Recipe for Coq Au Vin (It's Très Bien)

I've been fully getting my Julie and Julia on recently, and I haven't even seen the movie yet. I just adore French food - which I guess is somewhat of a bonus when Andre and I have a five year masterplan to move to France.

So, here's a recipe for Coq au Vin. Astonishingly, it's not Jamie Oliver. All my French recipes are from an amazing book called 'The Food of France'. Buy it on Amazon immediately (if not sooner). Good, classic French recipes. I've made pretty much everything in it, and I thoroughly recommend it.

Here's what you need:

8 x organic chicken drumsticks, 8 x organic chicken thighs, 1 bottle red wine, bay leaves, thyme, 250g bacon (chopped), 60g butter, 20 shallots (whole), 500g button mushrooms (whole), 1 litre chicken stock, 125ml brandy, tomato paste, plain flour.

What I love about Coq au Vin is that the ingredients are so simple. Chicken, mushrooms, wine, brandy, thyme, and so on. There's nothing outlandish on the list - there's no requirement for a special type of porcini mushroom that can only be purchased from a specialist shop in some Italian market town who doesn't do mail order. With Coq au Vin, it's all about how you cook the ingredients and mix them together.

So, here's how you do it. First of all, you need to marinate the chicken. Put the chicken, wine, bay leaves, thyme (pick the leaves off and use these - don't use the stalks), and salt and pepper into a large bowl:

You probably think they're after the chicken, right? Nope, they're after the cork. They adore chasing a cork around the house, and have some kind of special instinct that tells them when a bottle of wine is being opened. I guess they do get a lot of practice at this, so it's maybe not that surprising :-)

Cover the chicken and leave in the fridge for as long as you can. Overnight is ideal, but a few hours is fine too:

Melt some of the butter in a frying pan, and sauté the bacon until golden. Lift out and place in a separate little bowl. Melt some more butter, and sauté the shallots (which should be kept whole, not chopped) until golden. Lift out and place in another little bowl. Repeat with the mushrooms (not pictured):

Take your chicken dish out of the fridge. Melt the remaining butter in the frying pan. Carefully lift each chicken piece out of the marinade and transfer it to the frying pan, reserving the marinade. Sauté the chicken until golden. You may need to sauté it in batches if you only have a small pan. Throw in around 2 heaped tablespoons of plain flour, and turn the chicken to coat it:

Remove the chicken from the frying pan, and place it in whatever pot you will be using to cook it in. I used a nice high-sided stainless steel number. Pour the brandy into the frying pan and boil for 30 seconds. Pour into the pot, over the chicken. Add the bacon, mushrooms, shallots, marinade, stock, and three squeezes of tomato paste:

Cook over moderate heat for around 45 minutes. Stir occasionally. After 45 minutes, remove a chicken piece and cut into it to see if it's cooked. Note that because you have soused the chicken in red wine, the chicken is likely to be pinkish. So you'll need to go by texture and taste rather then colour to judge if it's cooked. If there is any doubt, cook for a further 15-20 minutes.

The sauce will probably be quite liquid. I prefer a thicker sauce, so what I did was transfer a spoonful of liquid to a small saucepan. I added a few spoonfuls of plain flour, and mixed well. I transferred another spoonful of liquid to the small saucepan, and mixed again. When I had a nice gloopy paste, I poured this into the main pot and stirred well: 

This thickened the sauce up nicely. Don't try to put flour directly into the main pot, as it will go lumpy and gross.

I served the Coq au Vin with green beans and dauphinoise potatoes. It tasted delicious. Go on, give it a try!

Psst! If you liked this post, you may also like...

Recipe: Jam roly poly (the best English pudding, ever)

DIY: One tiny bathroom, one huge transformation

Interiors: Fabulous London home