When it is cold, wet and snow on the mountains, you want something that is hearty, warm, comforting and luscious. There is nothing more better than a stew! Making this classic rustic french dish is the perfect option for dinner tonight. It is humble, aromatic, earthy and soul comforting.
I was wanting to make it as French as French can be, you know the real Macoy, sadly though that proved to be a challenge. You might be wondering friends, how can this simple recipe be a challenge?
Well, if you are going authentic, firstly you need to use a rooster instead of chicken. Unless you live on a farm, or know of someone who does, finding a rooster in your local supermarket may prove to be difficult. But why a rooster you may wonder? Coq au Vin literally means rooster in wine. Dating back to medieval times, this dish was a peasant dish and a rooster was the cheapest meat you could purchase. Braising the meat in red wine helps to transform this feisty old tough bird into something that is tender and juicy.
The next challenge was the wine. Coq au vin requires Burgundy wine. Now friends, wine from Burgundy in today times is one of the MOST expensive wines in the world. For example a bottle of Domaine de la Romanée-Conti Romanée-Conti Grand Cru will easily set you back R 232,730 ($ 15,037) with today’s current exchange. Now that is one expensive bottle of wine to use in cooking!!!
Challenges of making Coq au Vin
The next challenge was using truffles – the peasants back then used to forage a lot for food, so finding truffles was easier and not so expensive. Fast forward a few 100 years, this little humble dish, is not so humble anymore is it?
Then the last challenge, which I think a few people would not opt for. Back in them days, they used to use the Rooster’s blood to thicken the sauce. Ummm, no thank you!!! I will stick with the roux mixture using flour.
How now Coq au vin?
In the end it was not so difficult! My wine of choice was a Pinot Noir. It is the closest you can get. A red Burgundy wine is basically a Pinot Noir, and a white Burgundy wine is a Chardonnay. Keep that in mind for next time. As MBKitchen loves to support local, the only Pinot Noir I could find in my region was a Pinot Noir from Balance Wines. I am not sad about that at all.
It is a refined wine with elegant nuances of warm spice, cherry and raspberry with a hint of oak.
This really added a lovely earthiness to the dish without taking too much away from all the other flavours. Plus, the price suits my pocket well. It is a good wine which I will drink, but reasonably priced for cooking as well. There is a saying, which I firmly believe, and it goes like this:
In the beginning, there was cooking wine.Julia Moskin
And Americans cooked with it, and said it was good.
Then, out of the darkness, came a voice.
Said Julia Child: “If you do not have a good wine to use, it is far better to omit it, for a poor one can spoil a simple dish and utterly debase a noble one.”
And so we came to a new gospel: Never cook with a wine you wouldn’t drink!
My Boozy Kitchen Tips To Making the Best Coq au Vin
Very important, your wine – you can opt for a Pinot Noir, but don’t be shy in trying some amazing other cultivars. You can add a South African twist and use a Pinotage! For a lighter Spring/Summer feel, you can even use a white wine, like a Chardonnay or even a Riesling.
Should you be able to find an older bird, I do recommend. You can also opt for a Cornish hen, should it be a whole hen you can joint it. If you going to go for pieces, please do not use chicken breast or boneless/skinless chicken pieces. You want flavour! The best pieces to use is thighs and drumsticks. I used free range, skinless thigh and drumsticks. You can take the skin off, as we are not roasting, the skins tends to go rubber and just gross (in my humble opinion).
Please don’t use any old bacon, you want nice lardons. Finding nice pieces of cut bacon is not so easy, so I went for a lovely thick slices of smoked rashers instead. They work so well, giving you that aromatic rich smokiness to the dish.
If you can try to avoid the boring old white button mushrooms. If you can find local wild mushrooms from you nearest farmers market go for it. You can also buy a lovely mixture of Forrest mushrooms from Checkers (they are dried, but soaking them in warm water to re-hydrate – use the stock from the mushrooms as well, as this will give a lovely earthy richness to the dish. You can opt to use brown mushrooms as well.
Don’t omit the celery, I know, I am not a huge fan either, but celery (chopped finely) gives this dish an extra layer of warmth and savoriness. I like to keep my garlic sliced more than chopped up or crushed. I don’t know why, but that is just me.
I definitely and highly recommend that you leave the Coq au Vin to marinate overnight in the fridge. This just makes the chicken more tender, juicier and the flavours to intensify. You can even use this mixture to marinate any chicken/meat and then cook your meat the way you like. You could even do a Coq au Vin ala Afrique du Sud – (Make Chicken Sosaties, using Pinotage instead of Pinot Noir to marinate your chicken. Braai them, and then reduce your marinade to about one third in a saucepan, thicken and pour over the sosaties. Viola Bon Appetite!)
Okay, seriously enough talk, I am sure you are itching for the recipe. So I’ll stop rambling. Here it is – I hope you enjoyed this recipe as much as I did. Please feel free to comment and share your thoughts. I would love to hear from you.