Coq au Vin is one of the meals that can literally make me tear up when I take the first bite, the depth of flavor is just beyond words. I know that to me at least, it sounded like one of those meals that was just too complicated to make for everyday. After doing some cookbook and online investigation however, I found out that it is actually so very simple and because it actually tastes better the next day, you can do a lot of prep work and cooking ahead of time, making it a fantastic meal for guests (very happy ones).
It appears that there are as many versions of Coq au Vin as there are cooks. While I can by no means vouch for any aspects of authenticity in my version, I will strongly recommend that you give it a try. I like to serve it with buttered noodles or just plain mashed potatoes and a green salad. Make sure to have extra baguette to wipe up all the delicious sauce, you won't want any to be wasted.
My Coq au Vin (or Coq auMG!)
1 tbsp olive oil
1 tbsp unsalted butter
salt and pepper
8 to 10 pieces of chicken, fairly uniform in size, I prefer dark meat for this dish. (Skin on, bone in)
1/2 onion, minced
2 carrots, peeled and sliced in thin slices
2 slices of pancetta or bacon, chopped in about 3/4 inch pieces
4 tbsp flour
2 cloves chopped garlic
1 bottle of dry red wine (I use Cabernet Sauvignon, but a Pinot Noir or Cote du Rhone would also work very well)
5 sprigs fresh thyme
1 bay leaf
Dry chicken parts well and season with s&p. In a dutch oven bring the oil and butter up to temperature on a bit higher than medium heat. Brown chicken in small batches, making sure that each piece gets well browned on all sides. When each batch is a nice, rich golden brown, remove chicken to a plate and set aside.
In the same pot, add the onions and carrots, and sautee for about 4 minutes (not looking for any browning here really). Add the bacon or pancetta and cook for an extra few minutes. Add the garlic and sautee another minute or so. Finally, stir in the flour and continue cooking for another couple of minutes.
Add a small amount of the wine to the pot while stirring, this is starting your sauce, then add the rest of the bottle of wine. At this point, you'll have a lovely bright purple sauce, but don't worry, that'll change :) Add the herbs and bring to a simmer. Add the chicken back to the pot and let simmer, covered, for about an hour on low heat, testing for s&p at the end. Now, add the browned pearl onions and mushrooms (see below). If you found the sauce to be too thick for your liking, you could add some low sodium chicken stock to thin it. Conversely, if you find it too thin, remove chicken at the end of an hour and raise heat and let the sauce reduce until desired consistency, then add back the chicken, mushrooms and onions.
Browned Mushrooms and Onions
2 cups fresh pearl onions, blanched and peeled (see note)
3 tbsp unsalted butter
2 tsp white sugar
10 ounces white mushrooms, wiped clean, stems trimmed, sliced into thirds
2 tbsp minced fresh parsley
salt to taste
While the Coq au Vin cooks (or is reheating), bring pearl onions, butter and sugar and 1/2 cup of water to a boil in a large skillet over medium high heat. Reduce heat and cook, covered until onions are tender (about 10 minutes, depending on size). Uncover, bring heat back up to medium high and cook until all liquid evaporates. Add mushrooms and salt and cook, stirring occasionally, until both are browned and glazed (10-15 minutes). Remove from heat and set aside.
Note on blanching onions: Drop the pearl onions into a pot of boiling water for one minute. Strain onions and put into ice water bath. The peelings should now easily come off for you. A la Julia Child, I also make a small x in the root end of the onion with a paring knife to prevent them from bursting or opening up upon cooking.