Coq au Vin
I’ve been meaning to make a coq au vin for a while now. It’s a rustic French classic that is hard to beat as a crowd pleaser; a perfect marriage of ingredients that seem destined to accompany one another. Who could fail to adore this? Although these days it’s usually made with chicken (as I did), a traditional coq au vin is made with a mature cockerel. The meat from such a bird will be dark and rich in flavour compared to a young hen, but correspondingly tough as a result, meaning that it needs to be braised gently for a long time to make it tender. So I was looking forward to some tasty chicken slowly cooked in red wine… and to complete this classic dish, simply add small button mushrooms, baby pearl onions and some chunky dice of pancetta. Mmmm.
The sauce in this dish is the star of the show. By using a mature flavoursome bird, and marinating the meat for at least a day before cooking, a fantastically rich sauce is guaranteed. After reducing and thickening it’ll be glossy, unctuous and a deep intense colour. In traditional recipes the sauce is thickened with the fresh blood of the cockerel, reserved when killing the bird, but most cooks today will settle for a little beurre manié as a perfectly reasonable substitute! Most of the recipes for coq au vin that I looked up used the whole chicken, jointed and cooked altogether in the pot. This method is flawed, as the breasts will be overcooked by the time the legs are done; I took a different approach and jointed the chicken but used just the legs, removing the breast meat and setting it aside for another occasion. The stronger tasting meat of the legs is much better suited to a rustic stew such as this, I reckon.