Jeff asked me if I could make one of his favorite comfort-like foods—Coq au Vin. I must admit that I love it too, but I probably wouldn’t label it a comfort food. For me, that has to be mac & cheese! But we will leave my favorite mac & cheese recipe for another day. It turns out that Jeff was reminded how much he likes Coq au Vin on a recent visit to the Arizona Inn in Tucson. I know, you were thinking Paris, right? Oh well, as much as we would like to, we can’t spend our summers in Paris. But sometimes, a local favorite takes us to one of our favorite foreign places, and that is what happened to him. So much so that he insisted that on my next visit to Tucson, I needed to have lunch at the Arizona Inn so that I could taste first hand what he was hoping I would cook for him. Well that wasn’t a hard request to give in to 🙂
I must admit that I thoroughly enjoyed my visit to this historic Tucson landmark. Without a second thought, I ordered a lovely glass of white wine and the Coq au Vin. When it arrived, the presentation was lovely. They had piped homemade mashed potatoes into a small mountain on one side of the plate. Then they had a puffed-pastry shell overflowing with the main attraction, the Coq au Vin, front and center. Three small carrots provided a dazzling orange accent. I couldn’t wait to take my first bite! It was scrumptous and my mouth was immediately coated with the rich wine sauce.
When I got back to California, I set out to improve on my prior Coq au Vin recipe.
I started with 4 chicken thighs and two split chicken breasts. The first step was to cut the chicken breasts in half. Note that you may have to apply pressure on top of the knife to cut through the bones.
The goal is for the chicken breast pieces to be about the same size as the chicken thighs so that they will cook evenly and absorb more of the luscious red wine sauce that we are creating.
I combined 1/2 cup of flour with 1 tsp. salt and 1 tsp. pepper in a pie pan and then dredged each chicken piece in the flour mixture.
The next step was to brown the chicken, so I heated some olive oil over medium low heat in my dutch oven. Then I added the bacon and fried it over until it was done, which took about 8 minutes. Everything is better with bacon, right?! I removed the bacon from the pot and saved it to add back later.
Now it was time to brown the chicken. I could not fit all of the chicken in at once, so I browned it in three batches.
Be patient before turning it the first time (remember that is not one of my virtues, but I keep trying) so that you will get a nice brown crust on the skin. After 2 or 3 minutes, I turned the chicken to brown the other side. It took about 5-6 minutes per batch for the chicken to brown. I had to monitor the heat and vary it a little to keep the oil from getting too hot and burning.
While the chicken browned, I quartered an onion, minced a clove of garlic, and cut a few carrots into inch-long pieces.
When the chicken was finished browning, I removed it and let it rest on a baking sheet. I drained off the excess liquid, added 2 Tbsp. olive oil, and turned the heat to medium. When the olive oil was hot, it was time to add the carrots and onionto the pot. I cooked them about 10 minutes until the onions were lightly browned. Then I added the garlic and cooked it a minute or two until the garlic aroma filled the air.
Next I turned off the heat because it was time to deglaze the pan with brandy!
By turning off the heat, there was no risk of accidentally creating a flambé while I deglazed the pan. Some Coq au Vin recipes call for igniting the brandy, cognac, or armanac, but really I didn’t need to impress anyone with a fire when I could get the same result with a safer approach.
Once the alcohol from the brandy cooked off, and I had scraped up all the tasty bits from the bottom of the pan, I turned the burner back on to medium heat and added the stock.
To add another layer of depth to the flavor, I stirred in a tablespoon of tomato paste.
This multi-faceted broth was just waiting for the return of the browned chicken pieces.
You can’t have Coq au Vin without the Vin, so I slowly poured an entire bottle of dry red wine into the dutch oven. As they always say, use a wine that you are willing to drink, but as I say, there is no reason to use one that is all that expensive.
Remember the bacon? We wouldn’t want to waste it, so I put the bacon back into the dutch oven, along with fresh thyme and a bay leaf. Then I gently pushed the ingredients into the liquid ensuring that the chicken was mostly submerged.
It was time for more patience at this point. I let the mixture cool for 30 minutes and then refrigerated it for 1 1/2 to 2 hours My plan was to let the chicken absorb the liquid and let the flavors develop and intensify.
When I was ready to finish the Coq au Vin, I preheated the oven to 325 degrees. When the oven “dinged” that it had reached 325 degrees, I placeed the Dutch oven with the chicken and wine sauce in the oven. Then it was time to wait again. It took about 2 hours for the chicken to cook and become tender.
I removed the chicken from the sauce. Then I strained the sauce.
I gently poured the strained sauce back into the pot to reduce and thicken it over medium heat. My plan was to reduce it by 1/3.
While the sauce was reducing, I quartered 8 oz. of cremini mushrooms.
Then I melted 1 tablespoon of butter in a separate sauté pan. I dropped the mushrooms in the pan and cooked them over medium low heat for 5-6 minutes until they were browned.
When the mushrooms were ready, I used a fork to mash 1 tablespoon of butter with 1 tablespoon of flour.
The result was a creamy paste of butter and flour.
I stirred this creamy mixture into the sauce to thicken it further. Then I add the browned mushrooms and frozen pearl onions to the sauce. I know the frozen onions are a short-cut, but in my opinion, an acceptable one. let me know if you agree.
Now it was time for the tender chicken to bath in the rich red wine sauce, so I gently submerged each piece into the luscious liquid.
At this point, you should taste the broth to decide whether to add more salt and pepper. That is a personal preference. Then I simmered it for another 10-15 minutes.
Finally, it was time to plate the Coq au Vin for Jeff. I decided to skip the puff pastry and opted for buttered red potatoes instead of mashed potatoes, but the result got a smile of approval!
This recipe can be found by clicking here.
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