Wednesday, February 25, 2015

French Comfort...Coq Au Vin

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This could easily have been titled, "What to do when there's nothing to do" or "What I made last Sunday during an ice storm".  Yes, I know, it's been a tough month for those of us above and below the Mason Dixon Line.  The North has been buried in snow and the South has been a a toss up between snow and ice.  We are all sick of this weather and starting to get on each other's nerves. It's called cabin fever and it's time to cook up a storm!

I haven't made this dish since the late 1970's.  The reason I know is that, inside the page on the Julia Child cookbook, there is a notepad sheet of paper with my husband's name on top from a job he held when we were first married,  There are some notes in my handwriting that are so old I could barely read them.   In it I've made some slight substitutions to the order of the directions that cut down the time by about half an hour, It also eliminates having to wash two extra pans without affecting the flavor or the end result.  All my life I have tried to cut back on unnecessary pans and steps, even as a young cook. I could give a master class on this technique.

Coq Au Vin is one of those recipes every serious student of French cuisine should attempt to make early on in his or her career. From the browning of the chicken pieces in bacon and butter to the proper way of  thickening the sauce at the end, it is a master class in French country cooking. Be grateful someone came up with the beurre manie.  The alternative, in the olden days, was using the blood from your newly butchered rooster.  And yes, you are no longer required to chase and butcher the bird.  Chicken pieces are acceptable although a whole chicken cut into pieces would be more authentic.  I used chicken pieces, like thighs and legs.  If you must use breasts, split them in half.

You also learn about the term depth of flavor through a few easy techniques such as sauteing the pearl onions and the mushrooms in the drippings of the browned chicken, prior to adding them to the stew.  This is the step I moved up, using the same pan as the one I had previously used to saute the bacon in butter and brown the chicken pieces.

Following is the original recipe from Mastering the Art of French Cooking, Vol. 1 with these slight changes.

Do try to make this recipe the day before you serve it, Once it cools, it can be placed in the refrigerator overnight.  When you bring it out the next day, if there is any fat, skim it.  Then slowly reheat at a very low temperature.  I made it early in the day and it was finger licking good.  It was even better the next day.

As to the wine, please use a decent and hearty French wine.  You can get a good one for less than $10 at Costco and, last I heard,  Two Buck Chuck is not being produced in Burgundy! What grows together goes together, I can't say that enough.  It applies to fats also and, in this case, butter and  bacon and not olive oil are the way to go.  One day is not going to make that big of a difference in your heart rate or your weight.

I suggest that before the next winter storm is announced, and I think you have a pretty good chance of this, you have all the ingredients on hand.

As I finish this post the snow is coming down hard in North Georgia.  Madame Mere will finally get her snow.  I hope my gardenias survive this winter.

Julia Child's Coq Au Vin


3 to 4 ounce chunk of lean bacon

2 tablespoons unsalted butter

2 1/2 to 3 pounds frying chicken, cut into pieces

1/2 teaspoon salt, plus additional for seasoning

1/8 teaspoon pepper, plus additional for seasoning

1/4 cup cognac

3 cups young, full-bodied red wine, such as Burgundy, Beaujolais, Cotes du Rhone, or Chianti

1 to 2 cups brown chicken stock, brown stock or canned beef bouillon

1/2 tablespoon tomato paste

2 cloves mashed garlic

1/4 teaspoon thyme leaves

1 bay leaf

12 to 24 pearl onions

1/2 pound mushrooms, I used baby bellas

3 tablespoons all-purpose flour

2 tablespoons softened butter

Fresh parsley leaves


Remove the rind and cut the bacon into lardons (rectangles 1/4-inch across and 1-inch long). Simmer for 10 minutes in 2 quarts of water. Rinse in cold water. Dry.

In a heavy large heavy bottomed casserole or Dutch oven, saute the bacon slowly in hot butter until it is very lightly browned (temperature of 260 degrees F for an electric skillet). Remove to a side dish.

Now sautee the onions and the mushrooms separately until a slight amber color.  Remove to another plate, separate from the chicken.

Dry the chicken thoroughly. Brown it in the hot fat in the casserole. (360 degrees F for the electric skillet.) Remove to a plate.

Now sautee the onions and the mushrooms separately in the same fat as the chicken, until a slight amber color.  Remove to another plate, separate from the chicken.

