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Coq au Vin provides a fine fall meal

October 5, 2010
By Wendy Monro

A few days ago, I casually asked Claud what I should make for this week's article. He replied, "coq au vin." I had heard of coq au vin. However, I had never before tasted it or cooked it.

How did he come up with this so quickly? Of course, coq au vin (imagine a french accent and a hint of sarcasm). He did pique my interest; because, I love to learn about new recipes. I read through several coq au vin recipes, history, and blog posts. How could any meal with bacon, butter, wine and garlic not taste phenomenal? I was a little concerned about using pearl onions.

A few years ago, I helped my mom prepare a Thanksgiving feast. One of her recipes called for pearl onions. I thought I should treat these tiny onions just like smaller versions of regular onions. So, I peeled about a thousand of them. My fingers hurt and I had tiny little paper cuts from their skins. It was horrible. I haven't bought pearl onions since. I walk by them in the market and give them a sour look while thinking, "little meanies" to myself. Most coq au vin recipes use pearl onions. I decided to forgive and forget. Then, as I opened up the bag, I read through the directions on the label. You are supposed to soak them for three minutes in boiling water and then the skin peels right off with a squeeze. Are you kidding me? I tried this and it worked marvelously.

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Coq au vin, pearl onions with carrots and celery, and roasted potatoes

The recipe I finally decided to use as my guide for this coq a vin is Julia Child's. About this time last year, my mom gave me a copy of her cook book, "Mastering The Art of French Cooking," as an anniversary gift. I haven't given it much attention over the summer. However, with Fall here and the temperatures dropping, Julia's deliciously rich French dishes sound perfect.

I added carrots and celery to her pearl onion recipe and I used Shiraz instead of Burgundy. I also used a tomato sauce instead of paste and ommitted the cognac (although lighting it on fire sounded exciting). Truth be told, I forgot to buy the cognac. Other than these minor adjustments and a few variations on amounts used, this recipe is all Julia Child's. No disrespect to Julia; but, I did remove a few steps too to make it a bit quicker. Some recipes I read used egg noodles and ladled the coq ou vin on top. I decided to use roasted potatoes as Julia recommends.

The literal translation of this dish is cock of the wine. It used to be peasant's food. There are a few different legends as to the origin of this dish. Undoubtedly, this was a way to cook rooster meat and to make it tender and tasty. Apparently, rooster meat is tough. Since people without a lot of money did not want to waste the meat of a rooster, they had to come up with a way to cook it and still enjoy it. Now, coq au vin is typically cooked with chicken and should be called poule au vin (chicken of the wine); but, it is still called coq au vin and is served in the finest French restaurants.

Fact Box

Coq au Vin

3/4 pound thick cut bacon

2 Tablespoons butter

1 whole 2 - 3 pound chicken (or chicken pieces)

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon pepper

3 cups red wine (Julia suggests Burgundy.

I used Shiraz)

2 cups chicken stock

8 ounces tomato sauce

2 garlic cloves, mashed

2 tablespoons fresh thyme leaves

2 bay leaves

3 tablespoons flour

2 tablespoons butter, melted

If you are using a whole chicken, cut it off of the bone. You can visit my YouTube channel: and watch a video where I show you how to do this. I always use a whole chicken so I can make homemade chicken stock. If you are using pre cut chicken, don't worry about this step. Dry the chicken with paper towels. Cut the bacon into one inch pieces. In a dutch oven, saute the bacon slowly in hot butter until it is very lightly browned. Take the bacon out and set it aside.

Brown the chicken in the fat from the bacon (about five minutes each side). Season the chicken with the salt and pepper. Pour the bacon back in. Cover and cook for ten minutes on medium high heat.

Pour the wine, stock, tomato sauce, garlic and thyme into the pot. Make sure the chicken is covered in liquid. If not, add more wine until it is just covered. Bring this to a simmer. Cover and continue to simmer for 30 minutes. Take the chicken out and set aside.

Mix together the melted butter and flour to form a creamy mixture. Pour this slowly into the liquid and whisk it in briskly. This should thicken up the sauce. Serve with sauteed mushrooms, pearl onions (recipe follows) and roasted potatoes. Garnish with parsley.

Pearl Onions

2 tablespoons olive oil

24 pearl onions, 3 minutes in boiling water

and peeled

2 carrots, chopped

2 celery stalks, chopped

1 Tbsp butter

1/2 cup chicken stock

1 Tablespoon herbs de Provence

1 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon pepper

Saute the carrots and celery in the olive oil on medium high heat for about ten minutes. Add the melted butter. Add the pearl onions. Once the pearl onions are browned, add the herbs de provence, salt and pepper. Add the chicken stock. Cover and let simmer for 30 minutes.

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