Welcome to National Coq au Vin Day! Coq au Vin in a French dish of braised chicken; wine, lardons, mushroom and garlic. Coq au Vin has a special place in my heart since it was the first “French” thing I ever cooked for company.
Coq au Vin is a French staple that translates to “rooster (Coq) with with wine (au Vin)”. Leave it to the French to come up with a way to eat an old, tough rooster and have it taste good! The real beauty of Coq au Vin is that it is the perfect dish for entertaining. Much of the work is done in advance, and all you need do is let the chicken braise a while. Warm some bread; toss a salad and let the wine breath. So simple; so rustic and oh so comforting.
While different legends circulate about Coq au Vin in the days of Julius Caesar; the first documented recipe did not appear until the early 20th century. There was a similar recipe, Poulet au Vin Blanc, featured in a cookbook published in 1864. Anyway you serve it, make no mistake about it – this is one tender; delicious bird.
Oh, and just for the record – Catholic Fridays (no meat) can be skipped. It’s no longer a harden rule of observance. The point is to draw your attention to Christ’s sacrifice on the Cross on Good Friday. Giving up meat is a conscience reminder as well as a form of penance. This can still be accomplished by saying an extra rosary or reading scripture. It’s all a matter of attention and focus. So yeah, I can serve my family Coq au Vin without regret.
Pinot Noir Coq au Vin
4 lb Whole Chicken
Kosher Salt to taste
Black Pepper to taste
6 oz Slab Bacon
1 lb Shiitake Mushrooms
3 Garlic Cloves
1 medium White Onion
4 large Carrots
2 cups Pinot Noir
2 cups Chicken Stock
4 Thyme Sprigs
8 Parsley Sprigs
1 fresh Bay Leaf
2 tablespoons Butter
2 tablespoons Olive Oil
Chopped Parsley for garnish
Rinse chicken, remove giblets and discard or save for another use. Cut into 8 serving pieces. Pat dry, season with salt and pepper; set aside.
Cut bacon into 1/4-inch thick slices; then cut slices into 1-inch lardons. In a very large, deep skillet, cook the bacon over moderately high heat, stirring frequently, until crisp, about 6 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the bacon to a plate.
While the bacon is cooking, rinse the mushrooms, remove and discard the stems, retaining only the caps. Cut the mushrooms caps into thick slices; set aside. Peel and smash the garlic; set aside. Peel and finely chop the onion; set aside. Peel the carrots; slice on the bias into 1/4-inch pieces; set aside.
Add the chicken to the skillet skin side down in a single layer and cook over moderately high heat, turning once, until browned all over, about 10 minutes. Transfer the chicken to a plate and pour off all but 2 tablespoons of the fat in the skillet.
Add the garlic, onion and carrots to the pan. Cover and cook over moderate heat, stirring occasionally, until barely softened, about 2 minutes. Uncover and cook until nearly tender, 3 minutes. Add the wine and cook over high heat, scraping up any browned bits, until reduced by half, about 5 minutes.
While the vegetables cook, create a Bouquet Garni. Using kitchen twine; bundle together the thyme sprigs, parsley sprigs and bay leaf. Leave enough twine to hang over the side of the pot to make retrieving the bundle easy.
Add the stock, the Bouquet Garni (twine draped over the side of the pot) and bacon. Bring to a simmer. Nestle the chicken in the broth, cover partially and simmer over moderately low heat until the chicken is white throughout, about 45 minutes.
In a large skillet, melt the butter in the olive oil over high heat. When the foam subsides, add the mushrooms and season with salt and pepper. Cook over moderate heat, stirring occasionally, until browned and tender, 7 to 8 minutes. Add the mushrooms to the chicken and simmer for 5 minutes.
Discard the Bouquet Garni. Garnish the Coq au Vin with the parsley and serve. This is best served straight from the pot for a rustic presentation with crusty bread, sweet butter and plenty of wine.