16/09/2013

Coq au Vin [Snubbed by Escoffier]

Coq au Vin [Snubbed by Escoffier]
Burgundian French - a simple stew of rooster in wine, lardons, mushrooms, onion and garlic.

Specifically, the rooster is an older bird with tougher meat than a chicken, hence the need to tenderise the meat in wine.

Coq au Vin is a rustic, peasant dish and I was keen to see what Escoffier had to say on the matter ...

Nothing! Nada! Nought! Zero! Zilch!

Well, so much for the King of Chefs, eh? Le Guide Culinaire has over 80 pages dedicated to chicken and over 200 recipes therein ... but not one of them details this classic French dish.

So, turning my back on the heights of gastronomy, I relied upon my instincts and decided upon a course where the ingredients and method are really pared back and kept true to the rustic roots of the dish.

Food

Using chicken thighs and red wine, spiced with bay leaves and star anise, slow-cooked with bacon, shallots, garlic and mushrooms in a chicken stock we'll have a simple, rustic dish worthy of any French peasant.

You'll also need something to thicken the sauce, since the traditional flour coating over the chicken is not going to work for us. I used arrowroot at the end.

Chicken & Red Wine

Chicken thighs, skin on. I went with three each. Many recipes suggest removing the skin and I understand why, but we're paleo eaters and not going to be at all phased by a fatty dish. Skin is very fatty and will release all that fat during cooking, leaving us with a bowl of chicken swimming in grease.

We can render some of that out by gently frying off the chicken pieces in a skillet. Gently, so the skin does not overly colour up, but sufficient to release the grease ... which we'll reserve in a ramekin in the fridge for cooking with another time. Schmaltz, essentially.

Wine. We want the acidity but not the bitterness of the alcohol, so ... pour about half a bottle (for two people served three thighs each) into a pan and raise the heat to boiling.

You can boil on for a few minutes or risk setting your kitchen on fire with a much more fun method! Strike a match over the pan and after an initial WOOF! you'll see a blue flame which will gradually die down ... when it's gone, so has the alcohol.

Coq ... au Vin
Settle the chicken into an ovenproof dish, like Pyrex or a cast iron Dutch oven, cover with the wine and push a few bay leaves in along with a couple of star anise. Leave overnight, preferably in the fridge.

Lardons, Shallots & Mushrooms

Ready to cook? Get your oven on and set to 150C (300F?).

Fry off some lardons or streaky bacon. Tilt the pan to collect the fat and scatter the lardons over the chicken.

Peel some shallots and add to the chicken. Peel and toss in a few cloves of garlic.

Pour over a handful of button mushrooms each onto the chicken.

Top up with a little chicken stock just to cover and grind some black pepper over.

Into the oven for a couple of hours with the lid off so that the sauce can evaporate and reduce ...

I prefer a couple of hours on a lower heat than one at, say, 175C (350F?) ... your call.

Focaccia!

Traditionally, Coq au Vin would be served with egg noodles or mashed potato.

Focaccia
I could ... but read a recipe for gluten-free Focaccia that I thought would be perfect. It was, or rather would be if we liked that kind of thing but found it very heavy, stodgy and really not to our liking. YMMV. Next time, I'll try some rice noodles.

Serve

Ready to eat? Our Coq au Vin should now be cooked, darker in colour with the sauce well reduced.

Skim off any residual fat from the surface. There will be some, since we have the skins on, but it won't be too much.

Spoon out the chicken pieces, shallots and mushrooms into wide-brimmed bowls and pour off the sauce into a pan. Heat on, add in some arrowroot to thicken. Taste. Happy? Pour over the chicken.

Yum! Sod the Focaccia! It was consigned to the bin. Shame.

The Coq au Vin was delicious! Lovely chicken, superb sauce, very filling and very satiating even without the optional stodge.

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