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Coq au Vin is a marvelously simple dish that can earn you serious Cordon Bleu points without breaking the bank or having to make a million sauces.

Like a lot of rustic French dishes, the recipe varies from town to town – featuring whichever vegetables thrived in the area – as well as the region’s wine which can be either red or white. Traditionally Coq au Vin was made using the eponymous “Coq” – rooster – which sported a strong robust flavour – especially in its old-age. As the years have progressed, and tastes have become more refined, the dish is more commonly made using regular hen-chicken – the complexity of flavour coming instead from herbs and sauteed bacon pieces.

Our version of the recipe uses Chicken chops – which exhibit everything you need for stewing chicken; a bit of bone, dark thigh meat, a little bit of fat and skin for flavour.

30 mins prep, 1.5 hours cooking. (Extra long version, 2 days*) 

*There’s an optional first step to this recipe for those with a bit of time on their hands. The day before you’re going to cook, pop your fresh chicken chops in a dish and submerge them in the wine. Cover and refrigerate overnight. The fruity, citrus-y acids in the wine will start to denature the proteins in the chicken flesh, altering it in a similar way that cooking would. When you pull the chicken out the flesh will have transformed from deep, translucent pink to an opaque, almost poached looking white – this is the result of the acids at work. Next-level flavour infusion and tenderisation! (before cooking, just dab the chops dry with a paper towel and retain the wine stewing)

INGREDIENTS

4 good sized Chicken Chops (bone-in thigh with skin on one side)
150gm of Diced bacon or lardons
6 pearl or baby onions, whole, peeled
2 shallots, finely chopped
1 bottle of dry white wine e.g Chardonnay
6-8 button mushrooms, sliced
2 medium sized carrots, cut into coins
2 sticks of celery, chopped
3 sprigs of fresh thyme
1 cup of low-salt Chicken stock
2 tbsps of plain flour (for thickening)
2 cloves of garlic crushed

METHOD

First things first, preheat your oven to 180C.

On a stove, using a thick-bottomed oven-proof pot, fry up your diced bacon or lardons, stirring frequently. Once they start to get crispy and have released a lot of their fat, scoop them out with a slotted spoon and set them to one side. If you need to, add a dash of olive oil to the pot – enough to cover the cooking surface. Toss in your chicken chops with some salt and cracked pepper to brown them off – keep turning them to ensure they brown on all sides. This isn’t to cook them, it’s just a high-heat sizzle of their outer layers to caramelise the skin. It should only take 6-8 mins. Again, scoop them out and set aside with you diced bacon.

Now it’s time to add your sliced mushrooms. It’s really important to give this funghi a head-start on the other vegetables. By frying them, you’re releasing and thus accentuating the nutty, woody flavours that would otherwise be drowned out if you added them after the liquids.

Once the mushrooms are sufficiently browned you can toss in the other veggies – including the crushed garlic and thyme. Saute everything until the celery and onion start to become translucent, at which time, add the flour. Stir it through so it coats the vegetables and is evenly dispersed. Add the wine (we’re using Chardonnay) – almost the whole bottle, and let it simmer exuberantly for a couple of minutes. Then add your chicken stock. Stir thoroughly so your liquids are mixed and add your chicken pieces and bacon bits. Give it one last stir and then put the lid on and place your dish in the oven.

Give it an hour and a half and check its progress, the chicken should be tender enough to dislodge from the bone with a fork – if it’s not quite there give it another 15-20 mins.

When it’s done the Coq Au Vin should be thick and creamy – almost the consistency of a gravy. It’ll have a golden glow. You can let it cool slightly before serving with green beans and mashed potato, or for a final step of flavour infusion, refrigerate the whole pot overnight and serve it the following day.