Masterclass: Coq au vin

This classic Burgundian braise is elegant in its simplicity, relying on good ingredients and attention to detail.
Coq au vinBen Hansen
4 - 6
2H 45M

Start this recipe a day ahead to prepare the chicken and stock. Serve this with fettuccine, boiled potatoes or a purée of two parts potato to one part celeriac.

Cooking with wine is a signature of French cuisine and probably nowhere more so than in Burgundy. Coq au vin, first recorded around 400 years ago, is a classic example, along with boeuf Bourguignonne.

Coq au vin was originally a humble chicken stew made with a large rooster (le coq of the name), onions, carrots and sometimes celery, and braised with bacon in red Burgundy. The sauce is thickened partially with flour and then by reduction. It’s then garnished with small glazed onions and sautéed mushrooms.

Of course, the journey from home kitchen to restaurant, as is usually the case, has meant the use of more sophisticated wine and the forsaking of the older, richly flavoured bird for a tender chicken.

Bacon is essential. In France cooks use petit salé, salt-pork cut into lardons. This is seldom seen in Australia so I substitute lardons cut from a slab of streaky bacon, but it needs to be blanched starting from cold water for about eight minutes, then rinsed well (and dried before frying) to remove the smokiness. Pancetta is another alternative, but because it’s so strongly flavoured it should be similarly blanched for two or three minutes.

Recipes for coq au vin won’t be found in the books of the great master chefs such as Escoffier simply because of the dish’s peasant origin. Some older recipes call for thickening the sauce with chicken or pork blood, as I discovered reading Paul Bocuse’s French Cooking, but this appears untraditional.

The key to making authentic coq au vin is in the attention to detail, namely the searing of the chicken and glazing of the pickling onions. A good non-extravagant red Burgundy (or Australian pinot noir) is important, as is a fine chicken as well as some giblets for the stock. While there are now several producers of quality poultry I prefer the barnyard flavour of a Saskia Beer bird.

Start by cutting the chicken into eight pieces. Place the chicken breast-side up on a cutting board. Pull away the legs and cut through the skin where the leg separates from the breast, then cut between the ball and socket to detach the legs. Find the middle joint of each leg and cut through the socket to halve them. Cut down on either side of the breastbone to release the breasts and cut through the wing joint. Gently pull away each breast from the carcass from the wing end. Cut each breast in two. Stretch out wings and cut them off at the joint closest to the body, and cut off the wing tips and reserve for stock along with the chopped carcass.

Place the chicken pieces skin-up on a metal cooling rack and refrigerate them uncovered for at least six hours or overnight to dry them out. This helps in the colouring of the flesh when it’s seared in clarified butter.

At the other end of the cooking process, the traditional accompaniment is triangles of fried bread (I like to cut them into heart shapes) placed around the platter to serve, but modern recipes usually call for boiled new potatoes or noodles. I’ve also seen coq au vin served with a purée of potatoes, and a purée of celeriac and potatoes would make an excellent alternative.

For the celeriac, use half the weight of the peeled potatoes. Boil the peeled celeriac until tender, then drain it and purée it in a food processor. Combine it with a potato purée passed through a mouli or potato ricer (using a food processor to purée potatoes overworks the starch, making for a gluey result), and finish it with butter and hot cream, seasoning it to taste with a touch of star anise, and salt and pepper.

Enjoy your visit to Burgundy via one of its most delicious dishes, le coq au vin.





1.Portion chicken into 8 pieces (see explanation in Story), leaving the first joint of the wing attached to about a third of each breast (your butcher will do this for you), reserving carcass and wing tips for stock (see note). Place chicken skin-side up and uncovered on a wire rack and refrigerate for at least 6 hours or overnight to dry.
2.Remove chicken from fridge to come to room temperature 20 minutes before cooking, and preheat oven to 140C. Heat 20gm clarified butter in a casserole over medium heat, add lardons and lightly brown (5 minutes). Transfer to a large plate.
3.Heat remaining clarified butter in casserole over medium heat. Season chicken and brown in batches (5 minutes each side; don’t overcrowd pan). Transfer to plate with lardons, then strain fat through a metal sieve and return to casserole.
4.Add onion, carrot, celery, garlic and tomato to casserole, and sauté over medium heat until onion is translucent (6-8 minutes). Sprinkle flour over vegetables and stir continuously, scraping base of pan so roux cooks evenly, until it starts to colour (2-4 minutes). Add a good slosh of wine to deglaze pan, scraping the base and stirring to form a smooth, thick sauce. Return chicken and lardons to casserole, add Cognac and cook for a minute, then add wine and turn the chicken in the sauce for 3-4 minutes.
5.Add reduced stock and bouquet garni, and return to the boil. Season to taste, then cover directly with a round of baking paper, reduce heat to low, cover with a lid and braise in oven until chicken is cooked through (25-30 minutes).
6.While chicken is cooking, in a saucepan cover onions with cold salted water and bring to the boil, then reduce heat to medium and simmer until starting to become tender (8-10 minutes). Drain. Heat half the butter and the sugar in a large frying pan over medium heat, add onions and fry, shaking the pan to keep them moving, until golden brown (10-15 minutes). Transfer to a plate and pat dry with paper towels.
7.Wipe out frying pan with paper towels, heat remaining butter and olive oil over medium heat, add mushrooms and fry, shaking pan to keep them moving, until golden brown (3-5 minutes). Add 100ml cold water and bring to the boil, cover with a lid and cook until mushrooms are tender (4-5 minutes). Drain and transfer to plate with onions. Transfer chicken and lardons to a warm plate and loosely cover with foil. Strain cooking liquor into a large saucepan and reduce over medium heat until thickened (2-4 minutes). Remove excess fat from the surface with paper towels, then return to pan and add chicken, lardons, onions and mushrooms, bring to the boil, and season to taste.
8.For croûtons, heat oil in a large frying pan over medium heat and fry bread, turning occasionally, until golden (1 minute). Scatter coq au vin with with parsley and serve with potato and celeriac purée or pasta, and croûtons.

To clarify butter, melt diced butter in a saucepan over low heat until fat and milk solids separate. Remove from heat, strain through a metal sieve lined with muslin into a bowl. To make reduced stock, fry the chopped chicken carcass and wing tips with 300gm extra chicken wings and 120gm chicken giblets until browned (1-2 minutes). Add 120gm each coarsely chopped carrot and onion, and 2 celery stalks, cover with cold water and bring to the boil. Skim off scum and simmer for 3 hours. Strain through a fine sieve, cool and refrigerate. The next day, remove fat from the surface and boil stock until reduced to about 20 per cent of its original volume (45 minutes to 1 hour). Or reduce a good shop-bought chicken or veal stock. For bouquet garni, tie 5 thyme sprigs, 2 bay leaves and 6 parsley stalks in a piece of muslin with twine.


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