Braised Chicken in Red Wine Sauce (Coq au Vin) is easier than you think! Make this classic French chicken stew in just over an hour and prepare to swoon! With mushrooms, carrots, pearl onions and finished with butter and bacon…What’s not to love?!!
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.
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!
My point is, don’t let this chicken with wine intimidate you. Yes, it’s a classic 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. When paired with 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 topped with bacon. Yes!
What is braising?
Braising is a cooking technique that involves browning the meat at a higher heat, then cooking it with liquid on low heat, covered with a lid, until it’s tender. It’s the method used in chicken paprikash, braciole and this pork tenderloin.
For this braised chicken recipe, a paste of softened butter and flour is used to thicken the wine sauce when the food is just about done.
Best wine to use for this dish
This recipe calls for more than a cup of Burgundy. That’s simply red wine made from Pinot Noir grapes and grown in the Burgundy region of France.
You could substitute another red wine such as Pinot Noir or Cabernet. The red wine gives the chicken a purplish hue.
But you can even make coq au vin blanc using white wine.
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 chicken still turned out delicious, despite my faux pas.
Use what you have.
Where to find pearl onions
If you’ve never cooked with pearl onions, you’re in for a treat. These little babies pack a savory sweetness that elevates this dish to the next level.
I find raw ones near the regular onions at my grocery store. Look around, because sometimes, they’re off to the side on a separate display. You can always ask a produce worker for help.
I’ve also seen frozen, peeled pearl onions in the freezer aisle. I’ve never tried them, but if you do, thaw and pat them dry before using them in this recipe.
How to peel pearl onions
Here’s an easy way to peel fresh pearl onions:
- Bring a small pot of water to boil.
- Add the onions with skins.
- Boil for three minutes.
- Drain the water.
- Trim off the root end (the flat end) with a knife.
- Peel off the skin or grasp the long end and gently squeeze to pop out the onion.
My inspiration to make this recipe
Given that I never really watched Julia Child on TV (unless Dan Aykroyd’s Saturday Night Live impersonation counts) it’s possible I wouldn’t know about this famous dish if I weren’t such a voracious reader. (Before social media, I used to read about 30 books a year.)
Years ago, I read the 1999 memoir Tender at the Bone: Growing up at the Table, (affiliate link) by Ruth Reichl, who was a New York Times food critic then. She wrote with such passion about this red wine chicken, and other culinary classics, that I felt compelled to try making it myself.
Fortunately, my Better Homes and Gardens New Cook Book (affiliate link), which many early-’90s brides owned, included a recipe, and that’s the one I tweaked and still use today. My family absolutely loves this meal!
What to serve with coq au vin
This chicken stew goes so well with any rice dish, such as stovetop or baked risotto. Creamy polenta or roasted potatoes also would work. Most importantly, you need some crusty bread to dip into the wine sauce!
P.S. You might also enjoy my Chicken Marsala!
(Recipe Source: Adapted from Better Homes and Gardens New Cook Book, 1989. Originally published on February 14, 2015 and updated now with new photos and text.)
Braised Chicken in Red Wine Sauce (Coq au Vin)
- 1 1/2 cups sliced carrot rounds (from about four carrots)
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 2 1/2 to 3 pounds chicken pieces (thighs, drumsticks, breasts)
- 4 cloves garlic (peeled and pressed; or minced)
- 1 pound whole white mushrooms
- 20 pearl onions (See notes.)
- 1 1/4 cups Burgundy wine (or Pinot Noir or Cabernet. See notes.)
- 1 tablespoon fresh parsley (or 1 teaspoon dried)
- 1/2 teaspoon dried crushed marjoram (optional)
- 1/2 teaspoon dried crushed thyme
- 1 bay leaf
- 2 tablespoons softened butter
- 4 slices lean bacon (cooked and cut into pieces)
- 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
- fresh crusty bread for serving
- Rinse your carrots and slice off the ends. Peel the carrots with a vegetable peeler and slice them into rounds about 1/2-inch thick. Set them aside.
- Skin the chicken, if desired, using paper towels to pull off the skin. Discard the skin and pat the chicken dry. Wash your hands well.
- If you are using fresh pearl onions, it helps to boil them briefly to take the skins off easily. Set a small saucepan filled 2/3 full with hot water on the stove to boil. While the water is heating, heat olive oil in your largest skillet over medium high heat. Add the chicken to the skillet and brown it for 15 minutes, flipping it at the halfway point.
- While the chicken is cooking, boil your 20 pearl onions for 3 minutes and drain them. Let them cool off in a strainer.
- Prepare your garlic and mushrooms. If you have a garlic press, use it to press the garlic. Otherwise, peel the garlic and mince it with a knife. Rinse your mushrooms in a stream of cold water and use a vegetable brush or paper towels to get rid of the dirt. Pat the mushrooms dry.
- To peel the onions, slice off the root end (the flat end). Use your fingers to peel off the skin, or grasp the long end and gently squeeze to pop out the onion.
- When the chicken is browned, sprinkle it with salt and pepper. Add the onions, mushrooms, carrots, wine, garlic, parsley, marjoram, thyme and bay leaf to the skillet. Bring the pan to boiling and then reduce the heat. Cover and simmer for 30-35 minutes, or until the chicken is no longer pink inside. (Note that the outside of the chicken will take on the purplish hue of the wine.)
- While the chicken and vegetables are simmering, set out your butter to soften. Cook your bacon in a pan on the stove or in the microwave. Pat the bacon with paper towels to absorb the grease and use kitchen scissors, if you have them, to cut the bacon into small pieces.
- When the chicken is nearly done, stir your softened butter and flour together in a small bowl until a smooth paste forms. When the chicken is done, stir the paste into the wine mixture in the skillet. Cook and stir until it is thickened and bubbly, then cook it for one minute longer. Add salt and pepper if needed.
- To serve, pour some wine sauce over the chicken and top with bacon. Serve with bread for dipping, and with risotto, rice, mashed potatoes or polenta.