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Friday, November 30, 2012

[Coq au Vin] Classic French Cuisine traced to Julius Caesar

Coq au vin[kɔk o vɛ̃] means Rooster(or cock) cooked with wine in English.
Even though it's called "coq" au vin, most coq au vin is made with chickn.
I'd love to make it with a real cock or rooster, but I haven't found one yet at any market.
The dish I make should be rather called "Poulet au vin" as I make the dish with chicken.

I know that Julia Child introduced coq au vin a few times at her show, even though I didn't have a chance to see one live. I should try her coq au vin recipe some time.
However, as I like my coq au vin recipe I got from an old friend, I stick to the recipe, for now.

The dish traces back to the time Julius Caesar's Roman Empire conquered Gaul, region of Western Europe during the Iron Age and Roman era, encompassing present day France, Luxembourg and Belgium, most of Switzerland, the western part of Northern Italy. So, the dish is invented about 2000 years ago!
According to the legend, the headman of an Averne(Gaul) tribe sent a rooster, symbol of the valor of the Gauls, to Romans who besieged him. Guess what? Caesar returned his politeness :( by inviting the headman to cena, the main meal of the day in ancient Roman culture, where he served the very rooster cooked with wine. 
I like the story. Don't you? It shows a flash of a wit of Caesar.

As the origin of the dish is Bourgogne(Burgundy), I mostly use a bottle of Pinot Noir from Burgundy,
but other mild dry wines of other regions would do.
Oh, by the way, not only Burgundy, but also Alsace, Champagne and Auvergne have claimed paternity of the dish. :) That is why there are many varieties of coq au vin such as coq au vin jaune(Jura), coq au Riesling (Alsace), coq au pourpre (Beaujolais nouveau), and coq au Champagne

You are supposed to use a coq(or a chicken) cut into 8 pieces. I tried to cut a chicken a few times, only to find that it would be a better idea to use chicken thighs and breasts that are already cut! :)
It's up to you. If you can cut chicken into pieces, without making a mess, please start from a whole rooster or a chicken, by all means. :)
I adore Julia Child and her recipes. But, sometimes, I like simple recipes too. 
Believe me. This coq au vin is not as complicated as Julia's. :)

Here goes my favorite coq au vin recipe.

a whole chicken cut into 8 pieces (or 6-8 pieces of chicken parts of your choice)
2/3 bottle (= 2 cups) red wine 
8 oz shallots 
8 oz button mushroom (or as much as you want)
1 tablespoon garlic, minced
4-5 thick strips bacon, cut into crosswise
2 stalks celery
salt and pepper
1 tablespoon butter
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 teaspoon flour
Bouquet garni (bundle of herbs tied together 
with string, that includes parsley, thyme and bay leaf)


1. Wash chicken with cold water. Dry chicken thoroughly with kitchen towel. 

Season chicken generously with salt and pepper.

Cut celery into small pieces and carrots into thin sticks, and mushroom into slices. Slice shallot into thin rings.

Tie herbs of your choice with a string, to make a bouquet garni.

2. Saute bacon several minutes in a dutch oven or a heavy bottomed pan until lightly browned. I use a separate pan for sauteeing and braising, and a dutch oven for cooking in wine.

3. Add shallot and cook until shallot become translucent. Put aside.

4. Saute mushroom for 2-3 minutes. Put aside.

5. Heat butter and oil in pan to moderately hot, add chicken, skin side down first. Don't crowd the pan. (That is why I braise chicken in two batches). Turn to brown nicely on all sides.
Put aside. Leave fat in the pan.

If you braised chicken in a heavy bottomed pan, you continue to cook in the pan. If you used a separate pan for braising, it's time to move your chicken into a dutch oven/heavy bottomed pan with a lid.

6. Add carrot and celery pieces and cook for 2-3 minutes.

7. Add wine, bouquet garni(bundle of herbs) and garlic. Cover and cook for 20 minutes on medium heat, turning once.

8. Add bacon, shallot, and mushroom. Cook for 10 minutes.

9. Uncover the pan. Remove from the heat and add 2 teaspoons flour to thicken the sauce. Simmer 2-3 minutes.

Taste carefully and season accordingly.

French baguette is a perfect match with coq au vin.
However, other carbohydrate such as long grain rice or noodle will be a good company too.
Surprisingly, basmati rice makes a nice companion to coq au vin. :)


Coq au Vin


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