Sorry this is so long, but we wrote down everything. Let me know if anything was left out. LOL
Coq au Vin Recipe
I always plan on cooking this the day before I plan to serve it. Like Texas Chilli, this dish is good on the day it is cooked, but it is really, really good the next day. Don’t worry about cooking too much. It freezes really well and you can also can it.
First, lets talk about the bird. A nasty, old, past his prime rooster is best, but if you don’t have one of those, then a couple of old hens who have outlived their laying prime will also do. Confine the chickens the night before slaughter, so that you don’t have to chase them down. This just stresses them out and does not improve the quality of the meat.
Pluck and dress the bird, The longer a bird has been dead, the harder they are to pluck. I don’t bother to scald before plucking if I am only dealing with a couple of birds. Just don’t try to remove too many feathers at a time. Then you have to remove the feet. With a fryer, you would just chop them off, right? Well, you are not dealing with a fryer. Old, tough birds have old tough tendons in their legs. These are a lot like very thick nylon fishing line and the longer you cook them, the more like thick nylon fishing line they taste. You will have to break the leg bones. Sever the skin around the legs, being careful not to sever the tendons. Then you suspend the bird by its feet and pull until the feet come off taking the tendons with them. I only weigh about a hundred pounds and I once did a Tarzan imitation with a rooster for about an hour and those darned legs would not separate. I now employ two of my sons. One grabs the chicken and the other grabs the feet and they play tug-o-war until something gives. The feet make good toys for little boys. Pull on the tendons and the feet open and close. Great for chasing younger sisters. Don’t do this with your grandsons if their other grandmother is around. She is going to scream about salmonella and things will get messy.
Chickens have a gland in their tail that has something to do with preening. I always remove the tail so I am sure that I have gotten rid of the gland.
Sharpen your knives. No kidding, folks. This is not a fryer.
Split the chicken/s into drumsticks, thighs, wings (minus the third section.) and breasts, removing as much fat as possible. Leave the skin alone. Place in the fridge for two or three days.
If you want to be really old time French you would pluck the chicken and then hang it by the feet for two or three days with the innards and head and feet in place, but I think that’s really gross.
Save the carcass and any other things you want to use, like the neck, the wing tips and the gizzard for your stock. The French also use the head (eyes removed) and the feet. Again I say, “Gross!“ Give the liver to your dog. You don’t want liver flavoured stock.
Clean up the mess and relax. You’ve done enough for one day.
Second day. Make the stock. Brown the carcass/es and other bits in the oven for about 30 or 45 mins at 400. You want it golden brown, Not too dark. Put the browned junk in a soup pot or something, (I use my crock pot/slow cooker) Add a largish carrot, three or four outer stalks of celery and a medium sized yellow onion. Don’t bother to chop these. Just break them to fit the pan. This is a mirepoix. Then you add a couple of bay leaves, about six whole pepper corns and a sprig or two of thyme. Cover with hot water, and let it simmer really gently for 6 to 8 hours, adding hot water if you have to and skimming the foam off as it forms. Strain out the solids and place the stock in the fridge for the night. The fat will rise to the top and form a nice Frisbee. Discard this. If you simmered it long enough, the stock should form a jelly. That’s the gelatine from the bones. Yum, Yum.
You can use a store bought stock if you want to, (it won’t be as good as homemade) but make sure you get a salt free one.
One 7-8 pound rooster or two 3 and one half to 4 pound stewing hens, cut in serving pieces.
Enough all purpose flour to coat the chicken.
One half cup brandy..(Don’t buy a whole bottle of brandy. Go to your friendly liquor store. They will have those little airline bottles. One of those will be just fine Don‘t skip the brandy though.)
12 ounces pancetta or unsmoked bacon in the piece ( you can substitute regular bacon or even lean salt pork)
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 bottle red wine ( I use a decent pinot noir. Heartier wines will over power the other flavours. They will also give the chicken a rich purple colour. Stick to pinot noir. Don’t use cooking wine. That is just inferior wine that has had a lot of salt added. It was invented by the Victorians to keep the cook from getting drunk)
Don’t break the bank when you buy wine. If you enjoy the taste of the stuff it is a great wine. If you don’t enjoy it that makes it an inferior wine. That, basically, is all you need to know about wine.
One bouquet garni. (thyme, bay, parsley wrapped together)
20 to 30 pearl onions, peeled, or a couple of packets of frozen pearl onions or 3 or 4 medium yellow onions, chopped but not too small. ( I just quarter them from top to bottom)
6 garlic cloves, peeled and sliced. (I like garlic. You can use less if you want to.)
