Cocke au Vin - Almost Classic Coq au Vin, Chicken in Red Wine
The great classic dishes of the world are renowned for good reason. They just plain rock. I wouldn't dare try to improve on the real French Coq au Vin - chicken stewed in red wine with mushrooms, pearl onions, bacon, potatoes and carrots. It's to die for - really.
I've made it several times, and this dish actually has one of my best ever food memories associated with it.
Some years ago I was in Birmingham, visiting my mom. My sister Kelly was there. Those are two of my favorite people to cook for. Normally I work in simplicity, but if I love you to pieces I'll damn near kill myself to produce something over-the-top incredible. In this case I spent the hours it takes to make true Cog au Vin, tracking down all the specialty ingredients and babying the dish for most of a day. Right before it was ready I came into the kitchen. My sister was standing in front of the pot with a fork and spoon, pulling bits of the chicken out and following with sips of the broth. She'd nibble, make an 'mmmmmm' sound, shake her head and dive back in.
She turned around and saw me, laughing cause she got got. But she said "you are such a good cook. Wow." I was Bombshelled and walked on air for days. That was the comment that made the mental jump for me from wanting to be a good cook, to wanting to be a Cook.
This is my Thrillbilly version. I use the regional ingredients that are fabulous here, instead of trying to find the ridiculously imported expensive French items. This captures the feel of dish - and frankly, it rocks.
Not Quite Classic Chicken in Red Wine
- 1 10 ounce
package of country ham pieces, diced finely (or bacon)
- 6 dried shiitake mushrooms (fresh is fine if you have them)
- 4 ounces button or crimini mushrooms, sliced
- 2 - 4 lb fryer chicken, or 8 lbs of thighs or drumsticks
- 2 medium yellow onions, diced
- 2 Tbsp olive oil
- 8-10 cloves garlic, minced
- 4 medium potatoes, diced
- 4 medium carrots, diced
- 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
- 2 bay leaves
- 4-6 sprigs of fresh thyme
- 1 750 bottle Merlot
- 3 cups chicken broth
- 1/2 cup parsley, minced
- 1/4 cup wine vinegar
- 2 tsp pepper
- 2 tsp onion powder
- 2 tsp garlic powder
- 2 Tbsp bacon grease
- Several cranks of fresh cracked black pepper - about 2 teaspoons
- Very judicious salt to taste - country ham if VERY salty
- 1/4 cup butter
1. If using dried shiitakes, place them in a bowl and cover with very hot water. Allow to soak and soften for about twenty minutes. Drain, discarding soaking liquid. Remove woody stems and slice tops finely.
2. Heat oil in the bottom of a heavy Dutch oven. Saute country ham pieces until crispy. Remove ham bits from pot and reserve.
3. Heavily season both sides of the chicken with SOS.Because country ham usually renders very little oil, add a tablespoon of bacon grease to the drippings in the pot. (If you don't have any you can use olive oil. If you HAVE to.) Working in batches, brown all chicken pieces on all sides. You're not cooking it through at this point - just browning it off. Remove chicken from pan and set aside.
4. You should have a couple of tablespoons of drippings in the pan once all the chicken has browned off. If there's more, pour it off. If you need a touch more add it.
5. Add the onions, garlic and mushrooms to the pan. Saute until browned and fragrant. Add the potatoes and carrots. Sprinkle flour over veggies, stirring well until all the veggies are well coated. Add pepper.
6. Add the wine and chicken broth, stirring well. Add thyme, bay leaves and about half the country ham pieces to the pot. Add in chicken pieces, making sure that they are submerged. If necessary add a touch of water or a tad more chicken broth - or wine! - until all pieces are covered.
7. Bring the contents of the pot to a bare simmer, cover and allow to braise for about 45 minutes. Chicken should be cooked through and all vegetables tender.
8. Remove all chicken and vegetables to a platter and keep warm. Strain cooking liquid and return to the pot. Bring to a boil and allow to reduce a bit. The sauce will thicken and become very silky.
9. Whisk in butter, parsley and vinegar. Taste and re-season if necessary and serve over chicken and vegetables.
By the way - many of my dishes are named after my community and the neighborhoods near where I live. In this case it's for Cocke County. Ha.
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