Coq au Vin – a drunken Chicken in Red Wine
by eat in my kitchen
A mother’s kitchen can be the best cooking class in the world, the place to learn all the little tricks and secrets passed on from one generation to the next. In my mother’s kitchen, I learned almost everything I needed to know to become a passionate cook with love and curiosity for ingredients. She nurtured my trust and boldness to create my own cooking style. Her kitchen is still a magic place to me where she creates all these tastes and smells which I’ll never forget in my whole life, especially when it comes to meat and gravies cooked the traditional way.
Most of us savoured the first stews and roasts in our mother’s and grandmother’s creative culinary spaces, where our taste buds were refined to distinguish between the woody herbs like sage, thyme and rosemary and the strong aroma of bay leaf, juniper and allspice. Sauces cooking in pots for hours fogging the kitchen windows on cold November afternoons became more important to me than the meat as this was the spice for my beloved knoedel, mashed potatoes or spaetzle. All the vegetables, spices and green leaves would cook down to a concentrate, the essence of natural, rich flavours, created to soak into the soft sponginess of a slice of soft white bread or a waxy potato mashed into these juices. This was always the pinnacle of cooking to me, an art. My mother, who makes the best sauces I know, would chop and stir for hours to come up with a deep, brown gravy – the grande finale.
For years, Coq au Vin was saved in my mind as one of the time consuming recipes which would take an afternoon of preparation, until I made it myself for the first time. I called my mother twice to double check her recipe and to see that we didn’t have any misunderstandings but her recipe was so much easier than expected. It really doesn’t take more than 40 minutes to turn a few chicken legs, a bottle of wine, some mushrooms and lots herbs and spices into this amazing French classic. The sauce is so aromatic, it’s hard to believe that it wasn’t on the cooker for longer. The mushrooms are still crunchy and fresh as they only cook in the juices for the last 10 minutes, some fresh parsley leaves sprinkled on top of the drunken chicken finish it off. Then you can savour the juiciest meat, turned red from the wine and lots of sauce, deep, rich and fragrant.
Coq au Vin
For 4 people you need
chicken legs 5-6 (about 1.5kg / 3.5 pounds)
medium sized carrots, cut into julienne, 2
large leek, the light part, cut into julienne, 1/2
bacon, cut into small cubes, 50g / 2 ounces
celery, cut into large pieces, 1 stalk
garlic, crushed, 2 big cloves
small mushrooms (whole not cut!), bottom cut off, 400g / 14 ounces
red wine 1 bottle (0,75l)
salt and pepper
parsley leaves, a small handful, for the topping
For the bouquet garni (bound with a cotton string)
parsley, a small bunch
thyme, a small bunch
sage leaves 3
bay leaf 1
In a large pot, heat a splash of olive oil and sauté the chicken legs in batches for a few minutes on each side until golden brown , season with salt and pepper. Set the chicken aside and sauté the bacon for 2 minutes until crisp. Add the carrots, leek, celery and garlic and cook for 2 minutes, stirring constantly. Add the chicken, the bouquet garni and red wine, season with salt and pepper and close with a lid. Cook on medium-low heat (simmering) for 3o minutes.
After half an hour, put the mushrooms on top of the chicken, dip them a little into the juices and cook for 10 minutes. Take out the bouquet garni and celery, season to taste and serve sprinkled with fresh parsley leaves and some crunchy baguette or potatoes.