French Coq Au Vin At Its Best

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Hello hungry travelers!  Today marks a culinary landmark in our global journey.  Admittedly country number 63 seems like an odd landmark, until you realize that the country in question is France.   Anyone who knows even the slightest thing about culinary history realizes the significance of France.

To get there from Finland is simple.  Head southwest and use your nose.  You will smell France before you come close.  Essentially we can head overland through Poland, and Germany before crossing into the mountainous northwest, or we can approach by boat landing somewhere near Brittany.  Regardless, the moment we are on French soil, we are surrounded by delicacies and regional creations that have graced kings tables for many centuries.

Le Cordon Bleu, Foie Gras, Mise en place, vin de table, beurre mane, rotissieur, the list of French cooking terms and accomplishments in the kitchen is endless.  Any chef worth their salt has at least a rudimentary understanding of this romance language and a working knowledge o f the contributions of Escoffier and thousands of other French culinary innovators.  Alright, I had better stop before I inflate the already legendary egos further.

Today’s posting is going to highlight less about the country of France and more about the embodiment of peasant cooking within the national dish of a country that has done things to and with food that resonate through the hearts of every gourmand.

If you are following our journey closely, you will see that the vast majority of our national dishes are in fact worthy of a king, but have origins much closer to the earth.  Peasant dishes make up many if not all of our symbolic “Nations Best”.  This is fitting since these nations would not be if not for their people, and generally it is the people who identify and perfect these same dishes over hundreds and thousands of years.

In the case of France, it might seem odd that the national dish is something as simple as chicken cooked in red wine.  Considering the lengths that the French have gone to dig flavors out of the ground(literally in the case of truffles) and develop some of the most challenging techniques known to the culinary world yet a dish as simple as Coq Au Vin becomes the dish that most exemplifies the cuisine of the country.  Seriously, this simple braised meat dish with gravy winds up here on this website because it is the pinnacle of the countries cuisine?  Yes.  Simply put, yes.

Here is the reason why.  Coq Au Vin has that strange elemental thing that creates a magnetic reaction in people patient enough to prepare it, namely flavor!  Huge, massive, crushing, yet oddly subtle and perfect amounts of flavor mark this and many other French dishes.  I surmise that it is the simple aspects of this dish that make it so perfect and revered.  It is the farmer-peasant in all of us that cries out for simple delicious dishes such as this one.

Thus Coq Au Vin has outpaced dishes like Foie Gras Terrine for its place at the culinary winners table and a place in the annals of My Hungry Tum’s archives.

Julia Child is a name that most of you know and likely either love or hate.  Probably love.  She was the original food blogger, before there was anything called the internet.  An upstart, large woman (and by that I mean big in both body and heart) with a passion for all things French and cooking related.  From her seemingly misguided days in a cooking school in Paris back when only men trained as chefs, to her zealous search for perfectly prepared classic dishes, including this one, to her ability to send this passion across the pond to the hearts and stomachs of the American housewife, Julia made her mark on culinary tradition and journalistic history with her much loved TV programs and much thumbed through cookbooks.

I respect her immensely and it seemed only fitting to use her recipe for this dish.  I have adapted the dish since I had no Cognac (another great French discovery) with which to flambé and wish I had some, but this will have to do.  It was rich earthy and wonderful, albeit a bit time consuming and labor intensive.

When you prepare and eat this dish, think of all the thousands of peasant dishes that deserve credit for creating complex unique and satisfying flavor out of local at hand ingredients such as those found in your own farmyard.  That is what we are aiming for here and I believe accomplishing.

Coq Au Vin is from Burgundy.  I suggest using a red wine from this region and especially one that does not have big oaky flavor like a Cabernet, for example try a Burgundy, Chianti etc.  I chose a nice Chianti and next time I will use a burgundy.  I will also have cognac next time to get that flambed flavor that cannot be recreated without lighting the alcohol on fire.  Plus it is fun!

And so, without further delay…..Bon Appetite!



Appearance: 5 out of 5

Aroma: 5 out of 5

Flavor:  5 out of 5

Total: 15 out of 15…..a perfect score!!!

Julia Child’s Coq au Vin


2 1/2 to 3 pounds cut-up frying chicken, skin on and thoroughly dried (I used skinless boneless breasts and thighs instead)*

4 ounces lean thick-cut bacon

2 tablespoons olive oil

Salt and pepper

1/4 cup cognac

2 cups red wine (Pinot Noir, Burgundy, Beaujolais or Chianti)**

2 cup homemade chicken stock or low-sodium chicken stock or broth

1 tablespoon tomato paste

2 cloves garlic, mashed or minced

1 bay leaf

1/4 teaspoon thyme

Brown-Braised Onions (see recipe below)

Mushrooms (see recipe below)

3 tablespoon all-purpose flour

2 tablespoons butter, softened

Parsley sprigs  (chopped fine)


Dry the chicken thoroughly on a towel. Season chicken with salt and pepper; set aside.

