Tis’ the season for stews and comfort foods, like the traditional French dish, coq au vin. It comes from an era when farmers’ roosters had lived long lives and were no longer of use to the farm. At that point, the best way to turn the not-so-tender meat into dinner was to slow braise the animal in red wine and veggies until it was falling off the bone.
Unfortunately, we had a similar situation this week—it was time to say goodbye to the remaining three of our original six chickens that had been laying eggs in our backyard for the last few years. They hadn’t produced eggs in months, and we didn’t want to put them through another harsh Midwestern winter. So, coq au vin it was!
THE MEAT: You can buy an organic chicken that was raised without hormones and you’ll have a bird similar to ours (but yours should be a lot more tender!). Another fun variation on this dish is to substitute cornish game hens for the chicken and cut the cook time down by about half an hour.
THE METHOD: Traditional coq au vin was a peasant’s dish. Modern versions often include different rounds of searing, bacon lardons and cognac. We like to keep it super-simple and easy by putting the chicken in the pot and then adding veggies and braising liquids, then bringing it all to a boil on the stovetop and finishing it in the oven. It’s classic, easy and delicious.
THE MEAL: Coq au vin is pretty damn good on its own, but if you want to put it on a pile of mashed potatoes or serve it with a baguette and some butter on the side, you won’t be disappointed.
Coq au Vin
One whole chicken 4-5 pounds
1 bottle dry red wine
22 ounces chicken stock
8 ounces mushrooms
3 carrots, chopped
3 celery stalks, chopped
1 onion, quartered
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
Preheat your oven to 275ºF.
Add the chicken to a large dutch oven with the wine, chicken stock, mushrooms, carrots, celery and onion. Add water until the chicken is almost covered. Salt and pepper generously.
Bring to a boil on the stovetop, then place the lid on the dutch oven. Transfer it to the oven and cook for about 2 hours, until the chicken is falling off the bone.
NOTE: If you’re cooking chickens that have been laying eggs in your backyard for a few years, you’re dealing with egg birds, and not meat birds (there’s a difference in the chicken farming world) and you’ll need to cook them a lot longer for tender meat. Like, hours longer.