I fell in love with the French language before I turned 10. Then, I fell in love with French cooking. And how could you not fall in love with Julia Child’s Coq au Vin?
When Jerry and I were first married I excelled at eating, but cooking? Not so much. Then the movie Julie & Julia came out. I thought to myself if Julie can open a book, read it, follow directions, then by God, so can I.
So I picked up Mastering the Art o French Cooking and started reading.
How to Make Coq au vin
To make life easy on yourself, get all your ingredients together that you will need (mise en place). Use this as your shopping list:
- 2 large chicken breasts, cut in half
- 4 chicken thighs
- 4 – 6 slices of bacon
- butter or olive oil
- cognac (optional and a LONG match)
- 1 bottle of red wine (a light wine: pinot noir or Beaujolais nouveau)
- chicken stock
- tomato paste
- garlic (fresh please!)
- dried bay leaf
- more butter!
- parsley (fresh)
There are several ways to thicken a sauce. This recipe uses 2 ways: slowly simmering, thus making a red wine reduction sauce via evaporation and with a thickening agent: beurre manie.
Beurre manie is a chef’s secret weapon. It is simply a paste made of butter and flour in equal parts. When this paste is whisked into a sauce and allowed to boil, magic happens! It thickens the sauce.
- In a Dutch oven with low sides or an electric skillet, heat the bacon over medium heat until the bacon fat has completely rendered.
- Remove the bacon and add 2 tablespoons butter. While the butter is melting, dry the chicken pieces and lightly salt them.
- When the butter has melted, add the chicken. Cook it on both sides until lightly browned.
- Cover the chicken and let it cook for 10 minutes. Then remove the chicken and bacon to the side.
- Add 1/4 cup cognac (if using). If cooking with gas, turn off the flame, advert your eyes, light a match and light the liquor. Please sign the waver at the bottom of this post to relinquish me from any liability. Thank you. Shake the pan until the flames subside.
- Stir in 3 cups red wine (you should have 1 cup left to pour yourself a glass), 2 cups chicken stock, 2 mashed garlic cloves, 2 tablespoons tomato paste, 3 thyme sprigs, 4 sand 1 bay leaf.
- Add the chicken and bacon back in and let the chicken simmer for 30 minutes or 40 minutes uncovered.
- Arrange the chicken in a serving dish.
- Make a paste with 3 tablespoons flour and 3 tablespoons soft unsalted butter. Whisk this paste (beurre manie) into the red wine sauce. Whisking constantly, let the sauce come up to a boil then reduce to a simmer until the sauce has thickened enough to coat the back of a spoon.
- Strain the sauce over the chicken, garnish with chopped fresh parsley, and serve.
What exactly is a Classic Coq au Vin?
The first recipe I tackled was this very Coq au Vin recipe. I love it. Best of all… it’s not hard.
In a nutshell, Coq au vin is chicken in red wine. It’s a rustic chicken stew made in a red wine sauce with a handful of ingredients and that’s it!
How do you pronounce Coq au Vin?
Try this Coq au Vin recipe. When you put it on the table, pronounce it’s name with confidence: /Coke-O-va/ The “va” is like VAN, but without the N. I guess that’s the upside-down “e”?, but I don’t know how to do that on a keyboard.
Anyway, light some candles, pour some wine, and kiss your sweetheart… or clink glasses with your best friend… whatever. The point is: make it, eat it, and you’ll be hooked like I was. Coq au vin has deep flavors that come together slowly and simply.
What to serve with Coq au Vin?
Spoon a generous serving over rice or buttered noodles. I think it would be divine over red skin mashed potatoes too and pearl onions.
On the side we like buttered herb peas. These are very easy to make:
Melt 3 tablespoons butter in a small pot. When the butter is melted, add 1 bag of frozen peas, 1 teaspoon kosher salt, and 1 tablespoon dried Italian seasoning. Cover and let simmer until the peas are soft, about 15 minutes.
Another quick side that goes great with Coq au Vin is sautéed mushrooms. They’re earthy with dark tones that compliment this dish completely. The longest part about making this dish is cutting the mushrooms.
To make sautéed mushrooms wash and dry the mushrooms. Remove the stems and cut them in quarters. Heat a pan over high heat and add 1 tablespoon butter and 1 tablespoon vegetable oil.
After the butter melts, add the mushrooms and toss to coat them in the fat. Then add a 1/2 teaspoon of salt. Now for the tricky part…
Leave them alone!
I mean it. Don’t push them around. Don’t stir them. Let the pan do its job. Let them brown. You can check ONE in 3 minutes.
It will seem like an eternity, but I promise you, it’s not.
After the mushrooms have browned on one side (about 3 – 5 minutes), give them a toss and let them brown on the other side. Add a splash (2 tablespoons at most) of dry sherry.
They will release their juices. Let the liquid reduce (evaporate) until there’s only a little liquid left. Top with fresh herbs.
I love mushrooms. They’re very forgiving. It’s hard to over cook them; you can keep them in the warmer, and they freeze beautifully.
Have fun making Coq au Vin. When you’re making a dish that takes a bit of time and effort, make sides that are EASY and quick! If you’re looking for a wine to pair this with, try a light pinot nior.
P.S. If you’ve made this far down the post and are wondering… YES! My version of Coq au Vin will be in the upcoming cookbook due out later this year 2021. 😃
Coq au Vin
Inspired by the recipe in Julia Child's first cookbook: Mastering the Art of French Cooking, this is a classic provincial French dish. This recipe has been handed down from generation to generation. When an old cock was no longer useful in the hen house, he made his way to the dinner table. Wine was used to slowly cook the old bird, making the tough meat a delicate treat. Bon Appetite!
- 4 ounces bacon
- 2 tablespoons butter
- 1 3 pound chicken, cut up
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1/8 teaspoon pepper
- 1/4 cup cognac optional
- 3 cups red wine
- 2 cups chicken stock
- 2 tablespoon tomato paste
- 2 garlic cloves mashed
- 3 thyme sprigs
- 1 bay leaf
- 3 tablespoon flour
- 3 tablespoon butter
- 1/2 cup fresh parsley chopped
In a heavy skillet, heat the bacon until the fat is rendered (released), and add 2 tablespoons butter to the pan.
When the butter is melted, dry the chicken and lay it in the bacon fat and butter. Let the chicken brown on both sides.
Season the chicken with salt and pepper. Cover and let cook for 10 minutes, turning once.
Turn off the heat and add the cognac. Adverting your face, use a long match to light the cognac. Shake the skillet for several seconds until the flames subside.
Pour in the wine and stock. Add the tomato paste, thyme, garlic, and bay leaf. Cover and simmer slowly for 40 minutes or until the chicken is tender and the juices run clear when pricked with a fork. ** Remove the chicken to a side dish.
Blend together the softened butter and flour. Whisk this paste into the hot liquid. Bring to a boil then immediately reduce the heat to a simmer for 5 – 10 minutes. Stir occasionally.
(Fat removal: When the sauce is boiling, let the fat accumulate in the center and spoon it off to remove it. If you are making it ahead, simply remove the fat the next day after it has cooled and solidified.)
The sauce should be thick enough to coat the back of a spoon. Strain it over the chicken in a serving dish.
** This dish can be made a day ahead up to this point. Cover it and refrigerate it at this point. You can then pick it back up at this point about an hour before you are ready to serve it.