My cooking instinct leads me to assemble meals that are fresh and easy, not ones that take a lot of simultaneous action, prep-work, cook time, or dirty dishes. Life is too short and I’m already 27! With the recent delivery of all my New York apartment kitchenware, however, I couldn’t stand leaving my cherished Le Creuset dutch oven (gifted by my friend Ashley) lonely and abandoned in a box – I needed to use it for a dish worthy of such a traumatizing move. So, I sacrificed my fuss-avoiding tendencies to prepare coq (pronounced “coke”) au vin, a French classic that requires a tiny bit more love and care than what I’m used to.
That said – coq au vin is still a relatively simple one pot dish, but the most tender versions of it require a generous amount of cooking time. The dish is great because it satisfies those who prefer lighter meat (chicken) as well as those who are in the mood for a heartier meal with a belly-soothing sauce. The taste of the reduced red wine and bacon laden sauce can warm a body better than a blanket, and for that reason it’s one of my favorite cold-season dishes.
When cooking classics, I look to my three closest friends for help: Julia Child (duh), Ina Garten, and Martha Stewart. Julia always tells me how it should be done traditionally – short cuts don’t exist. Ina tells you how it should be done, but leaves out tedious steps that don’t necessarily elevate the dish. Martha tells you how her many test kitchens have discovered it to taste best – a mix of tradition and modernity. So, this time, I went for Ina, mostly because the Food Network site had an accompanying video that helped to answer some of my questions.
The general breakdown of coq au vin is this: fry pancetta, remove it, use the fat to brown the chicken pieces, remove them, cook down root vegetables and garlic, deglaze pan with cognac, add wine, chicken stock, and all the rest. Put pot in the oven, remove and do a few last minute things. I like to serve mine over egg noodles with a green salad and a glass of the red wine I used for cooking. Ina’s recipe turned out great, but the video actually had a longer cooking time than the written recipe, and I should have gone followed the video, because the chicken wasn’t as tender and the sauce wasn’t as thick as I wanted it to be. Another note – the chicken takes longer than 5 minutes to brown, and that’s okay. So stick to what looks right and not what the recipe says and you’ll be fine.
Overall, I am very pleased with the turnout. You can find the recipe for Ina’s Coq au Vin here. And, if you want to replicate the EXACT meal I prepared, click here for Bon Appetite’s awesome (and super easy) horseradish cheddar dip that I served as an hors d’oeuvre. Highly recommended for any occasion.