Chicken stewed in red wine
Fine peasant fare, coq au vin is traditionally made with a rooster. If finding one proves challenging, use a large, top-quality organic or free-range chicken.
Which wine should you choose for stewing the bird? My Burgundy cookbook suggests Gevrey-Chambertin for a true Burgundy-style coq au vin. For most of us, given the price of good burgundy these days, that’s a bit over the top. Any good hearty red will do, providing it’s drinkable. Do not use a wine you wouldn’t be happy consuming at the table.
As for flaming the bird, cooks in Burgundy would use marc de bourgogne, a spirit akin to grappa. As marc is not widely available elsewhere, the best substitute is cognac.
1 rooster or chicken, at least 6 pounds (2.7 kilos)
2 tbsp. plus 2 tsp. olive oil
2 tbsp. cognac, brandy or marc de bourgogne
1 bottle of burgundy or another hearty red wine
3 garlic cloves, crushed
1 bay leaf
2 sprigs of thyme or 1/2 tsp. dried thyme
2-4 cups homemade chicken broth
1/2 tsp. salt
freshly ground black pepper
1 bunch green onions
1/4 pound (110 g) bacon in thick strips
2 tbsp. (30 g.) unsalted butter (optional)
2 tbsp. flour (optional)
Have the bird cut into pieces by the merchant if possible. If not, chop it up using a very sharp cleaver. A large chicken should make 10-12 pieces, a rooster about 16 pieces.
Chop the shallots finely and slice the carrots into thin rounds.
Heat 2 tbsp. of the oil to sizzling in a large stewing pot. Turn down the heat to medium-high and fry the poultry pieces in batches until golden brown, removing them afterwards to a bowl. Take your time with this – the browning process seals in the flavor.
While the poultry is browning, heat 1 tsp. olive oil in a separate pot. Sauté the shallots for about a minute, until they start to wilt, then add the carrots. Cook 2 minutes more and remove from heat.
When all the poultry pieces are browned, return them to the stewing pot. Turn off the heat, light a match, add the cognac and set it alight. This is rather dramatic but don’t worry – the flames will go out within a minute.
Now add the shallots and carrots to the stew pot. Pour in the wine and place over medium heat. Add enough broth to cover the bird. Crush the garlic cloves into the pot. Add the bay leaf. Strip the thyme leaves from the sprigs into the pot, or add the dried thyme.
Bring to a simmer. Season with salt and pepper. Turn the heat down to low and cook until the bird is tender. You should count on about an hour for a large chicken, and 2 hours for a rooster. Test by inserting a fork. If it goes in easily, the bird is done.
Remove from heat and allow to cool for at least 15 minutes. The fat will rise to the top. Skim off as much as possible.
Trim the green onions to keep just 1/2 inch (1 cm) of the green. Remove the rind from the bacon if necessary and cut crosswise into strips 1/4 inch wide. Fry the green onions and bacon together in 1 tsp. olive oil over medium heat until just tender.
This next step is optional: It will thicken the sauce and provide a richer taste, although I find the unthickened sauce is also delicious. Using a fork, mix the butter and flour together on a small plate. Transfer the mixture to a small pot, ladle in about 1 cup of wine sauce from the stew pot and place over medium heat. Stir until the sauce thickens, about 2 minutes. Pour this mixture back into the stew pot and stir well.
Gently reheat the poultry. When simmering, add the green onions and bacon. Cook 5 minutes more. Transfer to a serving dish. Serve with a vegetable purée – of potato, celeriac or cabbage, for example – and a hearty red wine. Serves 8-12.
Many coq au vin recipes include mushrooms. If you would like to add them, clean and slice 1/2 pound (200 g.) mushrooms and sauté in butter or olive oil until golden brown. Add the mushrooms to the stew pot when you add the green onions and bacon.