Last Friday. The Boy’s favorite meal. It was a long week, so I thought it would be a nice way to celebrate the arrival of our weekend.
I wanted to share a rare personal note here: A life lesson I’ve learned in the past 6 weeks is that, with good portion-sense and thoughtful cookery, there is freedom. Freedom to enjoy my food and still feel/be healthy. It’s been a revelation to me and transformed my entire ethos towards food. It’s a lesson I hope to pass on to my daughters.
On that note, I have started making small adaptations to my recipes published so far. Primarily, this has involved cutting down on the amount of oil used, but occasionally, where I’ve skipped steps, I have indicated that it is optional.
Coq au vin is, in essence, chicken fried in bacon fat and braised in red wine. Molly Stevens has a good recipe that I prefer over Julia Child’s. I found that cutting out the bacon and not dredging the chicken in flour makes little difference to the final outcome but, of course, a huge difference to my thighs. So there, you have a choice.
Coq au Vin
Adapted from Molly Stevens, ‘All About Braising’
1/4 lb slab bacon, diced [optional]
1 chicken, cut into pieces
Salt and black pepper
Flour (for dredging) [optional]
3 tbsp unsalted butter [I use 3 tbsp olive oil]
1 large onion, diced
1 carrot, chopped into 1/2″ rounds
1 tbsp tomato paste
2 tbsp Cognac
1 bottle (750 ml) dry fruity red table wine (e.g. Beaujolais or Pinot Noir)
2 garlic cloves
1 bay leaf
1 tbsp chopped fresh thyme (or 1 tsp dried thyme)
2 tbsp flat-leaf parsley, chopped
1 cup chicken stock
2.5 tbsp unsalted butter [I use 2.5 tbsp olive oil]
10 oz frozen pearl onions
3/4 lb cremini / bella mushrooms, quartered
Salt and black pepper
2 tbsp flat-leaf parsley, chopped
A. [Optional step] Place the diced bacon in a cold, large Dutch oven (5-7 quarts). Turn on the stove on medium heat to cook the bacon, stirring often until well-browned and crisp on the outside but squishy on the inside (approximately 12-15 minutes). Turn off the heat. Transfer the bacon onto a plate lined with paper towels. Set aside the Dutch oven with the rendered bacon fat.
Preheat the oven to 325 F (163 C).
B. Season the chicken pieces on all sides with salt and pepper.
[Optional step] Dredge each chicken piece in the flour, turning to coat both sides, then lifting and shaking off any excess.
Add the butter to the rendered bacon fat (or olive oil if only using this) in your Dutch oven and heat over a medium-high fire. Brown the pieces of chicken, skin side down, in batches without crowding (approximately 5 minutes on each side). Transfer the chicken to a platter to catch the juices. Discard the remaining fat, retaining roughly 1 tbsp in the Dutch oven.
C. Add the onion and carrot and saute until they soften and the onion becomes translucent (approximately 5 minutes).
Add the tomato paste and smear the paste through the vegetables.
Add the Cognac and bring to a boil to deglaze, scraping the pot with a wooden spoon to dislodge the crusty bits stuck at the bottom from (B). Simmer until the Cognac is almost all gone.
Turn up the heat and add the red wine, garlic, bay leaf, thyme and parsley. Bring to a boil and then lower to a rapid simmer. Simmer until the wine reduces by about half (approximately 15 minutes).
Stir in the bacon (A) if using.
Add the stock and bring to a boil. Using a ladle, scoop out 1/2 cup of braising liquid and set aside for cooking the pearl onions later.
Add the chicken pieces (B) to the pot. Molly Stevens is very particular about the order this should be done: legs, thighs, wings, back, neck, then breast pieces on top of them, skin side down. This protects the breasts from overcooking and drying out. Pour in any juices that collected as the chicken sat. Bring to a simmer.
Cover with parchment paper, pressing down so that the paper nearly touches the chicken and extends over the side of the pot by an inch. Cover with the lid and place on a rack in the lower third of the oven to braise.
After 15 minutes, turn the breast pieces over with tongs. Continue braising gently for another hour until the meat is fork-tender.
D. To prepare the garnish, heat 1 tbsp of butter (or olive oil) in a large non-stick skillet. Add the frozen pearl onions and saute for a few minutes. Season with salt and pepper, add the reserved 1/2 cup of braising liquid, cover and simmer until the onions are tender when pierced with a fork (approximately 5 minutes). Remove the lid, increase the heat and boil to reduce the liquid to a glaze. Transfer the pearl onions and gravy to platter and set aside.
Add the remaining 1.5 tbsp of butter (or olive oil) and saute the mushrooms. Season with salt and pepper. Continue to saute until any liquid exuded by the mushrooms has evaporated and the mushrooms are seared and fragrant (approximately 10 minutes). Return the pearl onions and gravy to the skillet.
E. To finish, take the braise out of the oven. Remove all the tender chicken pieces carefully onto a serving platter with slightly raised sides. Allow the gravy in the Dutch oven to settle then fastidiously skim off as much surface fat as you can.
Place the Dutch oven over high heat and bring the gravy to a boil to reduce until thickened to the consistency of a vinaigrette (approximately 10 minutes). Add the reserved pearl onion and mushroom garnish and heat through.
Spoon the sauce over the chicken pieces, sprinkle with chopped parsley and serve. I usually serve with steamed rice or mashed potatoes or pasta (a wide pasta or bucatini).