A change of workplace, an autumn cold snap, and suddenly slow-cooked casseroles start to look really, really good. Coq au vin is one such dish, especially if you have a tough old bird that would benefit from hours of slow simmering.
And even if you don’t have a rooster (the cockerel part of coq au vin), chicken thighs make a good base, as does a whole chicken chopped into pieces that fit your pot. I’m sure a rooster is tastier, but really, when did you last see a rooster for sale at your local supermarket?
There are a few recipes out there for chicken and red wine, which is what coq au vin has become known as in many English-speaking circles, but they add things that would make the dish taste like any other slow-cooked casserole out there. There’s a bit of technique, and a special combination of ingredients, that makes this dish stand out. France This Way has some more suggestions about how to make this dish really work well.
We’ve adapted it, as does everyone, to cope with the ingredients and the equipment we have. It’s ideal for a Fiesta Friday crowd: so what do you think Angie and, of course co-hosts (Caroline @Caroline’s Cooking and Jess @Cooking Is My Sport) and everyone else?
Coq au vin (sort of)
- 1 tablespoon each of olive oil and butter
- 2 onions
- 2 carrots
- 3 or 4 rashers of bacon
- about 1 to 1.5 kilograms of chicken pieces
- 3 or 4 large mushrooms
- 1 cup of red wine
- ½ cup of chicken stock
- a splash of brandy (or whisky if there’s nothing else)
- ½ cup of chicken stock + some water (see notes)
- 1 dessert spoon of ground tomato (optional)
- Chop the onions, carrot, bacon, and garlic
- In a frying pan, heat the butter and oil until it just starts to foam, then add the onion and carrot and saute them until they just start to change colour. Add the bacon and fry until it browns. Then stir in the garlic for a few minutes, until it starts to soften.
- Remove the vegetables and bacon from the pan, leaving the fats behind in the pan. Use these for the next step: to brown the chicken pieces. (You need to not turn them constantly for this: just let them cook for 4 or 5 minutes on one side, turn them over and do the same on the other – both sides will be browned.) Do this in batches if you need to because of the size of your pan.
- Here’s where we deviate from the script: you’re supposed to pour in your brandy, set it alight, and watch while the flames burn off the alcohol (turn off any extractor fan first, of course). We just either leave the brandy out, or add a capfull of whatever spirit we have on hand. We’re not big drinkers, so we often skip this stage.
- Since our thyme springs are more like twigs (thanks to a wild and woody thyme bush), we fill the cooking pot in this order: thyme twigs, chicken, onion and bacon mixture. Season with salt and pepper to taste, pour over the wine, chicken stock, and bring the lot to a simmer.
- Oven instructions: cook in a slow oven for a few hours (2 or more hours for a large bird)
- Crock pot instructions: set the dial on low, and let it go all day
- Thermal cooker instructions: let it simmer for about 20 minutes, then transfer it into the insulated thermal part of the cooker.
- It’s cooked when the meat on the legs separates easily from the bone.
- While you’re waiting, chop the mushrooms and bring them to the boil in a saucepan with butter and ½ a glass of wine. Simmer until the mushrooms are well done.
- Take the chicken off the heat/out of the oven, and pour most of the liquid into a saucepan. Bring this to a rapid boil and add the liquid from the cooked mushrooms. Keep boiling it until there’s only a third of it left. If you think you still need to thicken it, add some ground tomato (you could use cornflour, but, well, why?)
- Pour this over the chicken, stir in the mushrooms, and bring the dish back up to temperature.
- Serve with mashed potato and steamed green beans.
Chicken stock: we make our own by boiling down the carcass every time we have baked chook. The resulting stock sets like jelly (that’s because of the gelatin, of course), and so it’s pretty concentrated; it’s more like gelatinous stock cubes than liquid stock. If you buy stock, just add a cup of stock and don’t bother with extra water like we do.