Monday, November 07, 2016

A Classic For A Reason - Coq au Vin

When I first had my own apartment I wanted to make an impressive dish for a dinner party I was giving, but I was a working girl and didn't have all day to create something fancy. My Dad had given my Mom a copy of Mastering the Art of French Cooking, so I took a look through that and decided that Boeuf Bourguignon would be just the thing. Although it took a few pages for Julia Child to explain how to make it correctly, for someone who already knew how to make stew, it could be compressed to fit on the front and back of an index card, including the separate part of how to cook the onions and mushrooms.

Coq au Vin is a similar dish and just as classic. Bacon is cooked and removed, onions and garlic are cooked and removed (mushrooms, too, if you like them), chicken is browned and removed. The pan is deglazed with wine. Broth, seasonings and all those things removed are added back along with some tomato paste and small onions and then the whole thing is simmered. Pretty easy, right? You can thicken the sauce and serve it up at that point (after about an hour total cooking time, but only a half hour of your time) or you can refrigerate it and serve it later. That time in the fridge lets the flavors blend magnificently, so I try to plan for some fridge time.

When you are getting ready to serve, heat up the chicken mixture, thicken it with a flour and water mixture, make some mashed potatoes and chop up some parsley. Don't leave out the parsley. Not only does the green add to the looks of the dish, but the herbal notes are needed to bring the dish to its full potential.

In a wide shallow bowl or on a rimmed plate you put the mashed potatoes, top them with some hot chicken and sauce and sprinkle some parsley on top. It smells heavenly and tastes even better. Everyone will think you have spent all day making this sophisticated dish. A green salad is a nice addition. Don't forget to serve some baguette slices so that they can chase any sauce left in the bowl or on the plate.

I like to use chicken thighs for this because they take well to the simmering that cooks the chicken pieces. If you use boneless then the dish is easy for your guests (or just yourself!) to eat. You can, of course, use a whole cut up chicken, or any combination of pieces that you enjoy. Just be sure to make the full recipe. The leftovers, if any, taste even better than the original serving. Trust me.

Use a good quality dry red wine. You only need a cup for the recipe and you can drink the rest with the meal. Light a few candles, add some flowers to the table and it's a party, even on a weeknight.

Coq au Vin
Serves 4-6

2 Slices bacon, chopped
1 medium onion, chopped
3 garlic cloves, chopped
1/2 lb (8 oz.) fresh muchrooms, sliced
2 tablespoons olive or grapeseed oil
3.5 - 4 lbs mixed skinless checken breasts (boneless) & thighs (bones OK)
1 cup dry red wine
1 - 14 oz can chicken broth or 14 oz homemade broth
1 tablespoon tomato paste
1 cup whole small onions (jarred, canned, ro frozen for ease)
2 bay leaves
1 teaspoon dried thyme
1/2 teaspoon salt, 1/2 teaspoon pepper
4 tablespoons water
4 tablespoons all-purpose flour

Heat a Dutch oven or heavy, covered pot over medium high heat. Brown the bacon, stirring occasionally. Transfer to paper towels to drain.

To the Dutch oven add chopped onion. Saute 3 minutes. Add the garlic and mushrooms. Saute another 3 minutes, stirring occasionally. Remove from the pan and set aside. Wipe any remaining bits from the pan with a paper towel.

Add olive oil to pan. When hot add half the chicken, browning on both sides. Remove from pan and set aside. Brown the remaining chicken on both sides. Set aside.

Deglaze the pan with the red wine, then add the broth, tomato paste, small onions, bay leaves, thyme, salt and pepper. Stir. Return the bacon, onion mixture and chicken to the pan. Reduce the heat and simmer, covered, about 25 minutes, until the chicken juices run clear when pierced. Remove the bay leaves and discard.

Refrigerate overnight to blend flavors (optional).
Return mixture to a simmer.

Make a thickener by placing the 4 tablespoons flour in a small bowl. Whisk in the water. 
Whisk or stir the thickener into the coq au vin. Stir gently around the chicken pieces as the sauce thickens.

Serve in wide, shallow soup bowls, over mashed potatoes, with a sprinkle of chopped parsley over all.

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