When Alex is out of town, I cook food he doesn’t like. Last time he traveled, I decided to make Alton Brown’s Coq au Vin recipe. It is not a fast recipe to make, so I contemplated the recipe a while before taking the plunge. Luckily, the steps are such that you do some of the prep the day before, and some the day you eat it. It seriously takes a long time, but I promise you that it’s worth the effort you put into it.
Great news – you don’t have to have all the ingredients prepared before you start cooking. You’ll be sauteing food for quite a while, so you’ll have plenty of time to quarter mushrooms, flour chicken, and measure ingredients while bacon and onions cook.
First step – Alton Brown peels baby onions. I bought a bag of frozen ones, counted what I needed, and let them thaw.
Second step – cook salt pork, or bacon as I did. Dice 6 ounces of it; I weighed mine, but this would probably be about 6-8 pieces. Put bacon in a saute pan, add 2 tablespoons water, cover, and cook; once the water is gone, uncover and fry until bacon is crisp. Honestly, I don’t recall how long this process took, but probably 10-15 minutes. This was an easy way to fry the bacon, without having to watch it until the end.
Chicken prep – I used 8 bone-in chicken thighs. While the bacon cooks, put 1/4-1/2 cup flour in a gallon zipper bag, and shake chicken a few pieces at a time in the flour to coat. Set chicken aside.
Next step – brown everything else. Remove the bacon from the pan, and saute onions for about 10 minutes, until golden brown. Next, brown chicken in batches; remove. Next, saute quartered button mushrooms for 5 minutes.
Store onions, bacon, and mushrooms in a zipper bag or container until you assemble the dish the next day.
Deglaze the pan with 1 cup of red wine (I used pinot noir). I nestled my chicken in a crockpot, poured the deglazing liquid over it, and added the rest of the ingredients, being sure that the chicken was submerged in the liquid. I refrigerated it until the next day.
The next day: Alton Brown says to bake at 325F for 2-2.5 hours. I cooked mine on low in a crockpot for about 6 hours.
I removed the chicken and strained the liquid into a Dutch oven, discarding the cooking vegetables. If you cook it in the oven, you’ll have to reduce the liquid by 1/3. Since I did mine in a crockpot and lost very little moisture, I had to reduce mine by about 2/3. This took me at least an hour. (Luckily, this is an hour during which you can do other things, as it requires little-to-no attention.)
Once the sauce had thickened, I added the bacon, onion, and mushrooms, and cooked it for another 15 minutes. I added the chicken to warm it through. I served it over egg noodles.
Once you’ve reduced the sauce, I think you could add the chicken and store it in the fridge, adding the reserved vegetables the next day to serve it. Yes, this makes the dinner a 3-day process. But it means that you have very little prep right before you serve dinner.
This was amazingly good. The chicken was tender. The sauce was silky and flavorful and clung to the noodles well; I was afraid it hadn’t thickened enough, but adding the flour-coated chicken at the end helped thicken it up. The sauce was balanced; it wasn’t just wine or stock. I was afraid the dish would be salty, with the bacon I used and the regular bouillon, but it wasn’t. I didn’t eat the chicken skin, but I’m glad I left it on the chicken to add flavor to the sauce. The mushrooms were palatable even to my friend Jen, who ate some of them even though she doesn’t like mushrooms. The pearl onions were fun to eat – the layers just slipped apart in your mouth – and they gave an oniony sweetness to the dish. That said, you didn’t notice just one flavor in this dish; they all simply melted together.
This is a hearty dish; I could easily get 4-6 filling servings from it. It was great as a meal for entertaining. To serve it with company, I recommend beginning it three days in advance. On the first day, brown everything and marinate. On the second day, cook and reduce the sauce. On the third day, assemble and serve with the same wine you used in the sauce, and your dinner will be worry-free.