Saturday, April 2, 2011

Classics: Coq au Vin

For my birthday I got (finally!) an enameled cast iron Dutch oven. I have a number of pyrex and ceramic dishes like this, but have been wanting a cast iron one for ages. Le Creuset remains on my "someday list", so I got a KitchenAid one instead. And the first thing I made with it? Why, coq au vin, of course! Coq au vin is not a dish I think of making often... it's not a fussy dish by any means, but it is a very rich one and it's not really suited to warmer weather, in my opinion. The last bits of snow are melting on the ground and I can stand to open the windows a bit more without freezing my bits off, so to ward off that last bit of chill before warmer weather, coq au vin it is.

I had come across a recipe for it that peaked my interest, and I had a new toy dying to be tried out, so why not? Only problem? I couldn't find the damn recipe when it came time to make the dish! I have a bad habit of earmarking recipes to try later and either lose them or forget about them... I have a recipe binder and a bookmarks list a zillion miles long, but it still happens. So after a thorough search turned up nothing, I browsed for another recipe and settled on this one to base myself on. I had bought the ingredients for the other mysterious vanishing recipe, so wouldn't be following it exactly, but it gave me a starting point.

As with any slow cooked dish, this recipe is fairly simple to make, it just requires the space and time to do its thing. It is relatively inexpensive (you can make it cheaper or fancier as your budget/tastes dictate) and can easily feed a large number of people. I usually serve it with egg noodles, but potatoes or rice work as well... you can even eat it on it's own like a stew, though a good bit of french bread would be nice to soak up the gravy. Below are the particulars of the recipe as I made it.

Coq au Vin
2 tbsp rendered bacon fat
4 large pieces of chicken (I used chicken legs, skin on/bone in)
1 bottle of red wine
1 packet demi-glace sauce mix
2 tbsp minced garlic
2 pkgs button or cremini mushrooms, washed and quartered
2 medium onions, chopped
2-3 carrots, chopped
salt and pepper to taste
herbes de provence to taste (optional)

This dish can be done in either a dutch oven or slow cooker. If using a slow cooker, follow the below steps in a pan on the stove them move the ingredients to the slow cooker to finish. If using a dutch oven, simply cook everything directly in the dish (yay for fewer dishes to clean!).
Melt fat in a heated pan/dutch oven and brown chicken pieces, skin down. They do not need to be cooked through, they will finish cooking later. Set aside (or place in slow cooker, if using) and remove some of the rendered fat, leaving just a bit on the bottom of the pan. Add onions and saute until starting to caramelize. Remove and add mushrooms, adding some fat if needed to coat bottom of pan. A bit of salt will help the mushrooms release their water; once they do, use a wooden spatula to scrape up any brown bits on the bottom of the pan then continue cooking until most of the moisture is gone. Add in carrots and add back onions, sprinkle with the packet of demi-glace sauce mix and add just enough wine to encourage it to dissolve fully. Once everything is warmed through, add back in the chicken (or if using a slow cooker, add the contents of the pan to the cooker with the chicken) and pour in the remaining wine. Yes, the entire bottle*. If you're adverse to using a whole bottle of wine (or only happen to have half a bottle left that you want to use up), you can cut it 50/50 with some stock.
Once everything is in, simply throw the lid on and lower the heat to low (or turn the slow cooker to low) and let it simmer for an hour or so, stirring occasionally. After an hour, check and see how things are doing... the chicken will cook fairly quickly, so it's just a matter of taste how long you want to leave it. I don't like skin/bone in my dishes like this, so I chose to remove the meat and let it cool slightly then remove the skin, gristle and bone and returned the meat to the pot to cook for another hour, two hours total cooking time.
You can serve it directly from the pot, though this is a dish that is better the next day. Simply let the dish cool completely then store in the fridge overnight. Reheat gently on the stove or in the slow cooker before serving with your choice of starch (noodles, potatoes, rice, etc).

* On cooking with alcohol: I've never tried things like 'cooking wine' or 'cooking sherry' and quite frankly, I can't remember having seen them at the grocery store. Needless to say, they're not really necessary. Use the real stuff, even if it is an inexpensive bottle. In fact, I'd say it's better to cook with the cheaper stuff... unless it is a dessert in which the alcohol won't have the living daylights cooked out of it, you will not be able to tell the difference between a $9 bottle of wine and a $50 bottle of wine going into that stew. The alcohol is generally cooked off and the flavors mellow and blend with the other ingredients in the dish, letting even a cheap bottle of vino shine. The same goes for sherry... B has bought a few bottles over the years and neither of us are sherry drinkers, so they've sat collecting dust. Occasionally I'll steal a nip for a dish and the results are amazing. More so than wine, sherry adds a subtle sweetness and a rich tang to the dish. I'd have never tried it on my own until a recipe called for sherry and I happened to have the leftovers of one of B's bottles. It turned out so amazingly well, I add a dash into most gravies and stews I make now.
If you plan to drink wine with the dish you've cooked with wine, buy two bottles of the same and you're guaranteed the wine will compliment the dish! This works for both reds and whites, and I suppose even sherry if that floats your boat! ;)

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