Season the chicken with salt and pepper. Return the bacon to the casserole with the chicken. Cover and cook slowly (300 degrees F) for 10 minutes, turning the chicken once.

Uncover, and pour in the cognac. Averting your face, ignite the cognac with a lighted match. Shake the casserole back and forth for several seconds until the flames subside. MAKE SURE THE STOVE AIR VENT IS CLOSED OR YOU MIGHT HAVE AN UNHAPPY SURPRISE.

Pour the wine into the casserole. Add just enough stock or bouillon to cover the chicken. Stir in the tomato paste, garlic and herbs. Bring to a simmer. Cover and simmer slowly for 20 to 25 minutes, or until the chicken is tender and its juices run a clear yellow when the meat is pricked with a fork. Remove the chicken to a side dish.

Simmer the chicken cooking liquid in the casserole for 1 to 2 minutes, skimming off fat. Then raise the heat and boil rapidly, reducing the liquid to about 2 1/4 cups. Correct seasoning. Remove from heat, and discard bay leaf.

Blend the butter and flour together into a smooth paste (beurre manie). Add a little of the hot liquid from the sauce to make it easier to blend. Beat the paste into the hot liquid with a wire whip. Bring to the simmer, stirring and simmer for 1 to 2 minutes. The sauce should be thick enough to coat a spoon lightly.

Arrange the chicken in a casserole, place the mushrooms and onions around it and baste with the sauce. If the dish is not to be served immediately, place the mushrooms and onions on top of the chicken (see photo above) film the top of the sauce with stock or dot with small pieces of butter. Set aside uncovered for no longer than 1 hour or cool, cover and refrigerate until needed.

Shortly before serving, bring the casserole to a simmer, basting the chicken with the sauce. Cover and simmer slowly for 4 to 5 minutes, until the chicken is heated through.

Serve from the casserole, or arrange on a hot platter. Decorate with sprigs of parsley.

Slightly adapted from Mastering the Art Of French Cooking, by Julia Child


  1. Your description of this dish sounds wonderfully appetizing, and I am sure is perfect to warm up those wintry days. But who ever heard of Georgia being the locale of so many blizzards and ice storms? You are destroying my cherished image of the balmy South.

    1. Those days are gone, Jim, at least for know. The storms have been relentless all across the East this Feb. You should see poor Boston. They have so much snow they have the National Guard dumping snow in the sea. They laugh at the South for mobilizing over an inch of snow but we have no snow plows and usually what we get is a lot of ice which is worse Sorry to wreck up a dream lol!

  2. Ah, one of my favorites. I believe it was Ina who said Coq au Vin is just Boeuf Bourguignon with chicken. Perfect for this weather. Hope all is well. I think of you often.

    1. It is, no doubt. Stay in Florida as long as you can. This is no fun!

  3. This looks absolutely delicious, and I don't even eat meat any more (still like the flavor though!). I'm glad you have something decadent to cook and look forward to eating, especially when stuck indoors for as long as you and your family have been. What else can one do under such restricted conditions. I suppose catching up on old movies would work too.

    I do hope things ease up a bit and you can look forward to spring in all its glory. Oh, and what a clever girl you are to have mastered the art of minimizing the washing up with fewer pans - well done! I need a masterclass from you please.

  4. Beautiful beautiful recipe that's made for this cold weather. Warms the stomach and the heart. The whole house is perfumed when you cook it. I am inspired.

  5. I love love this recipe and have made it a few times…when i have both the energy and the time. I always try to freeze some, but it's usually gone before I can get it in the freezer! Oh this weather: we missed the snow, ice and power outages this week by being in Florida, but even down there it was cloudy and heavy fog! We will wait for spring!

  6. We were given a cast iron cooking vessel with cover for Christmas by our eldest son and his partner. I have been waiting for a recipe to inspire me to use it. This is perfect for its inauguration. I am with you on eliminating unnecessary steps and pans so could assist you in your master class. And, as my dad and grandmother taught, always clean as you go. Some call it obsessive compulsive. I call it smart cooking and prepping. Always enjoy your.posts!

  7. No better recipe to inaugurate your new pot, but wait til u see what's coming up! Thanks for letting me know.


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