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Sunday, July 30, 2006

Coq au Vin

Why do I hear Tony Robinson's voice in my head saying 'It's coq that's been...' and then Rowan Atkinson 'run over by a van'?
I'm sorry Italy but for me the French have it over the rest of the world when it comes to cooking. The diversity in dishes, ingredients and flavours is unparalleled.
Probably one of the more famous dishes in the world and one which many regions of France claim as their own is Coq au Vin.
It is said that Julius Caeser's cook prepared the first Coq au Vin after the Gauls gave Caeser a tough old rooster as a 'tribute' for defeating them. The cook then made a delicious meal from the old bird in part to prove the Romans superiority over the 'barbaric' Gauls. The fact that the Romans had cooked and eaten one of the Gallic national symbols probably didn't escape them either. He was a wily old bugger was Julius.
Traditionally a rooster or 'Coq' would be used because it would have more connective tissue in the meat which would dissolve to make the gravy or broth much richer.
Of course chicken is much easier to come by and makes a perfectly acceptable substitute.
There is a basic recipe that all Coq au Vin dishes will follow but there are many subtle variations in cooking time, ingredients and assembly. This is my method.
If you can butcher a whole fresh chicken into breast, thigh, leg and wing then please, feel free. Personally I prefer that the butcher does that part for me.
This recipe will serve 4, preparation and cooking is time around 3 1/2 hours.

One whole chicken, butchered or 4 drumsticks and 4 thighs.
1 bottle of good red wine (we used Kim Crawford Pinot Noir)
200g of lardons
10 shallots
6 cloves of garlic
1 meduim sized red onion (do not substitute white onion)
1 heaped tablespoon of chopped fresh thyme
1 heaped tablespoon of chopped fresh flat leafed parsely (do not substitute curly leafed parsely the flavour is to strong)
Salt & pepper
Flour and butter

Heat a tablespoon of oil in a large pot (this is the same pot you will cook the whole dish in so it needs to be fairly big, around 5-6 litres) and brown half your chicken well.
When browning chicken get the oil fairly hot, not quite smoking and simply put the pieces of chicken in the pot and leave them. The worst thing you can do is play around with them. When you put the chicken in the pot the chicken will stick but if you leave it alone after a few minutes it will unstick. Turn the chicken to brown all sides/ends well. Remove from the pot and repeat with the rest of the chicken and remove.
Brown the lardons well and remove from the pot and put with the chicken.
Turn the heat down to about 1/2. Peel the shallots and cut them in half. Finely chop the red onion and add to the pot with the shallots. The juice from the shallots and onions will deglaze the pot. Cook for a few mins until the shallots and onions have softened a little and taken up all the oil, chicken fat and caramelised meat juice.
Turn the temperature down to about a 1/4 and add the chicken and lardons back to the pot at the same time adding the thyme, parsely, red wine and peeled garlic cloves. Season with a little Maldon sea salt (not too much salt as the lardons will be fairly salty) and plenty of freshly ground black pepper. Simmer very slowly for 3 hours checking regularly to make sure the dish is not cooking too rapidly.
When the Coq au Vin is around an hour from being ready take some smallish good floury potatoes and cook them whole in salted boiling water for around 20 mins. Drain and replace the lid immediately and leave to steam for another 40-50 mins. Don't take the lid off.
Make a beurre manier by melting 1 tablespoon of butter removing from the heat and then stirring 1 tablespoon of flour into it. It should be a stiff paste, we will use this to thicken the gravy/broth.
After 3 hours your chicken should be well cooked. Use the pot lid to pour all the liquid from the cooking pot into a large frying pan, don't worry if you get a little onion or even small bits of chicken in it. Replace the lid on the chicken pot and leave on the now switched off oven element.
Reduce the liquid by half on the oven top by rapidly boiling it in the frying pan stirring all the time. Make sure you are tasting the broth every 30 seconds or so as there is a small window when it is ready. If you do overcook it and it becomes to strong simply add a little diluted liquid vegetable stock.
Once you have achieved the desired flavour use the buerre manier to thicken it to a glossy gravy like consistency by using a fork to whisk a little at a time into the liquid until you have the right viscosity.
Remove the potatoes from the pot and break them by hitting them with your fist lightly, this will squash them slightly and break open the skin. Return them to the pot, add butter and coat the potatoes with the butter.
Serve with green beans or other green vegetable (broccoli in this case).
This is a fairly full on cooking experience as far as time in the kitchen goes but mastering Coq au Vin gives you a real sense of pride and achievement. Try it.


At 4:18 PM, Blogger lobsie said...

What is lardon? Sorry for being so Canadian about this one :-)

At 4:26 PM, Blogger Julian said...

it's a chunk of bacon but in a cube usually 1cm to 1 inch square. It is usually smoked and is quite fatty.

At 11:02 PM, Blogger startrekker said...

i was waiting for to the cock oh van to show up


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