Coq au vin

March 2, 2011

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Serves 6

This recipe is based on one from executive chef John Paine of Les Zygomates, with tips from Catheline van den Branden, and advice from the late Julia Child’s books. When Paine makes the dish, he thickens the sauce with pureed carrots and onions simmered in the liquid. Traditional accompaniments are egg noodles or roasted potatoes and peas tossed with butter and parsley.

6 sprigs fresh thyme
1 bay leaf
1 piece (1 inch) cinnamon stick
1 tablespoon whole black peppercorns
30 pearl onions, root ends trimmed
8 ounces slab or thick-sliced bacon, cut into 1-inch strips
2 tablespoons butter
1 whole chicken, cut into 8 pieces, or chicken thighs and breasts (3 1/2 pounds total)
Salt and pepper, to taste
3 cloves garlic, lightly smashed and peeled
1 tablespoon tomato paste
1/3 cup cognac (optional)
1 bottle red wine
3 cups chicken stock
10 ounces small white mushrooms, halved
2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley

1. In cheesecloth, wrap the thyme, bay leaf, cinnamon, and peppercorns.

2. In a large skillet, bring 1 inch of water to a boil. Add the onions and cook 1 minute. With a slotted spoon, transfer the onions to a colander and rinse with cold water.

3. In the same boiling water, simmer the bacon for 4 minutes. Drain into a colander.

4. Peel the pearl onions, leaving the roots and pointed ends intact, but cutting off the dark ends.

5. In a large flameproof casserole over medium heat, melt 1 tablespoon of butter. Add the bacon and cook, stirring often, for 10 minutes or until golden. With a slotted spoon, transfer to a plate. Add the onions and cook, stirring often, for 5 minutes or until golden. Transfer the onions to the plate with the bacon.

6. Spoon off all but 1 tablespoon of fat from the pan.

7. Sprinkle the chicken with salt and pepper. Working in batches, brown the chicken in the casserole, skin side down, for 5 minutes without moving. Turn and brown the other sides for 3 minutes. With tongs, transfer the chicken to a bowl. Pour off all the fat from the pan.

8. Return the bacon and onions to the casserole. Add the garlic and tomato paste. Cook, stirring, for 1 minute. Return the chicken to the pan. If using, pour the cognac over the chicken and heat for 30 seconds. With a long match, carefully light the cognac. Wait for the flame to die or extinguish it with the lid. Add the wine, stock, and herb packet. Bring to a boil, lower the heat, and cover the pan. Simmer for 30 to 40 minutes or until the chicken is cooked through.

9. Meanwhile, in a skillet over medium-high heat, heat the remaining 1 tablespoon butter. Cook the mushrooms, stirring often, for 8 minutes or until they release their liquid and it evaporates.

10. With tongs and a slotted spoon, transfer the chicken, bacon, and onions to a bowl. Discard the garlic and herbs. Skim the fat from the cooking liquid. Bring to a boil and simmer for 8 to 10 minutes to concentrate the flavor. Taste for seasoning and add more salt and pepper, if you like.

11. Return the chicken, bacon, onions, and mushrooms to the sauce with any liquid in the bowl. Simmer for a few minutes or until hot. Sprinkle with parsley.

Lisa Zwirn