Remove any rind off the bacon and cut the bacon into lardons (rectangles 1/4-inch across and 1-inch long). In a saucepan, simmer the bacon sticks in 2 quarts of water for 10 minutes; remove from heat, drain, rinse in cold water, and pat dry.

In a large heavy frying pan, casserole dish, or electric skillet over medium heat, heat olive oil until moderately hot. Add the bacon and saute slowly until they are lightly browned. Remove bacon to a side dish. Place chicken pieces into the hot oil (not crowding pan), and brown on all sides. Return bacon to the pan, cover pan, and cook slowly for 10 minutes, turning chicken once.

If you have the cognac: After browning the chicken, uncover pan, pour in the cognac.  Flambé by igniting with a lighted match. Let flame a minute, swirling pan by its handle to burn off alcohol; extinguish with pan cover.

Pour the red wine into the pan and add just enough chicken broth to completely cover the chicken pieces. Stir in tomato paste, garlic, bay leaf, and thyme. Bring the liquid to a simmer, then cover pan, and simmer slowly for about 30 minutes or until the chicken meat is tender when pierced with a fork or an instant-read meat thermometer registers an internal temperature of 165 degrees F.

While the chicken is cooking, prepare the Brown-Braised Onions and the Mushrooms.

When the chicken is done cooking, remove from the pan to a platter, leaving the cooking liquid in the pan. Increase heat to high and boil the cooking liquid rapidly until approximately 2 cups of liquid remains.

While the liquid is boiling, in a small bowl, blend the 3 tablespoons flour and 2 tablespoons softened butter into a smooth paste; beat the flour/butter mixture into the approximately 2 cups hot cooking liquid with a whisk. Simmer and stir for a minute or two until the sauce has thickened (the result will be a sauce thick enough to lightly coat a spoon – just thick enough to coat the chicken and vegetables lightly). If sauce is too thin, boil down rapidly to concentrate; if sauce is too thick, thin out with additional spoonfuls of chicken stock. Taste the final sauce, adding more salt and pepper if necessary.

Before serving, reheat the onions and mushrooms (if necessary).

Storing: Chicken is now ready for final reheating, but can be set aside in the sauce until cool, then covered and refrigerated for 1 to 2 days. To reheat, simmer slowly, covered, over low heat. Baste and turn chicken every 2 minutes until thoroughly warmed through (6 to 8 minutes). NOTE: Do not overcook chicken at this point.

To serve immediately: Shortly before serving, bring the sauce and the cooked chicken to a simmer, cover and simmer slowly for 4 to 5 minutes, until chicken is hot through. NOTE: Do not overcook chicken at this point.

To serve: Either serve from the casserole dish or arrange the chicken on a large platter. Pour the sauce over the chicken. Arrange the Brown-Braised Onions on one side of the chicken and the Mushrooms on the other side. Decorate with sprigs of parsley. Accompany with parsley potatoes, rice, or noodles; buttered green peas or a green salad; hot French bread; and the same red wine you used for cooking the chicken. NOTE: This dish is traditionally served with wide egg noodles.

Makes 4 to 6 servings

Brown-Braised Onions:

12 to 24 small white onions, peeled (or double the amount if you want to use tiny frozen peeled raw onions)*
1 to 2 tablespoons olive oil
Salt to taste

* If neither frozen nor fresh pearl onions are available, substitute one large onion cut into 1/2-inch pieces. (Do not use jarred pearl onions, which will turn mushy and disintegrate into the sauce.)

While chicken is cooking, drop onions into boiling water, bring water back to the boil, and let boil for 1 minute. Remove from heat and drain. Cool onions in ice water. Shave off the two ends (root and stem ends) of each onion, peel carefully, and pierce a deep cross in the root end with a small knife (to keep onions whole during cooking).

In a large frying pan over medium heat, heat the olive oil, add parboiled onions, and toss for several minutes until lightly browned (this will be a patchy brown). Add water to halfway up onions and add 1/4 to1/2 teaspoon salt. Cover pan and simmer slowly for 25 to 30 minutes or until onions are tender when pierce with a knife.

NOTE: Onions may be cooked in advance, set aside, then reheated when needed.  Season to taste just before serving.

1/2 pound fresh mushrooms, washed, well dried, left whole if small, sliced or quartered if large
1 tablespoon butter
1/2 tablespoon olive oil

Prepare mushrooms. In a large frying pan over medium heat, heat butter and olive oil; when bubbling hot, toss in mushrooms and saute over high heat for 4 to 5 minutes or until lightly browned. Remove from heat.

NOTE: Mushrooms may be cooked in advance, set aside, then reheated when needed.  Season to taste just before serving.

Coq au Vin

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