Grabbing the Gusto

Deirdre Reid – Freelance Writer & Home Cook

During a blustery cold afternoon last weekend, the idea of coq au vin popped into my head. Once I thought of it, there was no changing my mind. I found my recipe, made a list and immediately headed to the store.

Coq au vin takes some time to make because it involves a lot of chopping and cooking in stages. But, oh my, it’s so worth it. It will steam up your windows and make your house smell like a French bistro.

Once while making this years ago when I lived in Arlington VA, I intentionally left my apartment while it was on the stove simmering, went downstairs into the lobby, hung out a bit and then took the elevator back up to my floor. As the doors of the elevator opened, I stepped out to experience what I’d been waiting for. Oh, yes, that beautiful aroma is coming out of my kitchen. Yeah, I do things like that.

Grab some potatoes while you’re at the market because this is best with mashed potatoes. And of course you’ll need two bottles of good red wine, one for the pot and one for the cook.

I followed Cook’s Illustrated’s recipe with a few changes: added extra pearl onions, mushrooms and garlic; substituted butter substitute for part of the butter; and added carrots.

If you’ve never made coq au vin, give it a shot the next time you have a cold Saturday or Sunday. Although it requires a lot of pots and pans, it’s easy to make, and tastes even better the next day.

coq au vin chicken stew french recipe

Coq au Vin

You’ll need a large saucepan, Dutch oven or large heavy pot with lid, slotted spoon, paper towel-lined plate, ramekin, plate for the chicken, large bowl.

  • 1 bottle fruity, smooth, medium-bodied red wine (Pinot Noir or Rhône Valley Grenache is best, avoid oaked varietals – don’t go too cheap or the wine will be too “thin”)
  • 2 cups low-sodium chicken broth
  • 10 sprigs fresh parsley leaves
  • 2 tablespoons minced fresh parsley leaves, for garnish
  • 2 sprigs fresh thyme
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 4 ounces bacon, preferably thick-cut, cut crosswise into 1/4-inch pieces
  • 2-1/2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken thighs , trimmed of excess fat and cut in half or thirds crosswise (you could use bone-in thighs, adjust the cooking time)
  • Salt and ground black pepper
  • 5 tablespoons unsalted butter (I substituted margarine for 3 tablespoons of the butter, but used butter to finish the sauce)
  • 24 (or more) frozen pearl onions, thawed, drained, and patted dry
  • 8 ounces (or more) cremini mushrooms, halved if small and quartered if large
  • 2 large carrots, 1/2″ slices
  • 3-4 medium cloves garlic, minced (at least 2 teaspoons)
  • 1 tablespoon tomato paste
  • 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour

Reserve 1 tablespoon of the wine (you’ll need that at the finish) and pour the rest of the bottle into a large saucepan with the broth, parsley sprigs, thyme and bay. Bring to a simmer over medium-high heat. Cook until reduced to 3 cups, about 25 minutes. Discard herbs.

Meanwhile, cook bacon in large Dutch oven over medium heat until browned, 7 to 8 minutes. Using slotted spoon, transfer bacon to paper-towel-lined plate. Reserve 2 tablespoons fat in a ramekin; discard remaining fat (or use it all if you’re feeling reckless).

Lightly season chicken with salt and pepper. Heat 1 tablespoon reserved bacon fat in Dutch oven over medium-high heat until just smoking. Add half of chicken in single layer and cook until lightly browned, about 2 minutes per side. Transfer to plate and repeat with remaining chicken and 1 tablespoon bacon fat.

Melt 3 tablespoons butter (or butter substitute) in now-empty Dutch oven over medium-high heat. When foaming subsides, add pearl onions, mushrooms and carrots; cook, stirring occasionally, until lightly browned, 5 to 8 minutes. Reduce heat to medium, add garlic, and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add tomato paste and flour; cook, stirring frequently, until well combined, about 1 minute.

Add reduced wine mixture, scraping bottom of pot with wooden spoon to loosen browned bits; add 1/4 teaspoon pepper. Return chicken, any accumulated juices, and reserved bacon to pot; increase heat to high and bring to boil. Reduce heat to medium-low, cover pot, and simmer until chicken is tender, about 25 minutes, stirring halfway through cooking time.

Using slotted spoon, transfer chicken to large bowl; tent with foil to keep warm. Increase heat to medium-high and simmer sauce until thick and glossy and measures 3-1/4 cups, about 5 minutes. Off heat, stir in remaining 2 tablespoons butter and reserved 1 tablespoon wine. Season to taste with salt. Return chicken to pot and top with minced parsley.

Serve with egg noodles or mashed potatoes.

Original recipe: Cook’s Illustrated Coq Au Vin, November 2006 – not available online unless you’re a subscriber.

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