Monday, December 22, 2008

Holiday Dinner: Coq Au Vin

My favorite way to celebrate the New Year on December 31st is to organize a fantastic 4 to 6 course meal that lasts forever... We usually start with a long aperitif with snacks and canapes, washed down with a Kir Royal or Muscat. I take the time to talk to my friends, prepare the next dish, dance, all in a relaxed candlelit mood.

This year, Juan and I will do just that, the two of us, before meeting all of our friends at a party. I have not yet set the menu, because it's just too hard to choose but I know for sure that it will involve mini individual scallop gratin, a duck and turnip dish and a big cheese plate.

The way we celebrate the New Year in France is not that much different than in America. Many small villages (and there are many!) around France organize a big party for villagers to come to. You usually have to pay between 50 and 100 euros per person and it includes a nice big meal, champagne and the entertainment.

The best memories I have of celebrating the New Year in France come from when I was younger. My parents would rent an apartment in the ski resort of Les Deux Alpes. We would spend the day skiing, then we would end the afternoon by going swimming in the indoor and outdoor pool (and roll in the snow before we dive in the hot water). The best part of the day was the big afternoon snack we'd treat ourselves to with hot cocoa, brioche and Nutella. Hmmm, makes me want to be there right now...! In the evening, we would usually have a big Raclette dinner, followed by a game of Trivial Pursuit. You can't go wrong with potatoes, melting cheese and a variety of ham and salami!

I wanted to share with you this fantastic recipe of Coq Au Vin, as a dinner suggestion for New Year's Eve. My Mom makes it very often during the holidays. It's a great menu choice because it can be made the day before and simply reheated before you eat. All you have to worry about is set the table and ask your guests to bring dessert!

Coq Au Vin clearly spells Winter and France. A coq is a rooster in French, which is what this dish is all about, but it's not uncommon, even in France, to use a chicken. In that case, I usually try to buy a big chicken (about 4 pounds). So no worries if you can't find a rooster at your local supermarket. It won't alter the recipe.

Do not be scared at the prospect of making this very classic French dish. I think too many people believe that French cuisine is not approachable or too hard. You might think Coq Au Vin? Well that sounds way too out of my league! But take my word for it: this dish requires little effort on your part for maximum effect on your guests! They will leave your table thinking you're the best cook ever.

Coq Au Vin will please everyone, even picky eaters. My favorite way to eat a Coq Au Vin is reheated (it only gets better after a few days), along with a plate of fresh tagliatelle. For presentation and color contrast, I do not mix the sauce of the Coq Au Vin with the pasta on the plate. I do it while I eat. My family's personal touch is to offer to the guests a bowl of grated Gruyere or Comte cheese to sprinkle on the pasta, while it's still hot.

Follow these rules:
  • Make sure you take the time to really brown the chicken, even if it means doing it in several batches to not overcrowd the pot. Your patience will be rewarded.
  • Do buy a good bottle of red wine, it makes a difference. Wine suggestions follow in the recipe. If you're not sure what to buy, ask for assistance. Look for a bold wine.
  • Add the mushrooms at the end. Cook them separately.
  • Bay leaf and Cognac are optional in the recipe.
  • Don't worry if the coq au vin looks too purplish when you pour the whole bottle of wine. The color changes as it cooks.
  • Do not overcook your chicken. You do not want it to fall out of the bones. Keep an eye on the cooking process.
  • Check the consistency of the sauce before serving. If it's too thick, thin it out with some low sodium chicken stock.

Coq Au Vin - Serves 4

2 tbsp olive oil
1 large chicken, cut into 8 to 10 pieces
salt and pepper to taste
1 large yellow onion, halved and sliced
2 carrots, peeled and sliced in 1/4 inch slices
2 slices of pancetta (1/2 inch thick) cut in large cubes
4 tbsp of flour
2 garlic cloves, chopped
2 tbsp of cognac - optional
1 bottle of red wine (bold and dry) like a Pinot Noir or Cote du Rhone or Cabernet Sauvignon
5 sprigs of fresh thyme
1 bay leaf (laurel) - optional
1 cup low sodium chicken stock (to reheat the chicken)
About 1 cup low sodium chicken stock (to thin out the sauce if necessary)
1 tbsp of butter (for the mushrooms)
1/2 pound of button mushrooms

On Tuesday, December 30th - (overall cooking time 2 hours)

Pat dry the chicken and lightly season with salt and pepper. In a dutch oven or a big pot, bring the oil to a heat. When it is warm, put the chicken in and brown on each side, on medium heat. Work in batches is necessary. Take your time. It's very important the chicken gets a nice brown color. When ready, remove and set aside on a plate.
Add the
vegetables to the pot, cover and cook for about 4 minutes. Stir often. Add the pancetta and cook for an extra 3 minutes. Add the flour, stir and cook for 3 more minutes, uncovered. Add the garlic, stir and cook for a minute then add the cognac.
Incorporate 1/2 cup of wine at first while stirring with a wooden spoon. Then add the rest of the wine. Add the thyme and bay leaf and bring to a simmer. Cover and cook for 50 minutes to 1 hour and 10 minutes on low heat. Stir often
. Taste and add salt and pepper if needed. Remove the chicken, allow to cool and store in the fridge in its own container. Same thing for the sauce (in a container of its own). Refrigerate overnight.

On Wednesday, December 31st - (about 40 minutes before serving dinner):

The next day, pour the chicken stock in the dutch oven or pot and reheat the chicken, on low heat for about 30 minutes, covered. Pour the sauce and vegetables in a large saucepan and reheat on low, uncovered. Meanwhile, in a pan, melt the butter and cook the mushrooms for 10 minutes. Add to the vegetable and sauce. Stir. If you think there is too much sauce at the end, reduce the sauce to 1/3 for about 10 to 15 minutes, uncovered depending on how much liquid you have. If the consistency is too thick, slowly add chicken stock and stir, until you're satisfied.

Serve each person with a piece of chicken, vegetables and sauce over the meat. Serve with fresh tagliatelle pasta (or any wide pasta) or steamed potatoes, on the side, along with grated Gruyere or Comte cheese and fresh French bread.


saucymomma said...

This is perfect! We are having 8 adults and 6 children for NYE at our house this year. I am going to make your Coq au Vin. I love how you broke the recipe down by day so I can relax and enjoy the party.

We are also going to bring out the Raclette Machine and let the kids make their own dinner with raclette, potatoes, cornichons, etc.

Joyeux Noel!

jacob said...

u r blog Is very nice

Jodi said...

My mouth is watering and it's not yet 9 a.m. in the morning. I'm quite tempted to try this! One of the best things about this time of year is that there is more free time to try new recipes!

Kelsey said...

That sounds incredible. I love coq au vin.

Parsec said...

What a wonderful recipe...I will have to try your version.

I made coq au vin back in early December and was amazed at just how tender the chicken became when cooked in the wine. I am definitely going to make it again before the weather gets warm.