There is something quite majestic about a good bowl of Coq-Au-Vin, which in itself has a certain irony as it was born from King Henry IV promise of ‘A chicken in every pot”. This decree spawned many great French classic dishes including Coq-au-Vin and was designed to ensure that every one has accessibility to a chicken regardless of status.
We’ve been recently discussing menu options for this autumn at La Petite Bouchee and it didn’t take us long to decide on Coq-Au-Vin, made authentically this retro classic is simply one of the best ‘stews’ on the planet, second only to Beef carbonnade in my humble opinion. My Mama would make Coq-au-vin when we were growing up and although I loved the flavours I did used to spend a lot of time picking out the mushrooms because I didn’t like them. Now I adore them, but Caroline is fiercely allergic and so I normally cook it without these days, however, for this recipe they are back and adding their delicious unique flavour addition to the pot.
It’s not really known the exact origins of Coq-au-vin, because people have braised meat and particularly chicken since the year dot. There’s a similar recipe using white wine called Poulet au vin blanc which came from a cookbook called Cookery for English Households published in 1864. The recipe had a complete renaissance when Julia Child breathed a new lease of life into it and her masterpiece, Mastering the Art of French Cooking published in 1961 sky rocketed the dish to new dizzy heights.
We’re breathing new life into this widely regarded retro classic and using a mish-mash of our family recipes. I was always make this dish a day in advance, to allow the flavours to steep. It’s a fabulous dish for the slow cooker as well as in a conventional oven and cooking it long and slow only adds to the overall result. The red wine reduction is on and I’m now ready to get to grips with the heart of the dish. How do you make yours?
- For the red wine reduction
- 1 bottle red wine (Cabernet Sauvignon )
- 1 carrot, roughly chopped
- 1 celery stalk, roughly chopped
- 1 small onion, cut into quarters
- 4 cloves of garlic, crushed
- 1 bay leaf
- Small bunch of fresh thyme
- For the rest
- 1 tbsp butter
- 150g thickly cut pancetta
- 2 tbsp plain flour
- 6 chicken thighs
- 4 garlic cloves thinly sliced
- 12 banana shallots
- 20 button mushrooms
- 4 tbsp brandy
- sea salt and freshly milled black pepper to taste
- In a heavy based saucepan, place all the ingredients for the red wine reduction and bring to the boil.
- Reduce by half and then strain through a sieve.
- In a casserole, heat the butter, being careful not to burn it and then add the lardons. Cook until golden brown and then remove and place in a bowl for later.
- Add the flour to a plate and make sure that it is seasoned well then coat the chicken pieces in the flour. In the same pan as the lardons, add the chicken and brown all over, ensuring they have a good colour.
- Remove the chicken until later.
- Add some more butter to the pan and slowly cook the shallots or onions, cook until they are starting to caramalise, this should take about ten minutes.
- Once they are slightly softened add the mushrooms and garlic and cook-off for another 5 minutes or so.
- Remove all the shallots, mushrooms and garlic from the pan and set aside.
- You should now have three separate bowls containing Chicken, lardons and vegetables.
- Turn the heat up under the heavy based pan and a small amount of the red wine reduction to de-glaze the pan.
- Make sure you scrape all the chicken and lardon residue from the bottom of the pan and into the sauce. Then return the chicken and lardons to the pan ( keep a few lardons for decoration)
- Pour in the brandy and light it. Don’t panic, the flames will extinguish once the alcohol is burned off. Then add the rest of the reduction and some more thyme leaves then bring back to the boil, turn the heat right down and simmer gently for an hour.
- After an hour add the vegetables back to the pan and simmer for a further 20 minutes without the lid. Test for seasoning and then ladle into bowls, sprinkle with fresh parsley and the remaining lardons and serve with rice or lightly garlic infused mash and a hunk of trusty crusty bread to mop up the juices.
- Et voilà Coq-au-Vin!