This time last year I did a post about winter time dishes that I crave when the cold, blustery winds and rain blow from the north in sunny Southern California. While it’s nothing like the Midwest or the East, the drop in temperature automatically triggers the need to feed. The last post was about Chile Verde, one of my favorite Mexican dishes that heats the heart, soul and mouth with a slow burn.
This year I’m going to talk about another dish that wasn’t created in this country but is one that should be added to the list of winter favorites… the iconic French ‘Coq au Vin’.
Like many of American comfort food dishes, it is one that has been adopted from other cultures. The literal translation is chicken in red wine, but there is much more than wine goes into the making of the rich, multiple flavor layers of this dish. When I make it for friends, I just call it ‘Farmhouse Chicken.’
The original French version is typically made with whole frying chickens cut into pieces but given the aversion to having to deal with bones by many, along with the unequal cook times for different parts of the bird, I use boneless, skinless chicken thighs.
When I cook any chicken dish, this cut is always my favorite since it includes some extra fat (fat=flavor) that breasts do not.
The fat cooks out in the process, so you are left with a fairly lean piece of meat, but the rendered fat adds so much to the flavor of the finished dish. Also, the thighs continue to become more tender the longer they are cooked in contrast to breasts which can become tough and dry.
Rendered chicken fat is called ‘schmaltz’ and it is so good I always have a jar in my freezer. It is traditionally used for frying or as a spread on bread in Central European cuisine, and in the United States, particularly identified with Ashkenazi Jewish cuisine.
One great thing about this dish is that it can be served both rustic ‘Sunday Supper’ style in an oversized bowl or plate with buttery mashed potatoes and a couple vegetables cooked separately, or you can take it upscale for an intimate dinner by baking it in individual casserole dishes topped with puff pastry which creates an impressive presentation. Simply file the casserole with chilled stew, pinch a circle of puff pastry on top, brush with beaten egg and bake at 400 for 30-40 minutes.
When prepared this way, truth be told, I’ve gone completely off the rails and added a few cubes of foie gras into the dish prior to baking… yeah baby!
Steaming Hot Goodness awaits…
Like most braises, this dish is better enjoyed the day after making it as all the flavors meld together overnight, and I would also recommend that you make the large quantity version in my recipe below as you can freeze it into small portions to be enjoyed later. It doesn’t take much longer to create a larger batch version than a smaller and is great to be able to enjoy it over an extended period of time.
Recipe – Farmhouse Chicken
(Chicken braised in Red Wine & Bacon)
- As needed Kosher Salt & Black Pepper
- 3 pounds Boneless, skinless chicken breasts
- 8 ounces Applewood smoked Bacon, preferably thick-cut, 1/4 pieces
- 2 each Medium onions, diced ¼ inch
- 1/2 cup Finely Diced Carrots
- 1 each Large shallot, peeled and minced
- 2 TBS Fresh garlic, chopped
- 1/2 cup Brandy (not cooking Brandy)
- 2/3 bottle Good quality, full bodied red wine ie. Cabernet, Zinfandel or red blend
- 1 TBS Tomato Paste
- 2 TBS Chopped fresh thyme
- 2 cups Frozen pearl onions, defrosted
- As needed Cornstarch slurry
- 1 TBS Olive oil
- 1 TBS Unsalted Butter
- As needed Kosher salt
- 12 ounces Cremini or White Mushrooms, stemmed, cut into 1” pieces
Cut chicken thighs in half or, if large, into thirds. Place in baking pan and sprinkle both sides with a generous amount of salt and freshly ground pepper. Cover and place in fridge for one hour. You will need a large, heavy bottomed Dutch oven for this dish. Place the bacon in the pot and cook over medium-low heat until bacon has rendered most of the fat out. Remove bacon from pot and reserve. Turn heat on pot to high and sear chicken until well-browned and crusty on both sides. This will have to be done in several batches as it is important not to crowd the chicken in the bottom of the pan, in fact, the pieces should not touch each other.
Don’t crowd or worry about the bottom of the pan
Add additional bacon fat or olive oil as needed to brown all the chicken. Set chicken aside. Add onions, carrots, shallots and garlic to pot and cook, stirring frequently for 10 minutes over low heat. Add brandy and ignite. Cook for 2 minutes stirring with a wooden spoon scraping up the caramelized pieces from the bottom of the pan. Next add wine, chicken, bacon, tomato paste and thyme, bring to a boil and then cook, covered on stove top for 45-60 minutes or until chicken is cooked through and tender. Add slurry and thicken slightly and cook for 2-3 minutes. Hold warm.
Good and Browned on all sides…
Heat saute pan over high heat and add olive oil and butter to saute pan and swirl to combine. When oil/butter mix is very hot add the mushrooms and salt lightly. Do not stir mushrooms, rather, allow them to develop a nice brown sear and crust on all sides.
Well browned shrooms…
Stir mushrooms into the pot with the chicken. Adjust seasonings to taste.