Coq au vin

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
3 shallots
1 carrot
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.

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13 Responses to Coq au vin

  1. I love your take on the French classic Coq au vin mostly because you combine many flavorful ingredients together in the stewing/braising process of the bird. (I especially like your use of three members of the onion family which blend well with the sweetness of the carrots and the acidity of the wine).
    I also like your “optional” step which gives instructions on how to create a roux to thicken the stew. (I like to create a sauce that is creamy in consistency, and not too thin, so that it can be spooned on the accompanying roasted potatoes).

    Lastly, hats off for your cooking integrity: Don’t cook with alcohol that you wouldn’t drink yourself. A cardinal rule in French kitchens!

  2. Lynn says:

    Just made this tonight and it was a big success. I also cannot find spring onions locally unless I grow them myself in the summer ( by the way they are very easy to grow). I must confess to using a lot more garlic and I also added mushrooms which I love.

    This is a lot easier than other recipes I’ve used and turned out really well.

  3. Anne says:

    This recipe is going to be the star of the show at a 70th (aargh) birthday lunch next Sunday x

  4. Roger Godsmark says:

    Looks to be a great recipe but can anyone help me out here please.
    The recipe (French?) calls for green onions which are what we English call Spring Onions.
    I have lived in France for 8 years and have never been able to find these here. Does the original French recipe give a name for green/spring onions?

    • Meg says:

      Roger, you are absolutely right. I should have called them spring onions, which would have been a direct translation of ‘oignons de printemps.’ These onions are everywhere in Paris and, I suspect, throughout the rest of France as well. They have long green stems, but — in contrast to the green/spring onions you find in England or the States — they have a big white bulb at the bottom. There are many images of oignons de printemps on Google. Take a look — I’m sure you’ll recognize them. If these onions aren’t available in your region, any small onions will do.

      • Roger Godsmark says:

        Thank you Meg.
        Oignons de printemps is the obvious translation and these are indeed available local to me but I find little resemblance to the varieties that I was used to in the UK. They won’t slice into strips and taste quite different. However, if they are suitable for your recipe, I will give it a try myself. Naturally, living in France, I have had coq au vin before but your recipe sounds much more tasty and I’m looking forward to making your version.
        p.s. Found your site via SFN and will be trying other meals. Looks good – many thanks again.

  5. martin walker says:

    I use a very similar recipe but I tried using scotch whisky instead of my usual armagnac and failed to detect any difference in the taste. But which wine one uses makes all the difference; I find a hearty Languedoc gives very good results, and so does an Australian syrah..

    • Meg says:

      Thanks for the tips. Whisky instead of cognac/armagnac/marc? Sounds crazy but it just might work. As for the kind of wine to choose, another reader wrote to me privately to say that his wife was insisting on using a Chateau Lafite Rothschild for this recipe. I think (hope) he was joking. The best plan, as you suggest, is to use a good hearty red that you wouldn’t mind drinking at the table.

  6. Mlle Taupe says:

    This version of C. au V. seems beautiful. The bacon and green onions at the end look like exactly the desired zing. It’s such a pleasure to read your recipes, like reading an account of some interesting event — details of an good baseball game, or concert.

    • Meg says:

      Thank you, Miss Taupe! I have to say this is the first time one of my recipe’s has been compared to baseball. You’re making me feel like I’ve hit a home run!

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