Thursday, February 28, 2008

Quick (Modern) Coq au Vin

Since I Tivo all the America's Test Kitchen programs, I store them up and watch several at one time. They did one a week or so ago called French Classics. It included this Coq au Vin (coke-aw-vahn, chicken in wine) and a chocolate Pots de Creme. I printed out both recipes, and today you get to hear the results of the chicken.

When I was in my 20's, and living in Denver, I think it was, I attended one of my first cooking classes, and the teacher prepared the traditional coq au vin. It required many steps, including rendering some salt pork. Salt pork's not something I see every day, although I suppose it is available at the grocery stores if I sought it out. I have made coq au vin a few times, but never found the chicken all that tender (dry and overcooked) and the gravy was very thin.

The chefs at America's Test Kitchen came to the rescue. They explained that originally French kitchens used a very elderly boiling chicken, the kind you have to cook and cook to tenderize. These days we have young, tender fryers which don't require much cooking. They demonstrated a rather rapid coq au vin, and I was intrigued. It used bacon instead of salt pork. I love the richness and suppleness of red wine, cooked down to a thick gravy with the onions and mushrooms. This recipe took about 50 minutes of total cooking time (browning and simmering), with about another 25 of prep. So, I had dinner on the table in a little over an hour. Their recipe said it took 90 minutes.

The secrets of this recipe include reducing the entire bottle of wine and chicken broth to about 3 cups, browning the chicken first, then making the vegie part (mushrooms and onions) and then simmering the dark meat pieces first (for 20 minutes), THEN adding in the chicken breasts later, so they cook only 20 minutes. What a difference that made. The breast meat was tender and juicy. Once the chicken is done you remove it to keep warm and turn the heat up to high and continue reducing the gravy until it's thick. A tablespoon of butter is added at the very last, along with a tablespoon of the red wine you saved at the beginning, that didn't get reduced.

Definitely I'd make this again. It was certainly a lot easier than my previous recipe. I might not make it for guests just because it's, to me anyway, a kind of home comfort food dinner. But, it looked very pretty in my wide soup bowls with the gnocchi pasta in the bottom and the fresh Italian parsley sprinkled on top. We both slurped it up in quick order.

Cook's Notes: use a light, fruity red wine (they recommend Pinot Noir or a Rhone grenache). Use good, thick bacon (more flavor). If possible use kosher chicken, since it will retain the juice better. Next time I'd use more mushrooms, just because I like them. And if I had my druthers, I'd have more sauce, so that would mean using about a bottle and a half of wine to start with, and would mean measuring a bit more carefully so you reduce each part correctly.

Modern Coq au Vin
Recipe By : America's Test Kitchen
Serving Size : 6
1 bottle red wine -- fruity (pinot noir or Rhone grenache)
2 cups low-sodium chicken broth
10 sprigs fresh parsley
2 tablespoons fresh parsley -- minced
2 sprigs fresh thyme
1 bay leaf
4 ounces bacon -- thick-cut, cut crosswise into 1/4-inch pieces
2 1/2 pounds chicken pieces -- parts or thighs only Table salt and ground black pepper
5 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 cup frozen pearl onions -- thawed, drained, and patted dry
8 ounces mushrooms -- crimini, wiped clean, stems trimmed, halved if small and quartered if large
2 medium cloves garlic -- minced
1 tablespoon tomato paste
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1. Bring all but 1 tablespoon wine (reserve for later use), broth, parsley sprigs, thyme, and bay to simmer in large saucepan over medium-high heat. Cook until reduced to 3 cups, about 25 minutes. Discard herbs.
2. Meanwhile, cook bacon in large Dutch oven over medium heat until browned, 7 to 8 minutes. Using slotted spoon, transfer bacon to paper-towel-lined plate. Reserve 2 tablespoons fat in small bowl; discard remaining fat.
3. Lightly season chicken with salt and pepper. Heat 1 tablespoon reserved bacon fat in Dutch oven over medium-high heat until just smoking. Add half of chicken in single layer and cook until lightly browned, about 2 minutes per side. Transfer to plate and repeat with remaining chicken and 1 tablespoon bacon fat.
4. Melt 3 tablespoons butter in now-empty Dutch oven over medium-high heat. When foaming subsides, add pearl onions and mushrooms; cook, stirring occasionally, until lightly browned, 5 to 8 minutes. Reduce heat to medium, add garlic, and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add tomato paste and flour; cook, stirring frequently, until well combined, about 1 minute.
5. Add reduced wine mixture, scraping bottom of pot with wooden spoon to loosen browned bits; add 1/4 teaspoon pepper. Return chicken, any accumulated juices, and reserved bacon to pot; increase heat to high and bring to boil. Reduce heat to medium-low, cover pot, and simmer until chicken is tender, about 25 minutes, stirring halfway through cooking time.
6. Using slotted spoon, transfer chicken to large bowl; tent with foil to keep warm. Increase heat to medium-high and simmer sauce until thick and glossy and measures 3 cups, about 5 minutes. Off heat, stir in remaining 2 tablespoons butter and reserved 1 tablespoon wine. Season to taste with salt. Return chicken to pot and top with minced parsley. Serve immediately.
Per Serving: 553 Calories; 40g Fat (63.5% calories from fat); 38g Protein; 14g Carbohydrate; 4g Dietary Fiber; 159mg Cholesterol; 493mg Sodium. Exchanges: 0 Grain(Starch); 4 1/2 Lean Meat; 2 Vegetable; 5 Fat.
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