onions and mushroomsI was nervous about this one.

Coq au vin is one of the most delicious dishes ever, but often sort of a disappointment when i order it in the states. I think because it means something else in the U.S. — I haven’t figured it out. Once I got a grilled chicken breast with white wine cream sauce and cheese. So, while I love experimentation, this dish isn’t always consistent around these parts.

The thing I remember about this dish in France is the perfect mix of tastes and textures. It’s deep. Wine, cognac, herbs, spices, braised veggies. And the SAUCE. Smooth, burgundy-brown smooth sauce both scrumptious and a little tangy from the wine.

So my mission was to create an authentic tasting coq au vin. I remember hearing that a real coq au vin can make a $7 fryer taste like a million. So I bought a $7 fryer to start.

Guinea pigs: Mark and Ed. Love to eat and great company. Frankly, I was too worried about it being a flop to invite others.

I used Julia Child’s recipe, which was long, but reliable. It was exciting to flame the cognac poured over the just-browned chicken and sautéed lardons! Julia advised “averting the eyes” but I had to watch. It was beautiful. the flames danced over the chicken parts like ghosts.

coq au vinBasically the process went like this: The browned chicken/lardons/cognac is covered in red wine and simmered for 25 minutes. Meanwhile, Julia advised preparing the onions and mushrooms, which each have their own recipe. It took me way longer than 25 minutes to prepare them, so I took the chicken off heat. The pearl onions are braised in butter and oil, seasoned with a bouquet garni of a half bay leaf, fresh parsley and thyme.

Note to self: Always have cheesecloth on hand. French cooking often involves these little seasoning pouches called bouquets garni. They are fun to make and infuse your sauces and braises without any mess. Just tie them to the pan/pot handle so you can easily fish it out.

The mushrooms are quartered and sautéed in butter, oil with shallots.

Final coq au vin and potatoesThen I removed the chicken — bright purple at this point — to another plate and boiled the hell out of the wine mixture, reducing by half. A tiny bit of tomato paste, two cloves of mashed garlic, , thyme and a bay leaf were added. Little salt and pepper, too. And once the reduction was complete, I thickened the sauce with beurre manié. Which was fun. It’s like a backward roux. You mash three tablespoons of flour with two of butter into a thick paste and whisk it into the wine reduction.

And that’s kind of how it worked. I put the chicken in a new casserole, added the sauce and the onions and mushrooms, which had their own flavors (unlike stews where everything goes into the same pot) and plated the chicken with Mme E. Saint-Ange’s adapted potatoes Lyonnaises.

After the potatoes are boiled in their jackets, they are supposed to be peeled and sliced before sauteéing in butter and oil with onions (which make them “Lyonais”, according to Saint-Ange). But I found the little golden potatoes looked so great as they were.  So they were sautéed jacketed. And tasted great.

I served with baguette, salad dressed in vinaigrette. Next time I make this recipe, I’ll prepare the mushrooms and onions ahead of time. It would be great to get it down to two hours — it is super good.
Mark and Ed