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Saturday, February 19, 2011

C'est Bon! Le Vrai Coq au Vin

My lovelies, I don't know how many of you have had the opportunity to try French country cooking, but let me tell you, it is fabulous-with a capital FAB and a capital ULOUS! We are not talking the stereotypical American idea of French cooking, with pretentious artistry and minimalist proportions (although in my experience, I have never found this to be the case in any French restaurant.) No, this is rich, hearty, succulent food.  Food that makes you have a food-gasm, complete with clutching the table, eyes rolling back in the head, and moaning.  Oh, yes.  It's that good.

Having said that, I should also tell you that it's not for the faint of heart cook.  French country cooking is about the quality of ingredients and the time spent reducing those ingredients to their most savory essence.  This means time and numerous steps.  In other words, French country cooking is a labor of love.

What to wear while performing this labor of love? Well, just to get me in the mood, I start with a bit of French lingerie (maybe tmi for some of you, but those who know me know I am not shy about my fetish for lingerie!)

Don't you love a good demi-bra? It's like a boost to your spirit as well as your girls!

And, since the weather here has been so very spring like...

A light and breezy white eyelet a line skirt with...

A fitted, 3/4 sleeve turquoise cardigan, and...

What every girl needs. A classic pair of black patent heels. 

I accessorized with a red necklace and stacked beaded bracelets, just to give myself a little jolt of color. To protect my clothes from the many steps of this dish, I wore my black and white polka dot apron from Anthropologie.  So pretty and feminine, no?

Remember how I said that French country cooking is not for the faint of heart? Well, fasten your seat belts, my lovelies, and hold on tight! This recipe is from Ann Willan, founder of La Varenne cooking school at Chateau du Fey.  

Le Vrai Coq au Vin (The True Coq au Vin)


1 onion, sliced
1 carrot, sliced
2 stalks celery, sliced
1 clove garlic
1 t. peppercorns
1 bottle (750 mL) red wine (I used a pinot noir)
1 T. olive oil

Combine the onion, carrot, celery, garlic, peppercorns, and wine in a saucepan, bring to a boil , and simmer for 5 minutes.  Let the marinade cool completely.

Pack the chicken in a deep, non-metallic bowl and pour the cooled marinade over the pieces. Spoon the olive oil over the pieces to keep them moist. Cover and refrigerate for at least one day or up to 3 days (I left mine in for 2 days), turning the chicken occasionally.

Take the chicken pieces from the marinade and pat dry with paper towels (this keeps the hot grease from splattering when you cook the chicken). Strain the marinade, reserving the liquid and the vegetables separately.  Heat the oven to 325 F.

The reserved vegetables will have taken in the color of the wine.


5-6 lbs. fresh chicken, cut up (I used 5 lbs of thighs)
1 T. vegetable oil
6 oz. thick sliced bacon, cut into lardons (thin strips)
3 T. flour
2 cups chicken broth
2 shallots, chopped
2 garlic cloves, chopped
1 large bouquet garni (large sprig of fresh thyme, 2 dried bay leaves green tops of 2 leeks, and the tops of 3 stalks of celery tied in a piece of cheese cloth)

To cook the chicken, heat the vegetable oil in saute pan or oven proof casserole over medium heat.  Add the lardons and saute until browned and the fat runs, about 5 minutes.  Transfer them to a bowl using a slotted spoon and set aside.  

The reserved lardons of bacon.

Add the chicken pieces, skin side down, to the pan and saute over medium heat until thoroughly browned, at least 10 minutes.  Turn them and brown the other side, 3 to 5 minutes longer.  Remove the pieces and set aside.

Your chicken should have a rich, golden brown color.

Add the reserved vegetables to the saute pan over medium heat and fry until they start to brown, 5 to 7 minutes.  Stir in the flour and cook over high heat, stirring, until it browns, 2 to 3 minutes.  Pour in the marinade liquid and bring to a boil, stirring constantly until the sauce thickens.  Simmer for 2 minutes, then stir in the shallots, garlic, and bouquet garni. 

The bouquet garni

Replace the chicken into the pan, pushing the pieces down into the sauce.  Cover the pan, transfer to the oven, and cook, turning the chicken occasionally, until the pieces are fork tender and fall easily from the bone, 1 to 1 1/4 hours. (I actually cooked mine for 1 and 1/2 hours.) Now, for the love of God, pour yourself a glass of wine and have a rest!

After you have had your wine, cook the garnish. 


2 T. butter
16 to 18 baby onions, peeled
8 oz. button mushrooms, trimmed and quartered
salt and pepper, to taste
1 T. parsley, (I omitted this since I am allergic)

Melt the butter in a frying pan over medium heat. Add the onions and brown them, shaking the pan from time to time so they color evenly, 5 to 7 minutes.  Lower the heat, cover, and cook the onions, shaking the pan occasionally, until just tender, 8 to 10 minutes more.  Lift them with the slotted spoon and add to the reserved lardons.  Put the mushrooms in the pan, with a little more butter if needed, and saute until tender, 3 to 5 minutes.

Typically Coq au Vin is served over something starchy-mashed potatoes, small fried potatoes or spaetzle.  I chose to do mashed potatoes.  Simply place a piece of chicken over the potatoes (or spaetzle), spoon garnish and sauce over the top.

Now that you have accomplished this, sit down, and have a taste.  After the moans and gasps of ecstasy have subsided, give yourself a pat on the back, my lovelies! Or better yet, let someone else give you a nice massage in thanks for an amazing meal...


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