from marinade and set aside. Pat dry. Strain marinade, reserving the vegetables and the liquid separately. In a large heavy stock pot, cook the bacon until crisp and brown. Crumble, and set aside. Add chicken, skin side down, to the drippings in the pot. Saute until brown and set aside. Add the vegetables from the reserved marinade to the pot and saute until brown, about 10 minutes.
Note that at this point you may thicken your sauce with your flour of choice. To do so sprinkle about 2 tablespoons over the vegetables and stir for two minutes. Alternatively, you may thicken just before serving by using arrowroot powder instead.
Gradually whisk in marinade, bring to a boil and cook sauce for about 2 minutes. Mix in the shallots, chopped garlic, herb sprigs, and bay leaves, then broth. Return the chicken to the stock pot, skin side up in a single layer, and bring to simmer. Reduce heat to medium low, cover, and simmer for at least 30 minutes. For best results, reduce heat to low and allow to slow cook all day.
Melt 3 tablespoons of ghee, or fat of your choosing in a heavy large skillet over medium heat. Add the mushrooms and sauté until tender, about 8 minutes. Set aside. In same skillet, add pearl onions and saute until brown, using additional fat for frying if needed. Set aside, reserving the skillet.
Strain the sauce from the pot into the reserved skillet, pressing on solids to extract all juice. Discard the solids. Bring sauce to a simmer, scraping up any browned bits. Pour sauce back into the stock pot, add onions, and bring to a simmer over medium heat. Cover and cook until onions are almost tender, about 8 minutes. Add the mushrooms and bacon and simmer until the onions are very tender and the sauce is slightly reduced. (If you wish, thicken sauce with arrowroot at this point.) Season to taste. Return chicken to pot. May serve at this time, but for best results, cool slightly and refrigerate overnight.
To serve, rewarm over low heat.
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