Go ahead. Impress people. Tell them you’re making coq au vin. It’s just chicken braised in wine, thus making it fabulous.
In its original French inception, the coq referred to a rooster, typically mean old birds who wore out their welcome in the hen house. The tough nature of the meat required a long simmer time to soften. Wine was used to help tenderize the meat thanks to its sugar content.
A few ingredient tips
At Le Cordon Bleu in Paris, we made the classic version that includes pearl onions and lardons, diced pieces of salted pork. In the U.S., I use a quality bacon over lardons as it’s easier to find and lends an earthy bit of flavor. I’ve also used diced ham leftover from a holiday meal, too. Just add a bit more fat.
Pearl onions do impart a certain sweetness, but they tend to be wickedly expensive and take a woefully long time to peel if you buy them fresh. I’ve come to rely on the frozen variety. They’re already peeled and it just takes a quick saute in butter to make them taste fresh. I’ve made this dish with both pearl onions and classic yellow and it’s good both ways.
As for the wine, it doesn’t have to be expensive but it should be good enough that you’d drink it alone. I prefer something a bit hearty, such as a Syrah, a Cabernet Sauvignon or a blend. Here’s a surprising tip: you can also make this with white wine. It yields a different flavor, but it’s still delicious.
Given that the odds of finding a rooster at your local supermarket are essentially none, I recommend employing chicken thighs and legs – or better yet, the full hind quarter piece with leg and thigh attached. Avoid breast meat. The long braise will leave it as dry as a Christian county in the south on a Sunday.
Speaking of which, even though this dish calls for wine, it remains an economical dish. You don’t need an expensive bottle of wine, just one that you would drink. I’ve made this with inexpensive table wine and a spendy French red and frankly, it’s a struggle to tell the difference. This is great for entertaining or to prepare weekday meals in advance on the weekday, as it taste better reheated.
Not a red wine fan? Use white wine or an inexpensive sparkling wine in place of red. When Mike and I visited the Chablis region once, we ordered coq au vin and lo and behold, it came swimming in the region’s famed white. The end flavor tends to be a bit sweeter and lighter, yet still hearty and savory.
I usually buy two bottles of wine for this dish – one to cook the chicken in, and one to drink with it when it’s done. This dish also calls for brandy or Cognac, and while optional, definitely adds something to the dish, but you don’t buy a big bottle if you don’t have it on hand.
Paired with noodles or mashed potatoes, this serves six to eight.
– Updated October 3, 2020
Other recipes of interest:
Coq Au Vin (Chicken Braised in Red Wine)
- Dutch oven or heavy pot with lid
For the braise
- 5 lbs chicken, preferably thighs, legs or quarter pieces
- 3 tablespoons vegetable oil
- 8 ounces (250g) pancetta or bacon, diced
- 2 medium yellow onions chopped (about 2 ½ cups)
- 4 ribs celery chopped (about 1 ½ cups)
- 2 medium carrots about 1 ½ cups
- 3 tablespoons butter
- 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
- 2 tablespoons brandy or Cognac
- 3 cups (700 ml) chicken stock
- 1 bottle dry red wine (about 2 cups)
- 4 cloves garlic chopped
- 10 sprigs thyme tied together
- or 1 tablespoon of dried thyme
- 2 bay leaves
Cooked separately from braise
- ½ sweet onion sliced
- 8 ounces (250g) brown mushrooms sliced
- 3 tablespoons parsley chopped
- Mashed potatoes or wide noodles
- Preheat oven to 350°F /180°C. Pat dry wtih paper towels. Cut off extra fan and excess skin. Season the chicken pieces with salt and pepper. In a heavy Dutch oven, brown in batches in hot oil over high heat, set aside. It’s important to get the chicken nice and browned, as shown. Don’t rush this step; properly browned chicken is a key to the final outcome.
- Turn the heat to medium-low and add the Pancetta or bacon and cook slowly until slightly browned. Add the onions, celery and carrot and stir until tender. Add the brandy, reduce slightly. Sprinkle with flour and stir until coated.
- Return the chicken to the pan. Add the chicken stock, garlic and herbs. Then, add enough wine so the liquid just covers chicken pieces; this could be two cups or four. Bring the liquid to a boil, skimming off any foam or fat. Cover tightly and place in oven for about two hours or until meat is very tender.
- Meanwhile, cook the sweet onions and mushrooms in a medium skillet in 2 tablespoons of butter. Before serving, add the mushrooms, onions and chopped parsley. Check seasonings, adding salt and pepper until it taste right to you. Serve with noodles or mashed potatoes.
Process photos by Kathleen Flinn. Finished dish photo by Brent Hofacker.