Saturday, October 29, 2011

Coq au Vin

Welcome fall!  Red leaves, grey skies, pumpkins and cold weather.  All these things put me in the mood for french food.  Not Haute cuisine french food either, but real flavorful country french food like Coq au Vin (which means rooster in wine).  This dish will scent the entire house with an incredible aroma of bacon and chicken and wine.
Coq au Vin is traditionally made with a whole cut-up chicken slowly cooked in red wine.  This is my version.  I actually prefer chicken breasts and a sweet white wine for this dish.  Chicken breasts are meaty and juicy and the white wine enhances the flavor of the carrots.  YUM.  This dish doesn't require any special techniques, or special equipment.  The key is patience.  Make sure to slowly render all the fat from the bacon, and then slowly brown the chicken pieces until they are a deep golden brown... this coaxes the maximum flavor from the simple ingredients.
Please do make sure to use bone-in skin-on chicken pieces, the difference in flavor is remarkable.  I like to serve this with a nutty wild or brown rice (or combination of the two) cooked in chicken stock, and a crispy french baguette for sopping up all the delicious wine sauce.  Food doesn't get much better than this!

Bon Appetit!

Coq au Vin
(serves 6)

6 slices of bacon, cut into 1 -inch pieces
1/2 stick butter
6 large chicken breasts, rinsed, and patted dry
salt and pepper
3 cups baby carrots
1 lb. button mushrooms, quartered
3 large shallots, chopped
1 tsp dried thyme
1/4 cup all purpose flour
3 cups white wine (I like Riesling for its sweetness)
salt and pepper
3 bay leaves

In a large deep heavy skillet with a lid, cook the bacon over medium heat, tossing occasionally until bacon is browned and fat is completely rendered, about 20 minutes.  Remove bacon from pan and reserve.

Add butter to hot bacon fat and increase heat to medium high.  Place seasoned chicken breasts, 3 at a time, into hot pan, skin side down, and cook until well-browned (15-20 minutes).  Remove chicken from pan and brown remaining chicken.

Brown the chicken very well in bacon fat and butter

After chicken is browned and removed from pan, add baby carrots.  Cook carrots over medium high heat for 15 minutes until they begin to brown.  Add shallots and mushrooms.   Cook for 10-15 minutes, scraping browned bits from the bottom of the pan as the vegetables begin to sweat.   The mushrooms will initially soak up most of the fat and then as they become fully cooked they will once again release the fat.  When the mushrooms release the fat, add thyme and stir.  Add flour and toss to coat.  Add the wine and stir to make a gravy.  Season the sauce with salt and pepper.   Add bay leaves.

Return the bacon to the sauce, and then nestle the chicken back in the skillet.  Bring just to a boil, then reduce heat to medium low, cover with a lid and cook for one hour to completely poach the chicken in the sauce.

Serve chicken hot with rice and french bread.

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