Over the holidays I read Mastering the Art of French Cooking, both volumes, cover to cover. If you don’t have these books I have to highly recommend them; they literally have everything and in such detail, too. There are, I’ll admit, a few things like the aspics that don’t really appeal to me, but those pale in comparison to the recipes that make my mouth water and stomach growl. Pork stews, braised and gratineed vegetables like endive, quenelles, Provencal green beans, orange sponge cake, buttercreams—even just reading the basic mother sauces left me craving a luscious mouthful of Mornay sauce with cauliflower.
Their recipe for Coq au Vin reminded me of my own version—a lazier version. I’m not knocking Julia Child’s classic recipe by any means, but I wanted to streamline the preparation of this dish, especially because it really does need that full, lengthy cooking time.
What makes this Coq au Van lazy, exactly? Well, when I make it I never once even touch a knife (except to chop a little parsley). I have to confess that, rather than buying slabs of pancetta and cutting them up, the first time I made this I actually bought a 4oz package of tiny naturally aged prosciutto cubes and used that in its place. I know, they’re not the same—it doesn’t ooze out salty, meaty fat—but they still impart a lighter porky flavor in the stew, and you get little tiny bites of hammy goodness. If there is pancetta cubiti in the store that day, though, I go for that. Point is—pick a pig and go with it!
(Bouquet garni with parsley, thyme, and bay leaves.
If your carrot came with a top, or your celery had some leaves, tie some up in there, too!)
I don’t bother with chopping the carrots and celery up into pretty pieces here, either. Frankly, by the time everything is done stewing, the carrots and celery are nothing but mush, all of their flavor having been leeched out into the base of the stew. I just clean them up, break them in half and throw them in, and fish them out at the end. You could use chicken breasts here I’m sure, all though I think that even after braising in wine for a few hours, they can turn out a little stringy and even bland so I always favor the thighs for their deeper flavor.
As for the wine, I always gravitate towards Côtes du Rhône, and this goes for any red wine-based stew I make. Pinot Noir can be substituted, but I find it can be a little too headstrong and even astringent at times. Côtes du Rhône on the other hand is more balanced, and the Chapelle-St-Arnoux by Arnoux & Fils is exquisitely so. If you can find a bottle of their Côtes du Rhône I highly recommend it; it’s inexpensive and one of the best tasting Côtes du Rhône I’ve had in a while (and they are NOT paying me to say this! Since I use a lot of Côtes du Rhône for red wine-based stews I’ve tried a number of them and I am extremely happy with this one so I had to share).
As with most stews, this can be made in advance, and I’d even venture to say it’s better when it is; just stop before the beurre manié and mushrooms go in, cooling the coq au vin down and storing as quickly as possible. When you’re ready to eat, reheat it gently over medium-low to low heat until everything is warmed through. Bring it to a boil and carry on with the beurre manié and mushrooms. I’m sure it could be done in a slow cooker, too, though I’m not sure on the setting or timing—just be sure to caramelize the onions, crisp the pancetta, and sear the chicken first, otherwise you’ll be missing out on quite a bit of flavor.
I like to serve this with baby new potatoes that were rubbed down with olive oil and kosher salt, and roasted in the oven until tender. This way, they stay crispy on the outside and buttery-soft within, and don’t turn to mush in the cooking liquid of the stew.
Make sure to follow me on BLOGLOVIN’!