Coq au vin
As many of you know, I am participating in a celebration of Julia Child’s upcoming 100th birthday. In the field of the culinary arts – Julia Child was and remains an inspiration to chefs and to the home cook. It was her detailed efforts to bring the wonderful French gastronomy to the American homemaker that set off a lifelong career in cookery and most importantly – the love and appreciation of good food.
"The pleasures of the table are infinite. Toujours bon appétit!"
- Julia Child
This week, we have been challenged to cook Julia’s Coq Au Vin. To me, this is classic French cooking and classic Julia Child.
Coq Au Vin is a variation of her Ragout of Chicken and Onions in Red Wine. In Coq Au Vin, small braised onions, mushrooms and lardons of pork are added. This dish is a wonderful Sunday dinner dish or one to prepare when receiving company.
As I was gathering the ingredients for this dish, I met the grocery store manager in our small town. When shopping here you rarely go in for a ‘quick run’. You will generally run into someone you know and conversations – or catching up will ensue. Our grocery store manager happened to spend some time in France during WWII – he speaks French fluently and when he noted what was in my cart he asked what I was ‘fixing for dinner’. I then told him, he smiled and corrected my pronunciation. Then, he began to tell me of a time he spent in an old French gentleman’s home and the man prepared and served Coq Au Vin. Instead of cutting up his chicken, he prepared it whole in a roasting pan and used white wine. I have a preference for white wine with chicken – so I decided then and there to make that one change – otherwise I followed the instructions to the letter.
My friend also shared a wonderful way to prepare broccoli and cauliflower – one that gives a lovely presentation.
You cut the bottom of the cauliflower removing the leaves and the core – set it in the center of a dish – I used a pie dish. Then you surround the cauliflower with broccoli heads and place baby carrots between the broccoli – melt butter and drizzle over the top – sprinkle with herbs and or garlic salt. Wrap the dish with plastic wrap in a cross – going one way all way round and repeating going the other way sealing in the vegetables. Place the dish in the microwave and cook 5 or more minutes until the cauliflower is tender.
When serving cut the vegetables in a wedge – truly a lovely presentation.
*Julia Child’s Ragout of Chicken with Coq Au Vin variations
2 ½ to 3 pounds frying-chicken parts
2 tbsp butter
1 tbsp olive oil or good cooking oil
3 cups sliced onions
salt and freshly ground pepper
1 or 2 large cloves of garlic pureed
1 imported bay leaf
¼ tsp or so thyme (I used fresh)
1 large ripe red unpeeled tomato chopped, or 1/3 cup canned Italian plum tomatoes
3 cups young red wine (zinfandel, Macon, or Chianti type)
1 or more cups chicken stock
Buerre Manie for the sauce (1 ½ tbs each flour and softened butter blended to a paste)
Fresh parsley sprigs or chopped parsley
Equipment suggested – a heavy bottomed 12-inc frying pan or casserole 2 inches dee, and a cover for the pan.
Browning the chicken* using Coq Au Vin variation
Brown salt pork (lardon) that has been blanched to remove the salt. Once browned, remove and set aside and brown the chicken in the pork fat – you may add butter and or oil to supplement enough fat to brown the chicken.
Remove the chicken from the pan and brown the sliced onions sautéing over moderate heat until fairly tender, thenraise heat and brown lightly. Drain in a sieve set over a bowl to remove excess fat.
Simmering the chicken.
Season chicken lightly with salt and pepper, return it to the pan. Add the browned onions, garlic, bay, thyme and tomato. Pour in the wine and enough stock barely to cover the ingredients. Bring to a simmer; cover and simmer slowly 20 minutes or until the chicken is tender when pressed.
Finishing the chicken – the sauce.
Remove the chicken to a side dish, and spoon surface fat off the cooking juices. Pour the juices (and onions) into a saucepan and taste very carefully for strength and seasoning. Boil down rapidly if it needs strength, adding more of the seasonings if you think them necessary.
Off heat, whisk in the beurre manie to make a lightly thickened sauce. Bring briefly to the simmer – the sauce should be just thick enough to coat a spoon lightly. Was out the casserole; return the cicken to it, basting with the sauce and onions.
Adding braised onions and mushrooms to
complete the Coq Au Vin
In a pan just roomy enough to hold them in one layer, sauté the peeled onions in a little clarified butter or oil. Swirling the pan to turn them they will not brown evenly, but will take on a decent amount of color. Then add chicken broth (and if you wish a little red wine) to come half-way up. Season lightly with salt and perhaps a bay leaf or a pinch of dried herbs. Cover and simmer slowly 25 to 30 minutes, until the onions are tender when pierced but still hold their shape.
1 tbs butter
1 tsp light olive oil or cooking oil
fresh mushrooms (6 cups)
½ tbs chopped shallots or scallions
salt and freshly ground pepper
set the frying pan over high heat with the butter and oil. When the butter foam begins to subside, toss in the mushrooms. Toss frequently, swirling the pan by its handle, for several minutes, while the mushrooms absorb the butter. In a minute or two it reappears on their surface; toss with the chopped shallots or scallion in a moment or two more if you wish them to brown lightly. Toss with a sprinkle of salt and grinds of fresh pepper. If they are to be part of a vegetable garnish, the sooner you serve them the better.
*With bread crumbs, garlic, and parsley
When sautéed with garlic and parsley, mushrooms take on a distinctly new personality.
Sauté the mushrooms when they are done and almost beginning to brown, toss them with ½ cup fresh white bread crumbs, sautéing for a good moment or more. Then toss with a large clove of minced garlic and a handful of chopped parsley.
Finishing the dish
Strain, degrease and finish the sauce. Strew the braised onions and sautéed mushrooms over the chicken, baste with the sauce, and simmer a few minutes, basting to rewarm the chicken and to blend the flavors.
My husband came home for a moment while I was preparing the dish. The surprise lost! When he did arrive home for the day, he walked in and said, ‘Is this another Julia Child recipe? I hope it tastes as good as it smells’. It surely did. Then in the middle of the meal he asked, ‘where’s the biscuit’? Sigh, my Southern boy must always have his biscuit….
I hope you give this a try, it is a satisfying dish – one would be quite pleased to prepare and to present to her family.