Thursday, August 13, 2009

Julia Child's Coq Au Vin

I haven't delved much into French cooking. But I am so ready to go see Julie and Julia on Sunday, that I decided to start celebrating early and making a quintessential French dish.

Voila...Coq Au Vin.

I researched several recipes on the internet before I decided to try Deb's recipe on Smitten Kitchen. She stuck to Julia Child's original recipe the best. Some people used skinless chicken and turkey bacon...which could be done, but really shouldn't. Real bacon and skin-on chicken provide the flavor substituting other ingredients will not guarantee the best results.

I'll say this up front about coq au vin. It took me just under 3 hours to make this. None of it was hard, really, all the steps are manageable (and I've never made coq au vin before). And granted I had 4 kids to wrangle at the same time. But this dish does require certain techniques...which are time consuming...making the sauce and skimming off the fat, browning the onions and then boiling them...and sauteing the mushrooms.

But...all the effort was worth it. This is definitely one of the best (for sure, one of the top three) chicken dishes I've ever made. It would be fantastic on a cold winter night. And make sure you drink the rest of the bottle of wine with it. If you're in the mood for a comforting chicken meal...this is it.

I've let Deb explain things...but I inserted the pics I took while cooking.

Julia Child's Coq Au Vin

Explained much better than me by Deb of Smitten Kitchen, and Julia Child's

Mastering the Art of French Cooking

Coq Au Vin [Chicken in Red Wine with Onions, Mushrooms and Bacon]

Feeds 4 to 6 people

A 3- to 4-ounce chunk of bacon
A heavy, 10-inch, fireproof casserole
2 tablespoons butter
2 1/2 to 3 pounds cut-up frying chicken
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon pepper
1/4 cup cognac
3 cups young, full-bodied red wine such as Burgundy, Beaujolais, Cotes du Rhone or Chianti
1 to 2 cups brown chicken stock, brown stock or canned beef bouillon
1/2 tablespoon tomato paste
2 cloves mashed garlic
1/4 teaspoon thyme
1 bay leaf
12 to 24 brown-braised onions (recipe follows)
1/2 pound sautéed mushrooms (recipe follows)
Salt and pepper
3 tablespoons flour
2 tablespoons softened butter
Sprigs of fresh parsley

1. Remove the rind of and cut the bacon into lardons (rectangles 1/4-inch across and 1 inch long). Simmer for 10 minutes in 2 quarts of water. Rinse in cold water. Dry. [Deb note: As noted, I'd totally skip this step next time.]

Regular presliced bacon, btw, is perfectly fine! And I skipped the boiling step too.

2. Sauté the bacon slowly in hot butter until it is very lightly browned. Remove to a side dish.

3. Dry the chicken thoroughly. Brown it in the hot fat in the casserole.

4. Season the chicken. Return the bacon to the casserole with the chicken. Cover and cook slowly for 10 minutes, turning the chicken once.

5. Uncover, and pour in the cognac. Averting your face, ignite the cognac with a lighted match. Shake the casserole back and forth for several seconds until the flames subside.

I let the kids watch while I ingnited the cognac...they thought it was cool ;-). It does flame up for a good 2 minutes, so be sure to keep the little ones at a safe distance.

6. Pour the wine into the casserole. Add just enough stock or bouillon to cover the chicken. Stir in the tomato paste, garlic and herbs. Bring to the simmer. Cover and simmer slowly for 25 to 30 minutes, or until the chicken is tender and its juices run a clear yellow when the meat is pricked with a fork. Remove the chicken to a side dish.

I didn't have the chicken covered in liquid, but it turned out fine, I just turned it over once while it was cooking. I used a chianti imported from Italy, only $8.00. Yes, I sampled it first!

7. While the chicken is cooking, prepare the onions and mushrooms (recipe follows).

8. Simmer the chicken cooking liquid in the casserole for a minute or two, skimming off the fat. Then raise the heat and boil rapidly, reducing the liquid to about 2 1/4 cups. Correct seasoning. Remove from heat and discard bay leaf.

I used my gravy separator cup to remove the fat from the sauce. I had to use a slotted spoon to get the pieces of bacon, but the end result was a pan sauce with virtually no fat in it.

9. Blend the butter and flour together into a smooth paste (buerre manie). Beat the paste into the hot liquid with a wire whip. Bring to the simmer, stirring, and simmer for a minute or two. The sauce should be thick enough to coat a spoon lightly.

Make sure to combine the flour and butter thoroughly before adding it to the pan sauce.