Salt and pepper to taste
1 lb button mushrooms, trimmed. ( If they are small leave them whole. Larger ones can be halved or quartered. You want to be able to recognize them as you eat.)
Chopped fresh parsley for garnish
1 Blanch the bacon to remove some of its saltiness. Put it into a saucepan of cold water, Bring to a boil, simmer for 5 minutes, drain. Rinse in cold water, pat dry with paper towels. Cut it into short strips. (Grand-daughter-in-law says about the size of short McDonald fries). Put them into a thick-bottomed pan,. (Don’t use a non-stick pan. I have an enamelled cast iron dutch oven. It weighs a ton and cost a lot, but it was a gift) and let them cook over a moderate heat. You may want to add a little oil or butter to get things started. Stir frequently - it mustn't burn - then, when it is golden, lift it out into a bowl, leaving the fat in the pan.
Sprinkle some salt on the chicken, Dredge it in flour and brown it on all sides in the bacon fat. Work in batches. Don’t over crowd the pan or the chicken will not brown properly. You are looking for a golden colour. Do not over brown.
When the chicken is browned remove it from the pan. Pour off any excess fat and brown the onion. Keep thinking golden. You don’t want to over brown anything. About two minutes before the onion is ready, add the sliced garlic. Garlic burns fast and tastes terrible. Watch it carefully. Remove the onions and garlic and set aside. Lightly sauté the mushrooms. Remove them and pour excess fat from the pan.
Now for the fun part. Pour the brandy into a cup. Do not pour straight from the bottle. It does not pour fast enough, and the first to hit the pan may ignite while the rest is still pouring. Flash back. Not a good thing. Get your hair out of the way and if you have an exhaust fan over your stove, turn it off. Believe me. Been there, done that.
Heat the pan and add the brandy. It may ignite at once so stand well back. If it does not ignite, no problem. Stand well back and use a kitchen match. You are not setting fire to the brandy, but to the fumes above the brandy. Do not lean over the pan to see what is happening unless you are prepared to sacrifice at least two of your eyebrows. The flames will die down in a couple of minutes, but they may reach a height of two feet or so.
Pour the pinot noir into the pan and use a wooden spoon or something to scrape all the good stuff that is still stuck to the bottom. If you have been using a skillet up until now, transfer the contents of the pan into an oven proof casserole or whatever you have that is large enough to contain all of the ingredients. I have been using my dutch oven so I can continue to use it. Arrange the chicken and all the other ingredients and add enough chicken stock to cover. Don’t forget the bouquet garni. The ratio of wine to chicken stock will be about 50/50, but don’t get too hung up on that. Just add as much stock as you have to. Put it in the oven and cook it long and slow. About 325 should do it, depending on your oven. How long is hard to say. 3 to 5 hours, depending on the bird you started with. You want it tender. but not to the point that it is disintegrating and falling off the bone.
You can go on to the next step now if you want to, but I seriously advise you to let the whole thing sit over night. It will be so much better if you do. Throw that beer out of the fridge and make room for the coq au vin.
Next day. About two hours before you plan to eat, get that coq au vin out of the fridge. Remove the bouquet garni and toss it out. Remove any solidified fat that has risen to the top. Transfer the liquid into a pan, try to use a wide shallow one, things will go faster. Boil the sauce until it has reduced to about half of its original volume. Taste and add salt and/or pepper, if you need it. I find that the result is thick enough for me, but if you prefer a thicker sauce, now is the time to thicken it. Use whatever method you usually use to thicken sauces and gravies. Just remember, if you use flour. to allow enough time for the flour to lose its raw taste. Don’t over thicken. This is a sauce, not a gravy.
Pour the sauce back into the casserole and reheat everything in a slow oven until it reaches serving temperature. Keep the lid on or things will dry out.
Traditionally coq au vin is served over wide noodles, or with fresh baked baguettes of French bread. Some people like mashed potatoes. I prefer small, new potatoes, just boiled in their skins. I squash them into the sauce with the back of my fork as I eat. Not according to Emily Post, but nobody around here would dare to correct my table manners.
My side dishes of choice are peas and a very lightly dressed fresh green salad.
This dish is so rich and satisfying that you really don’t need a dessert. If anyone yells, give them some cheese and tell them that they are French for the day. You’ve done enough cooking.
My neighbour cooks this now. He came to my house and watched me and then, about a month later, he invited me to taste his effort. I thought he had used white wine, which is fine. I said something about this and he confessed that he could not see the sense in spending good money on wine, when he had gallons of good, home made hard cider, so he used that. (He’s a little frugal.)
It wasn’t coq au vin, it was coq au cider, but it was really good.