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Coq au Vin allows you to take a culinary excursion to the heart of French cuisine without leaving your kitchen. The use of chicken thighs instead of a mix of cuts streamlines the cooking process, while opting for shallots instead of the often elusive pearl onions makes for a more convenient but still authentic flavor experience.
Expect a diverse array of taste sensations from the mingling of red wine, bacon, and aromatic herbs with succulent chicken thighs. Button mushrooms and shallots add earthy dimensions while thyme offers a subtle herbal note. Imagine the intoxicating aroma filling your home as it cooks — this is comfort food with an elegant touch.
Ingredients You Need to Make Coq au Vin
- Skin-on, Bone-in Chicken Thighs: Choose high-quality, free-range chicken for the best flavor.
- Thick Cut Bacon: Opt for bacon that has a good balance of meat and fat.
- Shallots or Peeled Pearl Onions: Shallots are easier to find, but pearl onions offer a traditional touch.
- Yellow Onion: Look for a firm onion with tight, unblemished skin.
- Garlic: Go for garlic bulbs that are plump and have tight, unbroken skin.
- Button Mushrooms: Select firm, plump mushrooms with a smooth appearance.
- Dried Thyme: Check for a strong aroma and vibrant color; a faded smell or appearance suggests it's time to replace it.
- Dry Red Wine: Ideally, use a red Burgundy wine for authenticity and richness.
- Chicken Broth: Choose a low-sodium chicken stock if you want tighter control of the salt level in your dish.
- Butter: For a richer dish, opt for high-fat European-style butter - salted or unsalted butter will work here.
- Fresh Thyme: Look for sprigs with vibrant, green leaves, avoiding any that are yellow or brown.
- Fresh Parsley: Choose flat leaf parsley that has vibrant green leaves and stems, with no signs of wilting or discoloration. (Optional garnish not pictured above.)
- Kosher Salt and Freshly Ground Black Pepper
For a deeper appreciation of this recipe, let's take a quick stroll through its storied past. Understanding its origins and the influence of culinary legends like Julia Child enriches the cooking process and may even spark some engaging dinner conversation.
The Timeless Heritage of Coq au Vin
Coq au Vin has roots that extend deep into French culinary history, tracing back to ancient Gallic times. While the exact origins are debated, it's widely accepted that this dish was a way to slow-cook tough roosters in wine and herbs to tenderize the meat. Today, it stands as an enduring symbol of French countryside cooking, a main course that showcases simple ingredients brought to life through skillful technique and time-honored traditions. From its traditional French roots, this iconic dish took on new life in America, largely thanks to the efforts of one remarkable chef.
Julia Child's Coq au Vin Legacy
Julia Child is widely credited with popularizing French cuisine in America, and one of the recipes that gained attention through her efforts is Coq au Vin. Child featured this French classic on her television show "The French Chef," as well as in her seminal cookbook, "Mastering the Art of French Cooking."
Her approachable style and detailed instructions made a once-intimidating culinary creation accessible to home cooks, transforming it into a staple of American dinner parties and special occasions. By demystifying the techniques involved and emphasizing the importance of quality ingredients, Julia Child helped elevate the status of Coq au Vin from a rustic, French country meal to an international classic that could be enjoyed in any home kitchen.
- Season Your Chicken Well: Always season the chicken thighs with salt and pepper before cooking. This step enhances the overall flavor of the meat.
- Cook the Bacon Properly: Make sure to cook the bacon until crisp. This step not only gives you delicious bites of bacon, but provides rendered fat for cooking the chicken.
- Use a Dutch Oven: If available, use a Dutch oven for this recipe. Its thick walls and tight-fitting lid are perfect for slow-cooked main courses like Coq au Vin.
- Fresh Herbs for Garnish: Use fresh thyme sprigs and parsley not just for garnish but to add another layer of aroma and taste to your dish.
Mistakes to Avoid
- Overcrowding the Pan: Cooking too many chicken thighs at once prevents proper browning. If needed, brown the thighs in batches for optimal texture.
- Rushing the Sauce: The sauce needs time to reduce, concentrate, and develop a velvety, rich consistency. Cutting this short will result in a thin, less flavorful sauce.
- Using Low-Quality Wine: The wine is a significant component of this recipe. Opting for a wine you wouldn't enjoy a glass of can bring down the overall taste profile.
More Must-Try French Recipes
How to Make Coq au Vin
Start by drying the chicken thighs and seasoning them with salt and pepper, then set them aside. In a large Dutch oven over medium heat, cook the bacon until it's crispy. Remove the bacon, but leave the rendered fat in the pot. Brown the chicken thighs in the bacon fat for approximately 8 minutes before setting them aside on a platter.
In the same pot, sauté the shallots, onion, and garlic until they become translucent. Add mushrooms and thyme, and continue to cook for another 5 minutes. Pour in the red wine and chicken broth, bringing the mixture to a boil. Add back the browned chicken thighs and cooked bacon, reduce the heat, and allow the dish to simmer, covered, for about 30 minutes. Then remove the chicken and place it on a platter.
Finally, increase the heat to medium-high to bring the sauce to a boil and let it thicken for roughly 10 minutes. Stir in the butter and adjust seasoning as necessary. Return the chicken to the pot to heat it through, spooning some of the sauce over the top for added flavor. Optionally, garnish with fresh thyme sprigs and parsley before serving.
Coq au Vin
- kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 8 bone-in, skin-on chicken thighs 3 to 3-½ pounds
- 4 strips thick cut bacon thinly sliced crosswise into lardons
- 8 ounces shallots diced large (½-inch), or peeled pearl onions
- 1 large yellow onion finely chopped
- 3 large garlic cloves thinly sliced
- 8 ounces button mushrooms thinly sliced
- 1 teaspoon dried thyme leaves or 2 teaspoons fresh thyme leaves
- 1 cup dry red wine ideally red Burgundy wine
- 1 cup chicken broth
- 2 tablespoons butter
- fresh thyme sprigs for garnish, optional
- finely chopped fresh parsley for garnish, optional
- Pat chicken thighs dry on all sides and season with salt and pepper; set aside.
- In a large Dutch oven or other heavy-bottomed pot (I use a 3.5 quart braiser) over medium heat, cook bacon lardons until crisp. Transfer lardons to paper towel lined plate with slotted spoon, leaving rendered fat in the pan.
- Place a single layer of chicken thighs, skin-side down into hot bacon fat. Cook until skin browns; turn to brown other side (a total of about 8 minutes). Transfer to platter and repeat with remaining chicken thighs.
- Add shallots, onion, and garlic to pot; cook and stir until onion softens and is translucent, about 5 minutes. Add mushrooms and dried thyme; cook and stir 5 minutes more. Stir in red wine and broth; bring to boil. Add chicken skin-side up and any accumulated juices along with bacon lardons to pot; reduce heat to medium-low. Cover and simmer 30 minutes. Transfer chicken to platter.
- Increase to medium-high heat and bring sauce to boil; cook until sauce thickens, 8 to 10 minutes more. Stir in butter and season to taste with salt and pepper. Reduce heat and return chicken to pot; simmer until heated through, spooning some of the sauce over the top. Serve directly from pot or arrange on a deep platter. Garnish with fresh thyme sprigs and parsley if desired.
- Note that this make 4 generous servings. If you're serving vegetables and mashed potatoes, pasta or other filling sides, it would easily serve 6.