Although it is very nearly the end of February, it is still cold outside. The bulbs are coming up which suggests the gradual onset of Spring and as the nights get lighter so Brenda’s mood improves. This week I made the most divine coq au vin which is a meal to enjoy heartily either for a Sunday lunch or a dinner on a chilly night. Brenda lapped it up like a demented poodle which suggests that you should try it at home as it really is delicious.
2 free-range chicken legs
4 free-range chicken thighs
2 free-range chicken breasts
OR substitute the above chicken pieces for a whole large free range chicken, jointed into 8 (2 legs, 2 thighs, each breast sliced diagonally in 2)
100g dry-cured, smoked streaky bacon
12-16 shallots, depending on size
4 garlic cloves, medium chop – neither minced nor big lumps!
double measure (50ml) brandy or Cognac
bottle red wine
150ml homemade chicken stock
3 sprigs fresh thyme
sprig fresh rosemary
3 fresh bay leaves
handful chopped flat-leaf parsley
250g chestnut mushrooms, halved if large (or any dark gilled mushrooms like field mushrooms cut into large pieces)
sea salt and fresh cracked black pepper
1. Heat glug olive oil and a knob of butter in a large, heavy-based casserole, on the hob and also switch on the oven to 160°C
2. Meanwhile dip your chicken pieces (all should be bone in and skin on) in seasoned flour
3. Fry them off in the by-now sizzling oil – you’ll likely need to do it in batches (I did it in 2 batches) – setting aside in a warm dish once done
4. Snip your bacon into strips of about an inch directly into the casserole dish now vacated by the chicken and fry, along with your little shallots, then after a minute or two, the garlic.
5. As soon as the bacon and onions are going a lovely golden brown (don’t let the garlic burn though), tip in the brandy. It doesn’t matter if it “flames”, just be aware that it might!
6. The alcohol will only take a few seconds to boil/flame away so be ready to pop the browned chicken pieces straight back into the casserole.
7. Now pour in your bottle of beautiful full bodied red wine ( some purists will claim that it needs to be a burgundy – we are more liberal than that!). So long as you choose a rich full bodied wine, you will enjoy the finished dish rather more. However, if you use cheap, thin wine, from whichever country, that will influence the end result and not in a good way….)
8. If, like me, you could not resist a glass or two of the wine that was meant to go in as per stage 7 above, DO NOT WORRY!!! Just top up with chicken stock until the chicken pieces are nicely bathed (not drowning)
9. Now nestle in the thyme, rosemary and bay leaves – you can tie them together and make a bouquet garni which will make it slightly easier to fish the herbs out later but that’s up to you – I didn’t.
10. Once it’s simmering away nicely, pop the lid on and the whole thing into the oven for about 45 mins
11. At this point I took it out, left it to cool and then put it in the fridge for 2 days. If you are too hungry to wait 48 hours to eat, don’t worry, you can fry off the mushrooms for about 5-10 mins in some more oil/butter, tip them into the casserole, test and adjust the seasoning (probably need to add lots of lovely sea salt and black pepper) and continue to oven cook for about another half an hour.
12. Assuming you have done as I suggested and let it marinate (overnight or even better, for 2 days), now fry off the mushrooms as per above, add to the dish and cook at 160°C for 45 mins till bubbling, aromatic and slightly reduced. The sauce absolutely should not be thick, the consistency of single cream is great.
13. Either way (so, whether you eat straight away or have returned to the dish after its “resting” period), serve in warmed dishes with a good scattering of roughly chopped flat leaf parsley and a warm crunchy French baguette and a simple dressed salad.