Coq au Vin

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You knew I would get around to the classic coq au vin (“cock” in wine). Of course, roosters are hard to come by now; if you can find some (like the ones pictured), braising is required to render the stringy meat tender. Because the dish is braised, you must use hen legs, instead of the breast (see my post “Cooked with Water”).

First, a little history on this dish: It is possible that the stewed chicken got its start in ancient times; there is a version of it in every region in France, using the wine, sometimes white, from a local terroir. And the reason you have heard of it is because Julia Child popularized it in the U.S.; she introduced it in her Mastering the Art of French Cooking, originally published in 1961.

Truc (Tip): This recipe is a little “deconstructed” for good reason. The bacon and mushrooms are prepared separately to prevent them from becoming mushy. Alternatively, you could fry the bacon very crunchy and sprinkle it and a few tablespoons of dried porcinis when you add the liquid.

Begin by seasoning some flour on a plate and dredging the skinless thigh and leg pieces before browning in unsalted butter. Remove the chicken, and saute a chopped onion, a few stalks of celery, and a carrot in the same pan on low heat until they start to soften. Deglaze the pan with some red wine, such as Bourgogne or Beaujolais. Scrape the brown bits into the liquid, and lay the hen legs on top. Add more red wine until the chicken is covered, a bay leaf, and a sprig of thyme, and bring to a simmer. Cover and place in a 300-degree oven for a few hours or until meat is fork tender.

Brown some lardons, or sliced slab bacon, in an iron skillet, and remove. Quarter some creminis and saute in the bacon fat. Season lightly and roast in the oven until brown and crispy.

To serve, set the chicken in a deep dish, and reduce the sauce until thickened. (You can also add a roux of equal parts of unsalted butter and flour—about a tablespoon—to the liquid and stir to thicken.) Taste and season. Pour the sauce over the chicken, and top with the mushrooms and bacon and chopped fresh parsley.

Bon appetit!

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