Coq au vin (literally cockerel with wine) is a French classic, traditionally cooked with a mature cockerel for flavour rather than a female chicken and slowly simmered for many hours. These days it is quite difficult to find cockerels or flavoursome mature boiling fowl unless you live in a rural area with access to a poultry farmer. Get the best quality chicken you can, preferably grass fed and organic. One advantage of having to use a regular chicken these days is that the cooking time is much shorter! Marinating the chicken over night gives a greater depth of flavour but is not essential.
The other key ingredient in coq au vin is, obviously, wine, ideally a full-flavoured burgundy or bordeaux but any full-bodied red wine will do. In theory you should cook with the same wine that you would be drinking with the meal. In reality, few of us can afford that extravagance so be realistic but do make sure that the wine you cook with is of reasonable quality – it will affect the eventual flavour of the dish.
This is a simplified recipe for regular cooks so I apologise in advance for any French cooks and gourmet chefs out there!
You can make this ahead and reheat it the next day which makes it good for entertaining or if you are someone who likes to cook over the weekend for the week ahead.
1 large chicken, cut into portions
about 50 grams of plain flour
3 rashers of streaky bacon, cut into strips or 75 grams of lardons (bacon sold in the piece and then cut into tiny dice)
1 large onion, cut into slivers
1 large carrot, cut into large dice
2 cloves of garlic, crushed
500 grams button mushrooms, left whole or halved or quartered if large
1 750 ml bottle of drinkable dry red wine
1 small tin tomato paste (about 35 grams or 2 tablespoons if using from a tube or jar)
1 bouquet garni (2 bay leaves, 2 sprigs of thyme and some parsley stalks, tied together with a bit of string so you can pull them out easily afterwards)
Approximately 500 ml chicken stock
salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
Put the chicken into a glass or plastic bowl, pour the wine over and marinate for at least 2 hours or preferably overnight in the refrigerator, turning a few times.
Drain the chicken, reserving the wine. Pat the chicken dry with paper towels and then toss it lightly with the flour. This gives you a dry surface for browning.
Put some olive oil and the bacon in a heavy saucepan or Dutch oven and heat gently until the fat starts to run from the bacon. Strain the bacon with a slotted spoon and set it aside. Brown the chicken on all sides in the hot drippings in the pan and put them in a bowl. Add the onions and carrots to the pan and cook gently for about a minute, until the onion starts to soften. Pour in the reserved red wine and stir around to loosen any brown bits on the bottom of the pan.
Return the chicken and the bacon to the pan. Add the garlic, the bouquet garni and the tomato paste and enough chicken stock to cover the chicken. Cover the pan, bring it to a simmer and cook gently for about an hour. Top up with hot chicken stock as required. Add the mushrooms, salt and pepper and simmer for about another half an hour. The chicken should be tender and falling off the bones and the sauce cooked down. Remove the bouquet garni and serve. If your sauce is too thin, you can thicken it carefully with a little cornflour but this is not usually necessary.
At this point if you are making ahead, you can let the dish cool completely and then refrigerate it, to reheat thoroughly later.
Serve with lots of crusty French bread, cooked ribbon noodles (tagliatelle) or steamed new potatoes.