‘Quick’ and ‘easy’ are not normally words you would use to describe Coq au Vin, a traditional slow-cooked French recipe originally developed to make the oldest, toughest poultry melt-in-your-mouth delicious. Peeling tiny shallots, browning chicken pieces, sautéing bacon and flaming the dish before it is stewed make it a rather high maintenance dish.
My version of the recipe gives you all the flavour of a slow-cooked Coq au Vin in a fraction of the time with much less effort. It’s great for a mid-week dinner party or date night (just halve the recipe). New potatoes crushed with butter and salt and pepper and steamed green beans glazed with butter and garnished with flaked almonds are quick and easy accompaniments.
Coq au Vin is known as ‘chicken in a lorry’ in our house. It’s a play on words with ‘vin’ implying ‘van’, which leads to the now rarely used old fashioned British word for truck – ‘lorry’. The most famous instance of this dish being served in our home was one night before a move when in an attempt to use up what was left in the brandy bottle (surely a couple extra tablespoons wouldn’t hurt?) led to me nearly setting fire to the kitchen. Luckily I had kept the pan lid nearby so the flame was quickly extinguished, but a word to the wise – in the case of brandy and coq au vin, please stick to the recipe!
- 2 tablespoons butter, unsalted for preference
- 1 large onion, peeled and finely chopped
- 3 cloves of garlic, peeled
- 1 cup of sliced mushrooms
- 1 cup of chopped bacon (‘streaky’ bacon in England)
- 2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
- 4 boneless chicken breasts
- ¼ cup brandy
- ¼ cup chicken stock
- 1 cup good red wine
- 1 teaspoon dried Herbs de Provence
- ½ teaspoon salt
- ¼ teaspoon freshly ground pepper
- scant ¼ teaspoon nutmeg, freshly ground if possible
- 1 tablespoon corn flour (corn starch)
- 1 tablespoon water
- 2 teaspoons dried flat leaf parsley
- Heat 1 tablespoon of the butter in a thick bottomed casserole (with a lid) on the stove top. Sauté the onion and mushrooms for a minute or two. Grate in the garlic and add the chopped bacon. Continue to sauté for three to four minutes. Stir in the balsamic vinegar and cook for a moment or two. Remove the onion, mushrooms and bacon from the pan and set aside to keep warm.
- Add the remaining butter to the pan and sauté the chicken breasts on both sides until they are just beginning to turn golden brown. Return the onion, mushrooms and bacon to the pan.
- Pour over the brandy. At this point, you can carefully ignite the brandy with a match and allow it to flame for a moment or two before popping the lid on to extinguish it. However if there are kids running around or working with open flame feels a bit too stressful for a weeknight, it’s totally okay just to cook this for a few moments at high heat allowing the brandy to permeate the other ingredients while reducing at the same time.
- Add the chicken stock and the red wine, along with the Herbs de Provence, salt, pepper and nutmeg. Lower the heat, clamp on the lid and allow to simmer together for about fifteen to twenty minutes or until the chicken reaches an internal temperature of 165°F and no pink remains inside.
- Remove the chicken from the pan and keep warm. Blend the corn flour with the water and add to the sauce in the pan. Stir to mix thoroughly and cook for a couple of minutes until the sauce thickens up nicely. Taste for seasoning and adjust with a bit more salt and pepper if necessary. Stir through 1 teaspoon of the dried flat leaf parsley.
- Serve the sauce over the chicken breasts garnished with the remaining flat leaf parsley.