Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Coq au vin

Tonight in cooking class we made the classic French dish Coq au vin, which is essentially chicken cooked in wine. This was by far my favourite of all the things we've made in the course and I couldn't resist digging into it after getting home.

I'll try to detail what I did because it really did turn out well, thanks as always to Chef Marty's wisdom and expert tips.

Coq au vin

3 lb chicken, cut into six pieces*
250mL white or red wine (I used red but it gives the chicken a purple-ish tinge)
250mL chicken stock
1 cup button mushrooms, left whole
1 cup pearl onions, peeled
1/4 cup vegetable oil, approx.
1/4 cup butter, approx.
1/4 cup flour, approx.
4 rashers of bacon, sliced into lardons
3 garlic cloves, left whole, crushed a bit to help release juices
A few sprigs of thyme, save some leaves for chopping up and adding at the end.
2 dried bay leaves
A few tablespoons of chopped parsley

Preheat oven to 400F.

Heat two tablespoons of butter and two tablespoons of vegetable oil in a large skillet over high heat. While it's heating up, rub a bit of vegetable oil, salt and pepper over the chicken pieces.

When the pan is very hot, add the chicken pieces skin side down (or "presentation side" down, as Chef Marty noted). Shake the pan a bit to ensure chicken doesn't stick. After a couple minutes, when skin has turned golden, flip the pieces over and cook for another couple minutes, again, shaking to make sure the pieces don't stick. Once well seared on both sides, remove the chicken to a plate.

Drain the chicken fat into a small side pot (you will use some of it later to deglaze). Wipe out the skillet and add a tablespoon more oil, then tip in the sliced bacon. Saute it for a couple minutes until it's cooked, then add the pearl onions to the pan. Cook those until they've begun to brown, then add the garlic. Saute that for 30 seconds, then add the mushrooms. Once those have browned up (a few minutes), deglaze the pan with water and/or a bit of the chicken fat, scraping up any browned bits.

Add the wine and chicken stock to the skillet, as well as some salt and pepper, then add the chicken pieces back in along with the herbs (a few whole thyme sprigs and the bay leaves). Turn the chicken in the sauce to coat well. Reduce the sauce a bit, then cover the pan and put it in the oven for 20-30 minutes to cook. Remove the lid for the last few minutes of cooking time to help the chicken develop its golden brown crust.

While the chicken is cooking in the oven make a beurre manie -- roll a hunk of butter into a golf ball sized piece using your hands, then roll it around in a bowl of flour, incorporating the flour into the butter. Keep incorporating the flour into the butter until when you press into the ball your finger doesn't feel buttery anymore. It should feel almost like a ball of dough. You will use this later to thicken the sauce.

Once the chicken is cooked through, take the pan out of the oven. Set aside the chicken pieces and remove the herbs (these can be thrown away). Set the skillet over high heat again and reduce the cooking liquid. Take a few spoonfuls of the liquid and put it into a bowl, add your beurre manie and whisk until your butter-flour ball has dissolved into the liquid. Now add that back into the skillet and whisk it quickly back in. Adding the flour and butter together separately helps prevent lumps from forming, and it also helps prevent the sauce from breaking.

Once you're happy with the thickness of the sauce add the chicken back in, along with some fresh chopped parsley and thyme, turn the pieces to coat in the sauce, and you're done! A great dish to serve up family-style.

*I left the legs attached to the thighs but if you want you can separate them, making eight pieces in total, two each of breasts, wings, legs, and thighs.



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