Coq au vin is the ultimate comfort food.  How could a chicken cooked in red wine, bacon, beef stock and butter ever fail to lift your spirits?  Julia Child’s recipe is the acknowledged go-to recipe, so should you be in the mood for a little January comfort (who isn’t?) here’s your perfect project on a snowy night. Read more… 

Make lots!  It’s perfect for a party – you can prepare it ahead, and the flavor will only get better. Should you find Julia’s version a little more labour intensive than you are willing to get into, the internet is full of tribute Coq au vin recipes like this one from Little Ferraro Kitchen. We recommend cooking Coq au vin with a good Burgundy, and enjoying with the exact same bottle you cook with.

Julia  was bang on when she said:

If you do not have a good wine to use, it is far better to omit it, for a poor one can spoil a simple dish and utterly debase a noble one. – Julia Child

Even you dry January types can enjoy as all of the alcohol has burned off.

But really, isn’t this the perfect excuse to jump back on the wagon?

Julia Child’s Coq Au Vin
Makes 4-6 servings

  • 3-4 ounces chuck lean bacon
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 2 1/2- to 3-pound frying chicken, cut into pieces
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt, plus additional for seasoning
  • 1/8 teaspoon pepper, plus additional for seasoning
  • 1/4 cup cognac
  • 3 cups young, full-bodied red wine
  • 1 to 2 cups brown chicken stock, brown stock or canned beef bouillon
  • 1/2 tablespoon tomato paste
  • 2 cloves mashed garlic
  • 1/4 teaspoon thyme leaves
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 12 to 24 Brown-Braised Onions (recipe follows)
  • 1/2 pound Sautéed Mushrooms (recipe follows)
  • 3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 2 tablespoons softened butter
  • Fresh parsley leaves

Brown-Braised Onions

  • 1 1/2 tablespoons butter
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons oil
  • 18 to 24 peeled white onions, about 1-inch in diameter
  • 1/2 cup brown stock, canned beef bouillon, dry white wine, red wine or water
  • Salt and pepper
  • Medium herb bouquet of 4 parsley sprigs, 1/2 bay leaf and 1/4 teaspoons thyme tied in cheesecloth

Sautéed Mushrooms

  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 1 tablespoon oil
  • 1/2 pound fresh mushrooms, washed, dried, left whole if small, sliced or quartered if large
  • 1 to 2 tablespoons minced shallots or green onions (optional)
  • Salt and pepper

Remove the rind and cut the bacon into lardons (rectangles 1/4-inch across and 1-inch long). Simmer for 10 minutes in 2 quarts of water. Rinse in cold water. Dry.

In a large, heavy-bottomed casserole or Dutch oven, sauté the bacon slowly in hot butter until it is very lightly browned. Remove to a side dish.

Dry the chicken thoroughly. Brown it in the hot fat in the casserole. Season the chicken with salt and pepper. Return the bacon to the casserole with the chicken. Cover and cook slowly for 10 minutes, turning the chicken once.

Uncover, and pour in the cognac. Averting your face, ignite the cognac with a lit match. Shake the casserole back and forth for several seconds until the flames subside. Pour the wine into the casserole. Add just enough stock or bouillon to cover the chicken. Stir in the tomato paste, garlic and herbs. Bring to a simmer. Cover and simmer slowly for 20 to 25 minutes, or until the chicken is tender and its juices run a clear yellow when the meat is pricked with a fork. Place the chicken on another dish.

While the chicken is cooking, prepare the onions and mushrooms.

Brown-Braised Onions

Simmer the chicken cooking liquid in the casserole for 1 to 2 minutes, skimming off fat. Then raise the heat and boil rapidly, reducing the liquid to about 2 1/4 cups.

Adjust seasoning as needed. Remove from heat, and discard bay leaf.

Blend the butter and flour together into a smooth pasty dough (beurre manie). Beat the paste into the hot liquid with a wire whip. Bring to a simmer, stirring and simmering for 1 to 2 minutes. The sauce should be thick enough to coat a spoon lightly.

When the butter and oil are bubbling in the skillet, add the onions and sauté over moderate heat for 10 minutes, rolling the onions around so that they will brown as evenly as possible. Be careful not to break their skins. You cannot expect to brown them uniformly.

Braise them as follows: Pour in the stock, season to taste, and add the herb bouquet. Cover and simmer slowly for 15 to 20 minutes until the onions are perfectly tender but retain their shape, and the liquid has evaporated. Remove herb bouquet. Serve them as they are.

Sautéed Mushrooms

Place the skillet over high heat, with the butter and oil. As soon as you see that the butter foam has begun to subside, indicating it is hot enough, add the mushrooms. Toss and shake the pan for 4 to 5 minutes. During the sauté, the mushrooms will at first absorb the fat; in 2 to 3 minutes the fat will reappear on the surface, and the mushrooms will begin to brown. As soon as they have browned lightly, remove from heat.

Toss the shallots or green onions, if using, with the mushrooms. Sauté over moderate heat for 2 minutes. Sautéed mushrooms may be cooked in advance, set aside, and then reheated as needed. Season to taste just before serving.

To serve: Arrange the chicken in a casserole, place the mushrooms and onions around it and baste with the sauce. If the dish is not to be served immediately, film the top of the sauce with stock, or dot with small pieces of butter. Set aside uncovered for no longer than 1 hour — or cool, cover and refrigerate until needed.

Shortly before serving, bring the casserole to a simmer, basting the chicken with the sauce. Cover and simmer slowly for 4 to 5 minutes, until the chicken is heated through.

Serve from the casserole or arrange on a hot platter. Decorate with sprigs of parsley.

(Recipe from Julia Child’s “Mastering the Art of French Cooking, Volume One,” 1995)

Photo: Little Ferraro Kitchen