Coq au Vin

This recipe is loosely based on one from Anne Willan’s Country Cooking of France. Ask your butcher to cut the chicken into 8 pieces, with each breast cut in half, or do it yourself. For the thighs and drumsticks, I like to buy the chicken legs whole and cut them in half at home. The secret to a great coq au vin is marinating the chicken in red wine at least 24 hours, and up to 2 days. Rather than adding a garnish of lardons, pearl onions and mushrooms at the very end, I like to cook them with the chicken for the last half hour or so, in order for the flavors to infuse. You’ll need a large covered flameproof casserole (an enameled cast-iron one, such as Le Creuset, works great), clay pot or Dutch oven large enough to hold all the chicken.

Serves six to eight, depending on the size of the chicken.

Ingredients

Marinade

1 ½ bottles of red wine
1 large onion, sliced
3 stalks celery, sliced
1 ½ carrots, peeled and sliced
2 garlic cloves, peeled and smashed
1 teaspoon whole black peppercorns
3 bay leaves

Chicken

1 large chicken (about 3 ½ to 4 ½ pounds) cut into 8 pieces
3 large chicken thighs (bone in, skin on)
3 large drumsticks (bone in, skin on)
1 tablespoon olive oil
6 ounces lean smoked bacon in a single piece, cut into 3/8-inch by 3/8-inch by ½-inch lardons
3 tablespoons flour
2-3 cups chicken broth
3 shallots, chopped
3 garlic cloves, chopped
3-4 branches of thyme

Garnish

2-3 tablespoons unsalted butter
16-18 cipollini or pearl onions, peeled (trim and plunge them briefly in boiling water then cold water; the skins will come off easily)
8 to 10 ounces cremini mushrooms, trimmed and quartered if large
salt and pepper to taste
2 tablespoons chopped parsley

Instructions

1. To make the marinade, pour the red wine into a large saucepan, add the onion, celery, carrot, whole garlic cloves, peppercorns and bay leaves and bring to a boil over medium heat. Turn heat to medium-low, simmer for five minutes then let cool completely. Place the chicken in a large bowl and pour the marinade over, pushing down the pieces so they’re all submerged. Cover with plastic and leave in the refrigerator to marinate 24 to 48 hours, turning the chicken pieces from time to time. Alternative, transfer the chicken and marinade to a large zipper bag, pushing out the air, and set the bag in a bowl in the refrigerator, turning it a couple times during the process.

2. About two or two and a half hours before you want to serve the chicken, remove the chicken pieces from the marinade (don’t throw away the marinade!) and pat them completely dry with paper towels, then sprinkle them with salt and pepper. Strain the marinade, reserving the solids. Heat the oven to 350 degrees F.

3. Heat the olive oil in the casserole over medium heat, add the lardons and cook until browned, about five minutes. Remove with a slotted spoon and set aside in a medium bowl. Now brown the chicken pieces well, starting skin-side-down, and working in batches or using an extra sauté pan with a little more olive oil – about 10 minutes on the first side and five minutes on the other side. Set aside.

4. Add the reserved marinated vegetables to the casserole and sauté over medium heat until they start to brown, five minutes or so. Stir in the flour, turn the heat to high and cook the flour, stirring, for about three minutes. Pour in the strained marinade and bring it to a boil, stirring constantly, until the sauce thickens somewhat, then add two cups of the chicken broth plus the chopped garlic, shallot and thyme and combine. Now add all the chicken pieces except the breasts.  Cover the casserole and transfer it to the oven to braise for about one hour and 15 minutes total. After about 30 minutes, open the casserole, turn the pieces and add the breasts, along with the cipollinis, mushrooms and lardons, which you’ll prepare as below while the chicken starts braising. If too much liquid has evaporated when you add the breasts, add some chicken broth.

5. For the mushroom and cipollini garnish: Melt two tablespoons of the butter in a sauté pan, add the cipollinis and sauté, shaking the pan now and then, until golden-brown. Remove with a slotted spoon and add them to the reserved lardons. Now add the mushrooms to the pan, along with the rest of the butter, if necessary. Cook the mushrooms until they give up their water and are tender, about seven minutes. Remove with a slotted spoon and add to the lardons and cipollinis.

6. When the chicken is cooked, remove the casserole from the oven and transfer the chicken pieces to a deep serving platter. Spoon off any fat that has risen to the top braising liquid, remove the thyme branches andadd salt and pepper to taste. Spoon some sauce over the chicken, sprinkle with parsley, and pour the remaining sauce to a sauce boat to pass separately. Serve with boiled potatoes tossed in butter and parsley.