Saturday, April 26, 2014

Coq au Vin ~ Julia Child's Classic

Chicken in red wine with onions, mushrooms and bacon is how Julia described her "Coq au Vin" in Volume One, of Mastering the Art of French Cooking. It literally means 'cock in wine', and I would guess an old rooster is what they originally used for this dish in France, as the method would render the tough bird edible and full of flavor.

Julian's 40th Anniversary Edition Double Volume
of Julia Child's most famous work.
In her introduction she says it can be "made with either white or red wine, but the red is more characteristic. In France, it is usually accompanied only by parsley potatoes." So today I'm again making this dish but this time I will prepare it in a crock-pot (slow cooker). I've provided you with Julia's classic version if you are a purist, but I don't think Julia would mind me using a crock-pot. In her later works she often adapted recipes to use new tools and techniques that had become available. In fact, on several television programs she made hers in an electric skillet.

Julian's Coq au Vin from a Crock-Pot
As you can see, I'm serving it over buttered egg noodles as that is how I had it the first time in France. I much prefer it this way as the flavorful sauce and smaller bits of chicken are blended with the noodles on the plate. I don't want to waste a drop of that great flavor!

Julia made the recipe as part of her original series on Public Television (the full video of the program is free at the link and worth the watch), and as recently as in 1995 when she was on ABC's Good Morning America. Julia modified the recipe over time. The below version is the one she provided for her 1995 appearance, and I provide you with this as she apparently thought it was better than her original. Images from her original book version are below. I've made both and they render a similar result, but I do prefer fresh or canned tomatoes over the small amount of paste she used originally.

Julia's 1995 Recipe for Coq au Van

1/2 cup lardons
 (4 ounces - 1 by 1/4-inch strips of blanched slab bacon or salt pork-see note)
2 1/2 to 3 pounds frying chicken parts
2 tbs. butter
1 tbs. olive oil (or good cooking oil)
Salt and freshly ground pepper
1 or 2 large cloves of garlic, pureed
1 imported bay leaf
1/4 tsp or so thyme
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 cup chicken stock (or more)
Beurre manie, for the sauce (1 1/2 tbs. each flour softened butter blended to a paste)
Fresh parsley sprigs (or chopped parsley)
1/3 cup good brandy (optional)
12 to 16 small brown-braised white onions
3 cups fresh mushrooms, trimmed, quartered and sautéed

Cooking Directions
Browning and simmering the chicken. Before browning the chicken, sauté the blanched bacon or salt pork and remove to a side dish, leaving the fat in the pan. Brown the chicken in the pork fat, adding a little olive oil, if needed. Flame the chicken with the brandy, if you wish -- it does give its own special flavor, besides being fun to do. Then proceed to simmer the chicken in the wine, stock, tomatoes and seasoning as directed in the master recipe.

Finishing the dish. Strain, degrease, and finish the sauce, also as described. 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 flavors.

Special note: To blanch bacon or salt pork: When you use bacon or salt pork in cooking, you want to remove its salt as well as its smoky flavor, which would permeate the rest of the food. To do so, you blanch it -- meaning, you drop it into a saucepan of cold water to cover it by 2 to 3 inches, bring it to the boil, and simmer 5 to 8 minutes; the drain, refresh in cold water, and pat dry in paper towels.

Julia's Original Recipe from the
 40th Anniversary Reprint
Click to Enlarge or Print
Julian's 2014 Coq au Vin 
in a Crock-Pot
For my latest version of this dish, I finished it in a Crock-Pot (slow cooker). As she instructs in the original, I browned the cut-up bacon in a deep skillet. Then I removed the bacon and drained all but about 1 tablespoon of the fat. In the remaining bacon fat I browned the seasoned chicken. I skipped the Cognac and flaming, and moved the chicken into the slow cooker. 

In the drippings that remained in the skillet, I sauteed a small chopped onion, carrot and celery stalk for about five minutes. I then added the garlic and crushed tomatoes and sauteed for another five minutes. I then added 3 cups of red wine and simmered for another five minutes. Finally I added the chicken stock, thyme, bay leaf and cooked bacon and then poured this mixture over the chicken in the crock-pot.

In the Crock-Pot ready for Stewing
I turned the slow cooker to high (which is equivalent to about 300F degrees.) I let it cook for three hours, which was perhaps a bit too long, as some of the chicken fell off the bone. Check it at two hours and see if it is ready to serve. After the first hour of cooking, add the white or golden pearl onions.

Julian's Coq au Vin ala Crock-Pot
Ready to Serve
 If you haven't made this stewed chicken recipe, you will want to add it to your cooking repertoire. It's easy to make and is very flavorful. Great over buttered noodles and will become a family favorite.

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