Did you know that today is Bastille Day in France? Similar to our Fourth of July, it is the day they celebrate the storming of the Bastille fortress/prison in 1789, a symbolic event of the French Revolution. The President of France presides at a parade on the Champs-Elysees avenue in Paris. It may have started as a battle, but it is one heck of a party today! James and I are going to celebrate (we look for any excuse, you know) by having an French food-filled day. While watching the Tour de France cycling race, we’re having an omelet for breakfast, grilled ham and cheese sandwich (known in French as a Croque Monsieur!) for lunch, Coq au Vin for dinner, and topping it all off with a nectarine and cherry galette for dessert! Ooh, la, la, baby! It will be a lip-smacking kind of day!
Coq au Vin (coke-oh-van) is a very French dish even though legend has it that it traces back to Julius Caesar. It is cooked in some form in every region of France. It is the perfect recipe for older chickens or roosters that would be too tough if cooked in other ways. It can be made with any wine, but tradition dictates that it be burgundy or other similar red wine. These days a good pinot noir is a great choice. Traditionally seasoned with thyme, bay leaf, onions, and mushrooms, it is a luscious, soul-satisfying meal, especially when paired with mashed potatoes. In classic recipes you partially cook and assemble the ingredients in the evening, put them in a deep cooking pot, cover with wine and marinate overnight. I seldom think that far ahead so I adapted a recipe to utilize the strengths of slow cookers. You brown the chicken and some of the ingredients first which creates a really deep flavor base, then add vegetables, seasonings, and lots of wine, and cook slowly all day. When you get home from work, the house will smell amazing and dinner will be waiting for you. So fire up your Edith Piaf and watch “Julie & Julia”, it’s our salute to the French … Bon Appetit Mon Amis!
Jane’s Tips and Hints:
Traditionally marinated in wine overnight, coq au vin cooked in a slow cooker mimics the long marination and braise without taking two days to cook.
Kitchen Skill: Braising
Braising is one technique that everyone should learn. It keeps meats moist and tenderizes even the cheapest, toughest cuts. Meats that you normally have to sharpen your knife to be able to cook, let alone chew, become meltingly tender with the slow cooking. To increase flavor and give an appealing color, brown your protein in hot oil, usually in a Dutch oven. Then add a cooking liquid such as wine, broth, or water, lower the heat, cover, and cook slowly for a long time. The flavor intensifies and the protein becomes succulent. It’s just about the perfect cooking technique.
- Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 1/4 to 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
- 1/2 tsp kosher salt
- Freshly ground black pepper
- 1 tsp onion powder
- 1 (5 to 7-lb) stewing chicken, cut into serving pieces
- 6 oz pancetta, salt pork, or slab (unsliced) bacon, cubed
- 24 to 30 frozen pearl onions, thawed and patted dry
- 8 oz button mushrooms, halved
- 1 to 2 tbsp olive oil, if needed
- 2 (750-ml) bottles red wine, preferably pinot noir
- 2 tbsp tomato paste
- 1 medium onion, quartered
- 2 stalks celery, quartered
- 2 medium carrots, quartered
- 3 cloves garlic, smashed, and sprouted green center discarded
- 6 to 8 sprigs fresh thyme
- 1 bay leaf
- 2 cups chicken stock or broth
- Cooked egg noodles or mashed potatoes, for serving
- Minced fresh parsley, for garnish
- Set a wire rack over a paper towel lined baking sheet with sides. Combine flour, salt, pepper, and onion powder in a plastic bag.
- Rinse chicken pieces and pat dry with paper towel. Add a couple of pieces to the flour and shake to coat thoroughly. Transfer to prepared wire rack. Continue with remaining chicken pieces. Discard any remaining flour. Set aside to rest.
- Place pancetta in a large 12-inch skillet and cook over medium heat until fat has been rendered and pork is lightly crispy. Using a slotted spoon, transfer pork to a bowl and reserve. Add pearl onions to same pan and cook until lightly browned.
- Using the slotted spoon again, add onions to pork. Then add mushrooms to the pan and cook until they wilt and release their liquid, about 5 minutes. Add mushrooms to onions and pork. Cover and refrigerate until needed.
- Still using the same pan, brown chicken pieces on both sides, cooking in batches if necessary to avoid crowding. If needed, add 1 or 2 tbsp oil to the pan. When done, transfer chicken to the crock of a slow cooker.
- Add 1 cup of the wine to the skillet and deglaze the pan, scraping up any browned bits. Stir in tomato paste until dissolved. Pour this over the chicken. Add the onion, celery, carrots, garlic, thyme sprigs, bay leaf, and chicken stock to the slow cooker. Pour in remaining wine (yes, all of it!). Cover and cook on low for about 6 to 8 hours or until chicken is falling-off-the-bone tender. Transfer chicken pieces to a platter and keep warm in a 250°F oven.
- Place a colander over a large bowl, and pour juices from slow cooker into colander. Press on solids with a spoon to extract as much liquid as possible. Discard solids. Pour cooking liquids into a pot and cook over medium heat until slightly thickened and reduce by about 1/3. This may take 20 to 40 minutes, depending on how much liquid you start with. If the sauce is still not thick enough for your taste, stir 1 tsp cornstarch into 1/4 cup lukewarm water and stir until dissolved. Stirring constantly, slowly pour this into the cooking liquids. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat back to medium and cook until thickened.
- Stir in the previously cooked mushrooms, onions, and pork pieces. Cook in the sauce for 15 minutes or until heated through. Taste and adjust seasonings, if needed. Add chicken back to saucepan to reheat.
- Place noodles or potatoes in bowls and top with a piece of chicken. Spoon sauce over the top, sprinkle with parsley and serve immediately.
- Yield: 4 to 6 servings