A lot of people are easily intimidated by making food, especially any style of food which they haven't grown up with, or with names in other languages. The meals can be perceived to be difficult to make, with recipes drawn out over pages and long casserole cooking times which can even make a mother who can keep five kids on a schedule and run a household, feel inferior and incapable in the kitchen. NO LONGER LADIES!
Food for me, is not intimidating. There is no meal or recipe under the sun that makes me think "oh heck - how??" or "I can't". There is no number of guests that makes me feel incapable. Ok, maybe if I had to feed more than 300. I'd need a team I trusted and a bigger kitchen than I currently have access to, but the fear there is logistical; it's not about the food. My mom always cooked but she wasn't and still isn't a foodie. She was a single mum with two girls and food just wasn't a major focus, so I don't know where I got it from. Wait, that may be a lie. I'll tell you the story of how "food" and I met another day. TODAY I'm showing you how to make a french classic, SIMPLY.
Cooking and baking are VERY different. Cooking is NOT an exact science (baking definitely is!) - I very seldom work from a recipe. I read four or five recipes for the meal I'm keen to make, get a feel for what's involved, look at what I've got available and then work by feeling, whether I'm cooking for 10 or 100. I'm not naive - I KNOW this is a gift. Its a precious gift from God that I will NEVER take for granted - but in this gift I've found freedom to help others break down their perceptions of "difficult" food - break down the walls that make it look like HUGE amounts of work, and beckon you gently out of your comfort zone. SO with that in mind, let's move onto the purpose of the post.
Coq au Vin is a French meal, traditionally cooked with a rooster. The tougher, gamier meat than chicken needed a longer cooking time, and how it was made varied across France, from home to home and region to region. It's important to remember that recipes developed because people used what they had to use- if the didn't have enough of one thing, they'd substitute in another. You too can develop your own versions of this dish, but here are the basics.
One chicken, jointed into 8 pieces (I used one pack of thighs, and one packet of drumsticks instead)
200g or 7oz of lardons (cubed bacon will work here too)
10 whole shallots (peeled) or 3 onions, quartered - shallots are lovely and sweet, but not a necessity!
a few pieces of garlic, crushed - I used about 1 tablespoon
mushrooms - smaller are better than large ones chopped, but use what you have. I used around two cupped handfuls (400g or 14oz)
Red wine, I used a whole bottle but you could substitute in some stock if you needed
Thyme (I prefer fresh, but dried will work just as well)
Bay leaves - 5
To make this go further you could add some chopped carrots, too.
Serve with mashed potatoes and steamed green beans or other green veg.
There are two methods of doing this, the difference being when the wine is added. Method 1 is a little quicker, Method 2 uses one less pot.
1) To start, empty your bottle of wine and bay leaves into a pot and place on a medium heat to reduce a little (not essential but helps to make for a richer sauce).
2) Brown your chicken pieces in a little olive oil in a large cast iron casserole, three or four at a time. If you don't have a casserole dish which is suitable for stove top use, just do this in a pan and transfer them to a deep ovenproof dish, once they are browned. Place them to one side in a bowl.
3) In your casserole, fry your lardons and shallots until they are browned on a medium high heat. Add your garlic and let it fry for a minute. Turn off the heat.
4) Turn off the wine which has been simmering and reducing.
5) Throw a handful of plain flour over your chicken pieces, stir them up in the bowl so that they are all well coated. (I forgot to do this the time I took the pics, so had to thicken it later - this way is MUCH easier!) They should be WELL coated, just keep adding flour until they are no longer sticky and wet.
*** ASIDE HINT*** when you're casseroling, I find this the best way to thicken sauces. Covering your meat like this generally provides the perfect amount of flour required to thicken the amount of liquid required to cover your meat and a few veg.
6) Add your chicken to your casserole dish with the bacon, shallots and garlic. Put in your thyme, season well with a good pinch of salt and pepper, cover with the wine reduction. If there isn't enough wine to cover over the meat and veg (see pics for whats OK) then add a little chicken stock (or any stock except maybe fish!) or just a stock cube and some water to bring the level up.
7) Turn your hob back onto medium high until the casserole starts to boil
1) Brown your chicken pieces in a little olive oil in a large cast iron casserole, three or four at a time. If you don't have a casserole dish which is suitable for stove top use, just do this in a pan and transfer them to and deep oven proof dish, once they are browned. Place them to one side in a bowl.
2) In your casserole, fry your lardons and shallots until they are browned on a medium high heat. Add your garlic and let it fry for a minute.
3) Turn down the heat and add your bottle of wine and bay leaves - simmer a while to reduce it a bit, or just move on if you're pressed for time.
4) Throw a handful of plain flour over your chicken pieces, stir them up in the bowl so that they are all well coated.
5) Add your chicken to the casserole, use a spoon to get them deep into the juice and nearer to bottom of the pan. Season well. Bring up the stock levels as in Method 1 if necessary.
6) Turn your hob back onto medium high until the casserole starts to boil
Either transfer the casserole (lid on) to an oven heated to around 160C or 320F for an hour, or as long as is needed to cook through the chicken joints. (I sometimes lower the heat and cook it for longer if this suits my day). Add the mushrooms at around 1/2 an hour into the cooking time and turn the chicken pieces at this point.
OR reduce the casserole to a simmer on the hob - simmer with the lid on for around 35 minutes. Turn your chicken pieces and add your mushrooms around the 20 minute mark.
Troubleshooting: Your chicken pieces should be cooked through with no pink juices, and the sauce should be thickened by the end of the cooking time. If your sauce isn't thick enough mix some cornflour and just enough cold water to dissolve it in a cup, and add to your sauce a little at a time on a medium heat on the hob, until you reach your preferred thickness. Allow 3 minutes of simmering to ensure the cornflour cooks in and doesn't give the sauce a floury taste. If your chicken isn't cooked through, put it back in for another 15 minutes, and check again.
When in doubt, leave it in the oven at a low heat for longer - slow cooking can do NO harm.
-This meal freezes well.
- Marinating your chicken overnight in the wine and then removing the chicken and starting the recipe as per above makes for extra tender, flavour filled chicken.
- The french would fry their mushrooms in butter before they added them, Its not necessary but adds nicely to the flavour!