Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Coq au vin (chicken in wine sauce)

This is the classic French recipe, I think at it's simplest form.  THIS IS REALLY EASY TO MAKE, DON'T LET THE LENGTH OF THE RECIPE INTIMIDATE YOU!  Feel better? This recipe was invented not for a hen, but for the rooster.  Yeah, when the poor old guy starts either shootin' blanks or shows no interest in the ladies anymore, the farmer had to figure out something to do with the old bird.  Now a rooster has a lot of connective tissue and it's meat is very tough, so a slow cooking method had to be employed.  A lot of that connective tissue breaks down into the sauce and gelatinizes.  The result is a rich wine stock that cannot be believed.  Where can one find a rooster to make the real thing?  Definately not at your local mega mart.  So we are using a roasting chicken here in this recipe.  If you have a friend that owns a farm, offer to cook his rooster for him and follow the instructions at the end of this recipe.  The difference is huge when you use the real deal.

for soak
2 cups dry red wine
2 cloves crushed garlic
2 sprigs thyme
1 bay leaf
1 tsp sea salt

1/2 lb high quality bacon, rind removed
20 pearl onions peeled (you can use frozen, but they are really easy to peel. drop the onions into boiling water for 40 seconds or so and the skin will slide right off.)
1 lg roasting chicken cut up into serving pieces or 3 lbs chicken parts fat trimmed but skin on
4-6 cloves of garlic
2 cups low sodium chicken broth (preferably homemade)
2 cups dry red wine (preferably the same kind of wine as in the soak)
2 bay leaves
several sprigs of thyme
several sprigs of parsley
1/2 lb button mushrooms halved
2 tbsp softened butter

Day one
Rinse your chicken and put it in a large zip top bag with all the ingredients for the soak.  Squeeze out as much air as you can so the chicken is completely surrounded by the wine.  Refrigerate overnight.  The soak can be skipped and you can just begin the recipe on day two if you like, but it won't be nearly as good, so I don't recommend it.

Day two
Remove your chicken from the soak and pat dry with a towel.  Yes the chicken will appear as if it has been dyed by the wine is places.  This is the intended result.  Sprinkle with sea salt and black pepper.

Blanch your bacon to remove much of the salt.  Take your bacon and place it into a pot of cold water, bring it to a boil, and reduce to a simmer for 5 minutes, remove from heat, and drain.  Please don't skip this step or you won't be able to control the salt content of your chicken and it might be too salty.   Pat the bacon dry with a towel, and then slice it into matchstick size pieces, (the French call these lardons).  Place into the bottom of a heavy dutch oven and brown the bacon.  Remove from bacon grease and set aside.  KEEP THE GREASE.  Add your chicken to the hot bacon grease skin side down and brown.  Now this is important.  Turn on the fans, open the windows, but let some smoke come off that chicken, I mean really allow it to brown.  Not burn of course, but a rich caramel color is what you want.  Brown on both sides.  The dish will taste much better if you really get a good browning.  Remove the chicken and set aside.  Add the onions, and brown for about 5 minutes.  Remove the onions and add the mushrooms.  Brown the mushrooms as well.  A pinch of sea salt will help the mushrooms expel their water content a little quicker.   Remove the mushrooms.  There will be some fat at the bottom of the pot, and a lot of stuff that looks like burnt stuff you want to wash away before you finish.  THAT IS ALL FLAVOR.  KEEP IT!  While the fire is still on, add the 2 cups of red wine.  It should immedietely start to boil.  Scrape the bottom of the pot with a spatula, all that yummy burnt stuff (The French call this stuff fond)  will dissipate into the wine.  Add the stock, Chicken, herbs, garlic and onions back to the Dutch oven, reduce to a simmer and cover to finish for approximately 20 minutes.  When the leg pieces seem to pull away from the bone slightly the chicken is done.  Remove the chicken, and with your tongs fish out the herbs.  Do not add any seasoning yet.  Turn the heat up to medium high and reduce the remaining cooking liquid by 75%.  This might take a few minutes, don't worry.  When the liquid has reduced, remove from heat and whisk in your softened butter, add the mushrooms, and add the chicken back in.  At this point, taste the sauce and if it needs salt, go ahead and add it a little at a time.  Remember with salt you can always add more but you can't take it back, so be careful.  Serve with a healthy amount of sauce ladled over the chicken and garnish with the crispy bacon and some chopped parsley.  This dish is sublime, so enjoy.  The best accompaniment is simply boiled egg noodles with butter and chopped parsley.  The chicken sauce will run into the pasta and flavor it as well.  

If you have a rooster, simply cook the bad boy longer and make sure it is at the lowest setting possible on your stovetop where you still see some simmering bubbles.  Cook for a full hour.  Then follow the rest of the steps.

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