Chicken stewed in rich red wine. Mmmm, the French certainly know how to live...and how to eat. This is one of my favorite dishes from the Auvergne/Bourgogne region of France, though these days you can find it all over. Of course, it's frightfully easy to make yourself, you just need to allow enough time for the chicken to slow cook in the burgundy wine until it's almost fall-off-the-bone tender and full of flavor. I usually start several hours before my planned dinner time.
I also start with a whole chicken. While you can buy your chicken already cut up, I like to use a whole bird, as you get more bang for your buck, and you also get things like the neck and back bones, and more bones in the stew mean more flavor in your sauce. (You can discard the bones after you're done) I also enjoy cutting up the bird--it's a good skill to keep up in your kitchen repertoire. I also encourage using the whole bird because you get a pretty much equal amount of light and dark pieces, and your sauce won't be as rich without the dark meat. If you've got a lot of white meat eaters in the house, buy a couple extra breasts and make a slightly larger batch of Coq Au Vin.
Coq Au Vin - A French Chicken Casserole
1 Chicken, cut into 10 serving pieces
6 Tablespoons all purpose flour
1 Bouquet Garni (Bay Leaves, Thyme, Parsley, Rosemary)
2 Slices of thick bacon
1 Tablespoon olive of vegetable oil
2 Tablespoons butter
24 small mushrooms
24 pickling onions, peeled
1 bottle red burgundy wine
3 cloves garlic, peeled
Cut the chicken into 10 pieces: Two breasts, two thighs, two drumsticks, two drumettes, and two flappers. I use a cleaver to chop up the bird, so I never seem to be accurate enough to split the spine, so this usually comes out as a 'bonus' 11th piece. There's no meat on this 'backbone' piece, but it's a good piece for stewing, so I add it to the pot, and discard it later. Here's what I've got when I'm done:
Next, cut your bacon rashers (did you know pieces of bacon were called rashers?) into matchsticks, as in the picture below.
Add the chicken pieces to the pot, and add the wine. You don't need a top notch burgundy for this, really any good red table wine will do. I use a wine called L’Epayrié, which you can find in most grocery or liquor stores. I buy a 1.5 litre, so I can make sure to have enough to just cover the chicken in the pot, and still have enough left over for a few glasses for the chef.
Bring the wine to a boil, then reduce to a simmer. At this point, add the bouquet garni, and salt and pepper to taste. Some people also add a little nutmeg and sugar at this point, but I find I like it better without. Oh, what's a bouquet garni, you ask? This is a little bundle of herbs you will encounter often in French cooking.
To serve, remove the chicken pieces from the pot and arrange on a serving platter. Remove the bouquet garni and discard. I also use a skimmer and remove the mushrooms and onions and place on the platter as well. Now, turn up the heat and boil the remaining liquid until it reduces to a thick sauce, which should happen in a few minutes. If it doesn't seem to be thickening for you, add a little mixture of corn starch and water, a few drops at a time, until the sauce thickens.
Serve the sauce in a carafe or small pitcher so your guests can pour it over the chicken. The dish goes lovely with a side of roast potatoes.