Coq au Vin. If you’re over 40, you might recall that this was one of Julia Childs’ signature dishes.* It’s a traditional French dish made with chicken, vegetables, herbs, and wine. Coq (“rooster,” to translate exactly) au Vin (“of wine”) is one of those great dishes that is simple to create but will make your guests think you’re a genius of French cooking.
There are two important keys to unlocking the rich, wonderful flavor of Coq au Vin. The first is that you must brown the chicken before adding everything else. Browning the chicken – or browning anything for that matter – is a process called the “Maillard reaction,” named after the guy that discovered it. I won’t get into the nitty gritty of the science behind it, but basically it’s a chemical reaction caused by heat that gives meats, vegetables, breads, whatever – a brown color and, more importantly, it enhances and brings out flavors. So whatever you do, do not skip this important step or your flavors will fall flat.
The second most important step in making Coq au Vin is letting it cook slow and low for a few hours. Could you put everything in the pot and turn up the heat a bit and have things cooked sooner? Yes. But, you’ll probably end up with vegetables and chicken that taste like they are floating in wine and your chicken won’t be nearly as tender as it could be.
You see, this recipe was invented to make the tough meat of a rooster edible – which meant you had to cook it in liquid for a long time. Now, we generally use chicken, but the theory is the same: letting it take a long hot bath makes it nice and juicy and tender. And, the time will allow the alcohol from the wine to burn off and the flavors of the vegetables, chicken, and herbs to come together into an incredibly rich and hearty flavor.
While the Coq au Vin is cooking, I suggest doing like Julia did: relax and have a glass of wine! By the time your dish is ready, you’ll have been enjoying the aromas for a few hours and you’ll be ready to indulge in a warm, classic dish that is rich in protein and has all the good things about herbs and veggies in it – the perfect fall Paleo dish!
*If you’re under 40 and you don’t know who Julia Childs is and you cook even occasionally, you should really check out her book, “My Life in France,” and see if you can find some of her cooking shows online. She will inspire you, I promise!
- 4 large chicken breasts
- 1 cup fresh button mushrooms ½ pound carrots, peeled and cut into chunky pieces, about 1 inch 4 celery stalks, cut into chunky pieces, about 1 inch
- ½ pound shallots, peeled
- 3 ounce bacon, chopped
- 1 ½ tbsp fresh parsley plus extra for serving
- 2 cloves garlic, minced or pressed 1 tsp dried oregano 1 tsp dried thyme
- 1 bay leaf 1/8 teaspoon black pepper
- ½ tsp salt
- 1 large tomato, finely chopped
- 1 tbsp white wine vinegar 1 ½ cup chicken broth
- 1 ½ cups water 1 tbsp arrowroot flour (optional)
- 1 tbsp olive oil
- In a large Dutch oven heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add the bacon and sauté until crisp. Remove the bacon with a slotted spoon and set aside.
- Working in batches, brown the chicken. Transfer to a plate. Add the carrots, onions, garlic, celery, tomato, soup and vinegar. Add the chicken, bacon, thyme, oregano, parsley, salt, black pepper and bay leaf. Add the water, cover the pot with a lid and cook over medium high heat for two hours.
- If using a slow cooker, cook the bacon and brown the chicken in a pan then transfer the browned chicken, cooked bacon and the rest of ingredients (except arrowroot flour) in the slow cooker. Set the slow cooker on high setting, cover and cook until the chicken is fork-tender, about 2 hours.
- Using a slotted spoon, transfer chicken, mushrooms, carrot, celery and onions to a platter discarding the bay leaf. Cover to keep warm.
- In a small bowl, combine 1/2 cup of the liquid from the pot or slow cooker with arrowroot flour. Stir to mix, then cook until sauce thicken. Pour the sauce over chicken and vegetables, sprinkle with chopped fresh parsley and serve.
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