Cooking inspiration comes in all shapes and sizes. Sometimes a stroll through a verdant farmers market on a warm spring day sets the gears of creativity in motion. Other times, it’s a six pound bag of Costco chicken, a half-full bottle of Côtes du Rhône, and some odds-and-ends lurking in the dark recesses of my fridge. A rummage through the deli drawer revealed a loosely wrapped package containing the remains of slab of pancetta, and the vegetable drawer coughed up some button mushrooms that had seen better days. It didn’t take an English -> French dictionary to figure out I had the makings for Coq au Vin.
Yes, technically the Coq in Coq au Vin means “rooster”, but the last time I checked, my local grocer wasn’t in the business of selling tough old cocks. If you want to be a purist though, by all means, go bag yourself a rooster. The tough connective tissue breaks down while cooking, and the well-exercised meat is definitely more flavorful than a chicken that’s spent it’s whole life cooped up.
The other half of the name, au Vin, literally means “in wine” and I honestly can’t think of a better marriage of ingredients, especially with a little bacon, onions and mushrooms thrown into the mix!
Despite vast regional difference in ingredients I more or less stuck to a “classic” coq au vin, but I introduced some different techniques and my own sequence to try and maximize the flavour and minimize the work. I used the bacon as the fat to fry the chicken and mirepoix in, all of which create a very thick layer of delicious brown fond at the bottom of the pan. The cognac deglazes the pan and adds it’s own smokey flavour and then the chicken braises in a 50/50 mixture of wine and stock. When the chicken is done, mushrooms and sweet cipollini onions are added along with a roux (made with the bacon/chicken fat) to finish the sauce. If you feel like being adventurous, adding dark chocolate at the end takes the resulting Choc au Vin to another level.
This yields fall-off-the-bone tender chicken, with perfectly cooked mushrooms and onions smothered in a rich sauce with depth that you just wouldn’t expect in a chicken dish. I love having coq au vin over a bed of creamy mashed yukon gold potatoes, but it’s just as good served as a stew with a crusty baguette.
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