Saturday, January 2, 2010

Coq au Vin

My mother is staying with us for a week and reports that my grandfather, William Washburn Moss, Jr., used to make this dish. My grandmother did most of the cooking, but certain things were his domain. He was very big into grilling meat, naturally, and also into this dish. I'm going to ask my dad to check the recipe books leftover from that era to see if he can find the recipe my grandfather used. If I'm really lucky he might have left notes on the sauce-splattered pages. We'll see.

In the mean time, here is my first attempt at Coq au Vin....

Coq au Vin

from Anthony Bourdain's Les Halles Cookbook
(thanks Meg and Seb)

1 Bottle PLUS 1 Cup of Red Wine
1 Onion, cut into 1-inch dice
1 Carrot, cut into 1/4 -inch slices
1 Celery Rib, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
4 whole cloves
1 Tbsp. whole black peppercorns
1 Bouquet Garni
1 Whole Chicken, about 3.5lb., trimmed
salt and freshly ground pepper
2 Tbsp. olive oil
6 Tbsp. Butter
1 Tbsp. Flour
1/4 lb. country bacon, cut into small oblong (lardons) about 1/4 inch by 1 inch
1/2 lb. small, white button mushrooms, stems removed
12 pearl onions, peeled
pinch of sugar

3 large, deep bowls
plastic wrap
fine strainer
large Dutch oven
wooden spoon
small sauté pan
small saucepan
1 sheet of parchment paper
deep serving platter

Serves 4

Day One
The day before you even begin to cook, combine the bottle of red wine, the diced onion (that's the big onion, not the pearl onions), sliced carrot, celery, cloves, peppercorns, and boquet garni in a large, deep bowl. Add the chicken and submerge it in the liquid so that all of it is covered. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight.

Day Two
Remove the chicken from the marinade and pat dry. Put aside. Strain the marinade through the fine strainer, reserving the liquids and solids separately. Season the chicken with salt and pepper inside and out. In the large Dutch oven, heat the oil and 2 tablespoons of the butter until almost smoking, and then sear the chicken, turning with the tongs to evenly brown the skin. Once browned, remove it from the pot and set aside again. Add the reserved onions, celery, and carrot to the pot and set it aside again. Add the reserved onions, celery, and carrot to the pot and cooker over medium-high heat, stirring occasionally, until they are soft and golden brown. That should take you about 10 minutes.

Sprinkle the flour over the vegetable and mix well with the wooden spoon so that the vegetables are coated. Now stir in the reserved strained marinade. Put the chicken back in the pot, along with the bouquet garni. Cook this for about 1 hour and 15 minutes over low heat.

Have a drink. You're almost there...

While your chicken stews slowly in the pot, cook the bacon lardons in the small sauté pan over medium heat until golden brown. Remove the bacon from the ban and drain it on paper towels, making sure to keep about 1 tablespoon of fat in the pan. Sauté the mushroom tops in the bacon fat until golden brown. Set them aside.

Now,, in the small saucepan, combine the pearl onions, the pinch of sugar, a pinch of salt, and 2 tablespoons of the butter. Add just enough water to just cover the onions, then cover the pan with the parchment paper trimmed to the same size as your pan. (I suppose you can use foil if you must.) Bring to a boil, reduce to a simmer, and cook until the water has evaporated. Keep a close eye on it. Remove the paper cover and continue to cook until the onions are golden brown. Set the onions aside and add the remaining cup of red wine to the hot pan, scraping up all the fond on the bottom of the pot. Season with salt and pepper and reduce over medium-high heat until thick enough to coat the back of a spoon.

Your work is pretty much done here. One more thing and then it's wine and kudos...

When the chicken is cooked through--meaning tender, the juice from the thigh is running clear when pricked--carefully remove from the liquid, cut into quarters, and arrange on the deep serving platter. Strain the cooking liquid (again) into the reduced red wine. Now just add the bacon, mushrooms, and pearl onions, adjust the seasoning with salt and pepper, and swirl in the remaining 2 tablespoons of butter. Now pour that sauce over the chicken and dazzle your friends with your briliance. Serve with buttered noodles and a Bourgogne Rouge. (source)

Tay's Notes
Anthony B. begins this recipe with talk about how much easier it is than it appears. "Another easy dish hthat looks like it's hard. It's not. In fact, this is the kind of dish you might enjoy spending a leisurely afternoon with." Lies. Pure lies. This is hard. Be afraid. But try it, anyway. I'll help with some detail I think our friend Anthony left out....

First off... when you set up the chicken to marinade, don't be surprised if a bottle of wine is not enough to cover the stupid bird. It would be a mistake to add water to make it come closer to doing so. Instead, try zip lock bags filled with water. That... Or use a deeper, oval shaped bowl. I bet our crock-pot insert would have worked well. A third possibility would be to use a very large zip lock bag for the entire thing.... but beware of leaks. You might want to put that zip-locked chicken goodness in a too-large bowl just to be sure.

Second, on day-two, be prepare to spend three or so hours making this damn thing. It doesn't help that Anthony, as usual, seems to underestimate certain cooking times....

When browning the chicken, I found it took about four minutes per side. Be careful not to bump up against the non-oiled sides of the Dutch oven as the skin will stick and tear. Be careful with your tong work not to tear more of the skin than necessary.

Once the chicken is browned as set aside, be aware that there will be quite a lot of rendered chicken fat in the Dutch oven. Anthony says nothing about it, so I left it in to sauté the veggies. Big mistake. You only need about a tablespoon of that fat, so suction out the rest with a turkey baster and set aside for some worthy use or else toss in the green bin. Otherwise, you'll pan-fry (rather than sauté) the veggies and your flour roux will fail to form.

He says to put the burner on low after you add the marinade. I say, bring it up to a boil and then simmer for the rest of it's cooking time.

Start the sauce before you sauté the vegetables. I think A. Bourdain totally underestimates the time it takes to make this sauce, so get an early start and set aside if you must. Cooking down the water out f the pearl onions took me about 80 minutes, so be warned. And no, I didn't add to much water!

I found that I had way more marinade than would fit in a "small saucepan." You might want to use a medium. And, as I said before, be prepared for the sauce to take longer to cook down than you expected.

Anthony says in a footnote to experiment with use blood as a thickening agent. Sounds like a good idea, actually. As it was I found myself making up a quick roux to add to the sauce to give it a more pleasing thickness.

So... it summary, a challenging recipe, but I learned some important lessons. Never underestimate how long it will take to boil down a sauce, for instance. Was it tasty? Of course. Marinating the chicken overnight in red wine made a huge difference. You can tell that this recipe was originally designed for tougher birds--roosters (Coq) rather than chickens.

If you are thinking of making this. Compare it with Alton Brown's Recipe here. Alton has simplified some of the steps--though it's still a 26-hour process. I like how he has combined the bowls and cooking dishes necessary. I also like how he has included steps for thickening the sauce: "Cook’s Note: If the sauce is not thick enough at the end of reducing, you may add a mixture of equal parts butter and flour kneaded together. Start with 1 tablespoon of each. Whisk this into the sauce for 4 to 5 minutes and repeat, if necessary." Pretty much what I found myself doing!



meg said...

You need to take some pix of your masterpieces!

I'm pretty sure Grandpa would have been using Julia Child's coq au vin recipe. I think the only French cookbook there was The Art of French Cooking. Maybe Dad knows.

The version in "At Home with the French Classics" is much easier too by the way.

If you are taking requests I want to see you try your hand baking -- maybe a tarte tartin aux pommes?

Lynne said...

I tried Julia Child's recipe. It was hard but not too bad. Delicious! And I know GM was a fan of Julia Child.