French cooking was something I discovered some years back when I got Julia Child’s cookbooks for a birthday present. If you’ve ever looked at her recipes, the instructions have details to a ‘T’ on how ‘to’ and how ‘not to’ make a dish. Lots of details and explanations. It was written to teach anyone willing to learn, how to cook French dishes properly.
Did you see the movie called ‘Julie & Julia’? It was a great movie about how Julia Child got her start in her cooking career and publishing her first or one of her first cookbooks called ‘Mastering the Art of French Cooking’. It intertwined with a young lady, name Julie, that wanted to learn French cooking using Julia Child’s cookbook and in essence cooking all of the recipes (from Mastering the Art of French Cooking) in one year. Since I love cooking and the challenges in trying new foods, techniques and flavors, I really did enjoy the movie.
So, I have developed a love of French Cooking. I love everything about it. The layers of flavors and sometimes the complexity of the dish. That being said, I don’t always get to hang out in the kitchen all day to make some of them. Therefore, I have favorite dishes that I have simplified without sacrificing flavor. Coq Au Vin is one of them.
Coq Au Vin translated means: chicken cooked with wine. This classic dish can be made with white or red wine, but red is more common and what I personally prefer. When I made Julia Child’s recipe of Coq Au Vin the first time, I tried to follow her instructions to the word. I have to admit it was a bit tedious and more time consuming than I wanted. In this recipe, I did simplify it a bit, eliminating extra steps and dirty dishes and yet kept the dish true to it’s name. I’m more likely to make dishes on regular basis if it’s not so complex.
Here’s my simplified version.
Coq Au Vin
In a large skillet, start melting the butter over medium-high heat.
Add the bacon pieces to the butter and cook the bacon until it’s brown and the fat has been rendered.
A tip on cutting the bacon into pieces. I like to use kitchen scissors. I just find it easier that using a knife. Another trick is to put the bacon strips into the freezer for 20 minutes to semi freeze it and it will slice with a knife easier.
Remove bacon pieces to a plate…
… leaving the drippings in the skillet. Now, that’s some serious flavor there!
By the way, no one said this was a low calorie dish.
Pat the chicken pieces dry. Salt and pepper both sides. I like to use a mixture of boneless skinless chicken breast and thighs.
Over medium-high heat, brown the chicken on the first side in that butter and bacon bath, about 6-8 minutes
See that caramelization going on there? That’s the color you want.
Turn the chicken and while the second side is browning, go ahead and throw in the chopped onion and start sauteing it with the chicken, about 6-8 more minutes.
You’ll see a few steps down, I added canned mushrooms. I didn’t have any fresh on hand so I had to improvise. Not a problem, but if I do have fresh sliced on hand, I add them the same time I add the onions and saute’ them together.
You want the onions to take on that caramel color too. Cook them until they’re nice and tender.
Pour in the red wine. What kind? It can be any kind you like. My personal preference is a full bodied red wine such as Burgundy, Red Zinfandel or a Cabernet Sauvignon. If you prefer a white wine, you can use a Riesling, White Zinfandel or any others you like to drink since that’s the flavor the dish will take on.
Add the beef stock.
For convenience and flavor, I like to keep beef base in my refrigerator. You can find it in the soup section of your grocery store and usually on the top shelf. When I need beef stock, I add 1 teaspoon of beef base per 1 cup of hot water and dissolve. I find the flavor to be much bolder and richer than the canned beef broth. Just my humble opinion…
Now for the herbs and such. Add the tomato paste, garlic, dried thyme, bay leaf and canned mushrooms. Yep, I added canned here. If I have fresh, I much prefer to use those and throw them in when I’m sauteing the onions. But I only had canned on hand the day I made this. So, that’s what I used.
Stir it all together and bring to a nice rolling boil. Reduce heat and simmer on low, covered, for about 30 minutes.
In a small bowl, mix together the cornstarch and water until dissolved.
Remove the bay leaf. Pour in the cornstarch and water mixture and stir well.
Bring back to a boil and simmer another 5 minutes or so, uncovered, until the sauce has thickened.
Picture below was taken in a different light setting. Makes the mushrooms stand out more. It was truly delicious!
Served with rice pilaf and topped with the cooked bacon.
So, how did I really simplify it? Well, many French dishes require that you brown the meat, remove to a plate; brown the onions, move to a bowl; brown the mushrooms, move to another bowl, etc… then combine it all back together before adding the liquids and herbs. I choose to brown and remove the bacon so I can top the dish at the end with it, but the rest I add in stages so it all cooks together. Less plates and bowls to clean, plus I think it saves time since you’re sauteing more things at the same time. Make sense?
Has anyone tried an interesting or unusual wine to this dish? What did you think about it?
Here’s the printer friendly recipe.