Thursday, November 18, 2010

Coq Au Vin

There is something intimidating about the name Coq Au Vin. It somewhat sounds complicated and in my mind  entails hours of braising and many ingredients to deal with.  But when I saw the word "quick" attached to it on this month's Bon Appetit I was encouraged to make it again.  I was so inspired by the recipe that it became a spur of the moment choice for dinner last night.  I did not follow the recipe exactly however as I have other ideas to add in mind.  Ideas adopted from Molly Steven's book All About Braising and also from Mark Bittman's "How to Cook Everything". It was I think one of the best dishes I have ever cooked -- even my 2 year old could not stop raving about it.  She can barely pronounce the word but kept saying "a-cious" (delicious)!  So there, I was praising myself for such a culinary achievement.

I am a big fan of anything braised myself, and this classic French dish of chicken braised in red wine is I realize quite simple & easy to make, yet its flavors are bold and sophisticated - fit to serve to a king.  
Traditionally this is made with an old and tough chicken and cooked a lot longer resulting in a darker and richer dish.  However it is difficult to find such a bird in America, which is fine with me since I am always pressed for time anyways (but if you do come across an old & tough bird, this I think will be the perfect dish to make it into).  I used 4 leg quarters instead of a cut-up whole chicken --  I find that the breast parts are usually avoided in my family as we prefer dark meat.  Besides, using legs and thighs would mean equal cooking time for each part (breasts cook faster).  For the wine, use a decent but not necessarily expensive light dry red wine, with some amount of fruit, such as a domestic Pinot Noir or syrah.  In my case, I used a bottle of  California Organic Pinot Noir which I bought from Trader Joes for $6.

While Burgundian cooks would normally serve this country dish with egg pasta noodles, I was more than happy with a serving of home made mashed potatoes to soak up the flavorful winey sauce.  I actually think mashed potatoes is the perfect pair for it.  Alternatively you can also use a crusty baguette to dip in the sauce. Yum!

Of course don't forget a glass wine - try Burgundies if you can get one, but Pinot Noir from California, Oregon or New Zealand are also good.

Coq Au Vin

5 bacon slices
4 chicken quarters (cut into 4 legs and 4 thighs)
3 tablespoons fresh Italian parsley (chopped, then divided)
10 ounces crimini mushrooms (sliced)
4 large shallots, peeled, quartered through root end
2 garlic cloves, pressed
1 tablespoon tomato paste
1 carrot, chopped
2 bay leaves
1 tablespoon fresh thyme (or 1 teaspoon dried)
2 cups dry red wine (such as Pinot Noir)
2 cups chicken broth, divided
4 teaspoons all purpose flour 
Sea Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Browning: Saute bacon in a large, deep heavy bottomed pan with a lid that will hold all the chicken (I used a dutch oven).  Cook over medium-high heat until brown and crisp.  Using a slotted spoon, transfer to bowl.  Sprinkle the chicken with salt & pepper and add to pan.  Sear the chicken on both sides until deep golden brown.  Work in batches to avoid crowding, this helps brown the chicken better. [You must cook it to golden brown.  The more golden it is, the more fond on the bottom of the pan thus adding more flavor to the sauce later on.]  Transfer the chicken to a platter.

The aromatics & braising liquid: Pour or spoon off any excess fat without discarding the tasty brown bits.  Leave only about 1-2 tablespoon fat.  Add carrots and shallots to the pan; sprinkle with salt and pepper.  Saute for 2 minutes then add mushrooms. Continue to saute, stirring once or twice until the vegetables begin to soften and are freckled with brown, about 3 minutes.  Add the tomato paste and stir to smear it through the vegetables. Add garlic; toss 10 seconds.  Add the wine and bring to a boil to deglaze, scraping the pot with a wooden spoon to dislodge the precious crust accumulated at the bottom.  Add 1 3/4 cups chicken broth, thyme, bay leaves, 2 tablespoons parsley and the bacon.  Bring to a boil.

Braising: Add the chicken pieces back to the pan.  Bring to a boil then adjust the heat so that it bubbles gently but steadily.  Cover and cook for about 40 minutes (alternatively you can put it in a 325° oven for 45 to 60 minutes) or until chicken is fork tender and cooked through.  Transfer and arrange the chicken on a platter and keep warm.

The finish:  Turn the heat to high and boil the braising liquid.  Reduce until it becomes fairly thick and saucy.  Meanwhile, mix the flour with the remaining 1/4 cup chicken broth, stirring until smooth.  Add flour mixture to sauce and cook until sauce thickens, 3 to 4 minutes.  Season sauce to taste with salt and pepper then spoon over chicken.  Garnish with remaining parsley and serve.

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