10. Arrange the chicken in the casserole, place the mushrooms and onions around it and baste with the sauce. If this dish is not to be served immediately, film the top of the sauce with stock or dot with small pieces of butter. Set aside uncovered. It can now wait indefinitely.

Once I tasted the finished sauce, I thought it was a bit too salty, so I drizzled in 1/2 tablespoon of honey, and it was perfect. Next time, I will cut back on the salt.

11. Shortly before serving, bring to the simmer, basting the chicken with the sauce. Cover and simmer slowly for 4 to 5 minutes, until the chicken is hot enough.

If you make this in advance, reheat the dish over low heat (low power in the microwave). You don't want to overcook the chicken at this point; just warm it through.

12. Serve from the casserole, or arrange on a hot platter. Decorate with spring for parsley.

Oignons Glacés a Brun [Brown-braised Onions]

For 18 to 24 peeled white onions about 1 inch in diameter:
1 1/2 tablespoons butter
1 1/2 tablespoons oil
A 9- to 10-inch enameled skillet
1/2 cup of brown stock, canned beef bouillon, dry white wine, red wine or water
Salt and pepper to taste
A medium herb bouquet: 3 parsley springs, 1/2 bay leaf, and 1/4 teaspoon thyme tied in cheesecloth

When the butter and oil are bubbling the skillet, add the onions and saute over moderate heat for about 10 minutes, rolling the onions about so they will brown as evenly as possible. Be careful not to break their skins. You cannot expect to brown them uniformly.

Pour in the liquid, season to taste, and add the herb bouquet. Cover and simmer slowly for 40 to 50 minutes until the onions are perfectly tender but retain their shape, and the liquid has evaporated. Remove the herb bouquet. Serve them as they are.

I used the last of the onions from the garden, so some of them are on the large side. Make sure you leave the root end intact, so the onions stay together during the cooking process. If you don't have cheesecloth, just add the herbs whole and remove them later...won't hurt a bit :-).

Champignons Sautés Au Buerre [Sautéed Mushrooms]

A 10-inch enameled skillet
2 tablespoons butter
1 tablespoon oil
1/2 pound fresh mushrooms, washed, well dried, left whole if small, sliced or quartered if large
1 to 2 tablespoons minced shallots or green onions (optional)
Salt and pepper

Place the skillet over high heat with the butter and oil. As soon as you see the butter foam has begun to subside, indicating that it is hot enough, add the mushrooms. Toss and shake the pan for 4 to 5 minutes. During their sauté the mushrooms will at first absorb the fat. In 2 to 3 minutes the fat will reappear on their surface, and the mushrooms will begin to brown. As soon as they have browned lightly, remove from heat.

Toss the shallots or green onions with the mushrooms. Sauté over moderate heat for 2 minutes.

Sautéed mushrooms may be cooked in advance, set aside, then reheated when needed. Season to taste just before serving.

My best eater Rebecca had sworn off mushrooms, but I got her to try one of them tonight...she LOVED it! She promptly told Joshua, "Hey Josh, guess what? I LIKE mushrooms now!"

Traditionally, coq au vin is served with buttered noodles and peas, so I made some and served them with the chicken. Just peas with a pat of butter, salt and pepper, and egg noodles tossed with a pat of butter, and a sprinkling of parsley for color.

In case you're wondering, an entire stick of butter was used for this meal :-).

Man...this was really good. The chicken was so tender, and the flavor from the onions and mushrooms...heavenly! It was even better with the rest of the chianti I used to simmer the chicken...and I sure needed that glass of wine after being in the kitchen all afternoon!

I loved making this...even though my kitchen was a mess afterwards, and I was stressed because the kids were getting hungry. We ate at our normal time, but I think it's because they smelled it all afternoon. Next time, I will make the onions and mushrooms in advance (they can be made the day before), so all I'd have to do is make the chicken come dinner time.

Thank you Julia Child, and Deb, for an awesome recipe!

God Bless your table tonight!


Unknown said...

I was so grateful to have found this step-by-step guide with pictures! I made this for 10 people...almost tripled the recipe so everyone would have 2 pieces of chicken. Fortunately I have a 9-quart Le Creuset pot. I made it the night before and warmed it up slowly before serving. Everyone loved it!!!

Anna said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Anna said...

I made coq au vin last weekend but I failed at it. I had to use instant chicken stock and I knew it was a bad idea because the sauce turned out so very salty. What a shame. But I had a lot of fun cooking this. I never set fire to my dinner before ;) Thank you for this step by step guide, I will definitely try it again to get it right!