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Faux Coq Au Vin

By Caroline Clough in Food on Sep 25, 2006 5:44PM

Chicagoist went out on a limb this weekend and tried making a dish we were not familiar with. This dish, in case the title isn't clear enough, was Coq Au Vin. Coq Au Vin is, really, chicken stew with a fancy French name to scare off amateur cooks. In our preparations we checked out the ideas and methods of The Joy of Cooking, How To Cook Everything, this article and our mother. Between all these sources, we made a lovely dish, full of tender (oh so very tender) chicken just dripping with flavor. Now, before we even list the first ingredient, we know that many of you gourmet types will find many faults with this recipe. Though we're prepared for snooty tongue lashings, we're going attempt to cut all that off by acknowledging that there are a few key aspects of this recipe that are decidedly not the way of a classical Coq Au Vin. We'll try, as we go along, to highlight where we took a different path but the fact remains, classical or not, this stew was damn good ... and isn't that all that matters, really?

Coq Au Vin takes a good amount of time to make, so we suggest that you do it when you have a full day free and, perhaps, a house or apartment that needs a good cleaning. This recipe will easily feed four people and leave you lunch or dinner leftovers for the week. One of our first, large, digressions from a more traditional Coq Au Vin was our choice of meat. Ideally you should have a mature bird to work with (originally the dish was prepared with a worn out rooster) but we didn't have the time or the knowlege of where to get such a bird, so we went with a roasting or broiler chicken instead ... if any of you have suggestions on where to get an older bird, please let us know!

What You Need
1 Broiler or Roasting Chicken
1 white onion (roughly chopped)
6 carrots (peeled and chopped into 1-2 inch pieces)
1/4 cup chopped celeriac (we're not a big fan of celery proper, but if you are- that would work too)
3-4 tablespoons thyme (fresh thyme would be good too)
4-5 strips thick bacon (here is a big difference between classical coq au vin and this recipe ... all the recipes strongly suggested pancetta cut into pieces slightly thicker than a matchstick or unsmoked bacon ... we used thick cut, hickory smoked bacon)
1 cup pearl onions halved or quartered (we did a mix of both)
1 cup mushrooms halved or quartered (we used shitake mushrooms, but porcinis were recommended by some and more standard mushrooms by others ... this is really up to you)
1 cup mild green olives (also not a traditional aspect of the dish)
1 tablespoon olive oil
3 garlic cloves slightly crushed with flat side of knife
2-3 bay leaves
2-6 tablespoons flour
1 bottle Burgundy or Beaujolais wine (we used Georges Duboeuf Beaujolais-Villages, found at Trader Joes. In a number of our sources we were instructed to use the best wine we could afford, we're not sure we really did this as our bottle cost $6.99, but the results were not disappointing)
salt and pepper to taste

What You Do
1. First off you must take apart your chicken. Our method was a bit haphazard compared to some, but the basic jist is to separate the wings, thighs and breasts from the body of the chicken. You will need a strong, serrated knife in order to do this without bodily harm.chicagoistchicken.jpg

2. Once you've gotten your chicken into pieces, put the carcass into a pot of water and bring to boil. This step isn't entirely necessary, but it does allow you to get get any additional meat you may have left on the bird, off. It also will produce a very lovely and potent chicken stock you can use both in this dish and for later endeavors.

3. Put your chicken pieces, the white onion, the chopped carrots, 1 bayleaf, 2 tablespoons thyme and a smattering of the celeriac into a large stock pot and cover with water. Don't drown your chicken, you need enough water that all the pieces are immersed but not floating willy nilly, every which way. (This is another rather large difference between our recipe and those we researched. Most would say to brown the chicken in a skillet or dutch oven, perhaps even flouring them slightly ... we chose to pseudo poach the chicken because, well, because our mother told us to.) chicagoistchickeninwater.jpg

4. Bring the water to a boil for five minutes then down to a simmer for one and a half to two hours (this is where the housecleaning comes in). Every once and a while you should check to make sure the chicken is still covered by the water ... it should be, but if it's not add enough water that the chicken is, once again, covered.

5. Check your carcass pot. When the meat is cooked and the water is chock full of chickeny goodness, remove the pot from heat. Remove the carcass from the broth. You can do this by having another pot and a colander on hand (they will be useful later on as well). Have the colander rest securely in the extra pot and slowly pour the carcass and broth into it. Put the broth to the side and allow the carcass to cool. Once the carcass is cool (and your hands are washed) pick all additional meat off the bones and throw it on in with the simmering chicken pieces.

6. Once your one and half to two hours are up, use the colander pot setup again, to separate the stock from the chicken pieces and vegetables. Set the stock aside and wait for the meat to be cool enough to touch. chicagoistchickencolander.jpg
Once the meat is touchable, remove and discard the skin and bones. Then separate the meat from the vegetables and break apart the larger pieces of chicken into bite sized chunks and nibbles. Shred some of it more finely, if you like.

7. Next, in a Dutch oven (or some similarly voluminous cooking pot) fry up the pieces of bacon until most, if not all, of their fat is rendered. In other words, fry the bacon until extremely crispy.

8. Take out and put aside the bacon. Turn the burner heat down to medium/medium low and then add the onions and garlic to the mix. Sautee them for three or four minutes.

9. Once the garlic and onions have softened, but have not browned, add the chicken and one tablespoon of olive oil. Stir.

10. Add one cup of the reserved stock, the remaining thyme, celeriac and bay leaf. Stir.

11. Add 3/4 of the bottle of wine (we actually put the whole bottle in, but then had to futz a little bit with the chicken stock to wine ratio, we think this will work better ... you could definitely add even less of the bottle to start with and then experiment to your taste). Stir.

12. Add the mushrooms and olives. Stir.

13. Add two tablespoons of flour and mix completely. If you feel that the stew is still not as thick as you would like, continue to add one tablespoon of flour at a time until it is (because of our wine to chicken stock problem, as well as our affinity for a really thick stew, we ended up adding 5 tablespoons of flour but this may not be necessary or wanted in your case).

14. Let the whole mess simmer for ten to fifteen minutes then it's ready for belly consumption.

A hearty stew deserves a hearty companion, use wide egg noodles, boiled new potatoes or rice to soak up this dish.