If you don’t speak French, coq au vin (coke-oh-ven) refers to chicken cooked in wine. Generally, I don’t toss around fancy French terms, although I did study the language for several years. Even the simplest of dishes sounds fancy in French though. Just imagine ordering a burger at a fast food joint, and being asked, “Would you like pommes frites with that?” No, thanks, but I’ll take some fries.
What I’m trying to say is, don’t let coq au vin intimidate you. Yes, it happens to be a classic dish in French cuisine, something you may have watched Julia Child prepare on TV, but you can make it in roughly an hour. And let me tell you, there’s a reason it’s a classic. It’s probably the most tasty chicken I’ve ever had, and when paired with this risotto, it ranks as one of the top five meals of my life. Think tender chicken simmered in red wine with mushrooms, carrots, garlic and pearl onions, finished with butter and flour to thicken the sauce, and topped with bacon. Yes!
Given that I never really watched Julia Child on TV (unless Dan Aykroyd’s Saturday Night Live impersonation counts) it’s possible that I wouldn’t know about coq au vin if I weren’t such a voracious reader. (Before social media, I used to read about 30 books a year.) I read the 1999 memoir Tender at the Bone: Growing up at the Table, by Ruth Reichl, who was a New York Times food critic then. She wrote with such passion about this dish, and other culinary classics, that I felt compelled to try making coq au vin myself.
Fortunately, my Better Homes and Gardens New Cook Book, which many early-’90s brides owned, included a recipe, and that’s the one I’ve tweaked and still use today. A note about the wine: it calls for more than a cup of burgundy. That’s simply wine made from Pinot Noir grapes and grown in the Burgundy region of France. You could substitute Pinot Noir or Cabernet. And while chefs say it’s always best to use quality drinking wine in recipes, I’m not ashamed to admit I used to grab a small bottle of cooking wine at the grocery store, before my husband started making his own vino. The coq au vin still turned out delicious, despite my faux pas.
If you’re okay with using wine in cooking, this is one meal you must try. Bon appétit!
(Recipe Source: Adapted from Better Homes and Gardens New Cook Book, 1989)