Sunday, December 2, 2012

Recipe of the Month: Coq au vin

Christmas is a festive time. And you don’t always have to eat turkey, especially if you just had it at Thanksgiving. There are other poultry dishes that are equally delicious. For instance, the humble chicken - and even the stewing kind that you have to cook a long time - can become a delicious feast.
     Once upon a time, I was enamored of a French aeronautics engineering student. And he was making "come away with me to the Casbah" noises. His particular Casbah was in the mountainous département of Corrèze in the center of France. He was homesick. And I knew how to "cook French". So he asked his mother for her recipe for coq au vin, cock in wine sauce (and please, no sniggering). Actually, the recipe came from a restaurant his family went to often. The chef gave it to her, but asked that I be sworn to secrecy, promising never to divulge the recipe.
     As that was almost half a century ago and the chef probably doesn’t have the restaurant any more (or may even have shuffled off her mortal coil), I feel free to print it here. But if you ever go to Corrèze, please don’t tell anyone where you got it.
     Most coq au vin recipes I’ve seen, including Julia Child’s, list fresh sautéed mushrooms, braised pearl onions and diced thick-cut browned bacon among the ingredients. You can do that if you like, cooking them separately from the chicken and adding them in at the end, when you’re ready to serve it up. But I’m giving the recipe as the restaurant owner passed it on to me.

(P.S. I did go away with him to the Casbah, or rather sail one month later on a different crossing of the oceanliner Le France, but he’d already reconverted his life to French ways and no longer had a yen for Things American. After a suitable mourning period, I got on with my life. I hope he got on with his. At least I got a great recipe out of it.)

  • one stewing chicken (or alternatively, a roaster), cut up into pieces
  • 2 T butter
  • 1 T peanut oil
  • 2 carrots, diced
  • 2 medium onions, diced
  • 3 T flour
  • 1 bottle (75 cl) of good red wine, preferably full-bodied
  • 75 cl of brown stock, preferably veal
  • salt and freshly-ground pepper to taste
  • pinch of nutmeg
  • 1 large sprig of fresh thyme (or 1/4 t dried)
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 3 cloves
  • 3-4 garlic cloves, crushed
  • ½ c of port wine
  • 1/4 cup of blood (or cornstarch as needed to thicken)
  • 1 T crème fraîche (or sour cream) (optional)
  • 1 slice of foie gras (optional)

- In a Dutch oven or other heavy pot, melt the butter with the oil added in to keep the butter from turning dark. Salt and pepper the chicken pieces and then sauté them until they’re golden brown on all sides. Set them aside on a platter.
- In the same butter-and-oil, add the carrots and onions. Cook until the onions are golden, then add the flour, stir and cook for 5 minutes. Pour in the wine and the brown stock. Bring to a boil as you whisk. Add the nutmeg, as well as more salt and pepper, to taste.
- Put the chicken pieces back in the pot, along with the thyme, bay leaf, cloves and garlic. Add in the port. Simmer 40-60 min, or until the chicken is tender. Cooking time will vary with the age of the chicken.
- Remove the chicken and keep it warm in the serving bowl. Strain the sauce through a fine sieve, pressing the vegetables to extract all their juices. Put the sauce back on the burner and add the blood (or cornstarch), whisking energetically. (If you’re using cornstarch, first dilute 1 T in 2 T warm water to avoid lumps.) Bring the sauce back to a boil.
- Remove from the burner and whisk in the crème fraîche. Then add the foie gras cut into small pieces and whisk until totally dissolved.
- Pour the sauce over the chicken, decorate with parsley and serve immediately.
Serve with something (s)mashed/pureed: potatoes, chesnuts, celeryroot, carrots, any/all of the above. Accompany with a young, full-bodied burgundy, beaujolais or côtes du rhône.

N.B. I know there’s some discussion about foie gras, so if you’re violently opposed to it, you can leave it out. But it does add another rich layer of taste to this dish.
And obviously, unless you live out in the country near a pig or cattle farm, you won’t be getting fresh pig’s or calf’s blood. Even in Paris, that might be a problem. As blood doesn’t come packaged industrially, just leave it out. What it does is to thicken the sauce. So you can either reduce the sauce or add just a bit of cornstarch. It needs to end up thick enough to coat the back of a spoon lightly.

1 comment:

  1. Thank for an edifying and enchanting read. A toast to you, madam!