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Recipe #168: Coq au Vin

Posted Sep 08 2010 5:31pm
Of course, this recipe is the French classic, Coq au Vin, which we had for tonight's dinner. You'll notice that my version of this dish has a few marked differences from its traditional incarnation. Namely, there are no garlic cloves, pearl onions, or "oink" in my version.

Since the recipe already contains olive oil & a bit of butter, [well, let's face it, the original version has a TON of butter, like a lot of traditional French cuisine (!), but anyhow...], I thought it'd be a good idea to reduce the fat content to keep the recipe within healthy limits. :)

Also, due to the fact that this recipe already calls for both onions AND shallots, I thought it best not to overdo it by adding garlic and yet more onions (i.e., the aforementioned pearl onions, which I honestly think, due to their size & texture, belong in cocktails instead of entrées). It's OK to use two out of the three, but adding all three would be overpowering. A dish like this isn't meant to hit you over the head; its flavor is supposed to be rich but subtle.

There are many different versions of Coq au Vin, including several that omit a few of the above ingredients, so it's not like this recipe is exactly nontraditional. :)

Honestly, this recipe doesn't need those extra additions anyway. This dish is already extremely flavorful as is. Sometimes it's best to keep things simple, and not add 50 zillion different flavors to a dish. (Of course, various African & Asian cuisines -- especially Ethiopian, Southeast Asian & Indian food -- are some of the exceptions to that rule. In these cases, complex flavor combinations are the norm. ;) )

Hope you enjoy this French favorite. We certainly did. :)


Coq au Vin

Ingredients:
1 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
1/2 Tbsp. unsalted butter
8 oz. skinless, boneless chicken breasts, well-rinsed, defatted, and patted dry
1/2 Tbsp. freshly squeezed lemon juice
1 c. yellow onion, peeled & sliced into thin (1/4" thick) crescent slivers (about 1/2 large onion)
1/3 c. shallots, peeled & finely minced (about 1 large shallot)
1 c. "Baby Bella" mushrooms, thinly sliced (about 5 medium-sized mushrooms)
1 large fresh bay leaf
1 c. dry red wine (i.e., Burgundy is traditional, but Pinot Noir would suffice)
1 Tbsp. fresh parsley, roughly chopped
1 tsp. dried rosemary leaves
1/2 tsp. dried thyme leaves (or 1 Tbsp. fresh)
1/2 tsp. ground sage (or dried sage leaves)
1/4 tsp salt
1/8 tsp. ground black pepper
1/8 tsp ground white pepper

Directions: After washing, defatting, & drying chicken cutlets, lay them onto a non-porous (i.e.,  silicone ) cutting board or other smooth, clean surface. Cover chicken with plastic wrap, and tenderize by pounding flat with the bumpy (i.e., waffle-patterned) side of meat mallet to a uniform thickness of about 1/4". After chicken has been tenderized, cut each piece crosswise into thirds.

In a large 12-13" nonstick sauté pan, sauté chicken in 2 tsp. olive oil & 1 tsp. butter on medium-high heat until golden brown & slightly crispy around the edges (but still moist & tender on the inside), about 3 minutes per side. (Tenderized chicken cooks much faster because it's thinner & has more exposed surface area after it's been tenderized.) With about a minute of cooking to go, squeeze the lemon juice over the chicken. Transfer to two plates & set aside. Keep chicken warm by covering with foil or using some other method (i.e., a chafing dish, warm/heated plates, etc.).

Reduce heat to low. In the same pan, heat remaining 1/2 tsp. butter & 1 tsp. olive oil until butter has melted. Add onions, shallots, & bay leaf, & sauté for about 5-7 minutes, stirring occasionally, until tender. (Shallots should be soft and the onions should be on the verge of turning a light golden brown.) Add mushrooms, stir, & then deglaze pan with wine. Scrape off the  fond  from the bottom of the pan as the liquid evaporates. Quickly stir in parsley, rosemary, thyme, sage, salt, black pepper, & white pepper, & reduce the sauce to about 1/2 of its original volume, continuing to stir & simmer until thickened. In the last minute or two of cooking, add chicken back into pan & thoroughly cover with sauce. When ready, remove from heat. Discard bay leaf. Divide into two equal portions & transfer to plates. Pour any remaining sauce over chicken. Garnish each portion with additional fresh chopped parsley & serve with rice pilaf &/or a vegetable side dish.

Yield: 2 servings.

Chef's Notes: If you find that the wine's evaporating too quickly during the deglazing process, it's perfectly OK to add more. :) Also, it's very important to brown the chicken before adding it back to the pan for a second time; it really does make a huge difference in the flavor & texture of the dish.

Variations: Some versions of this recipe also feature carrots & potatoes, which you could certainly add if you'd like. I've also seen recipes incorporating tomato sauce, although I personally don't care for this addition in this particular dish. If you prefer, you can substitute garlic for the shallots for a stronger flavor; if you do this, I'd recommend using about 1-2 large cloves, finely minced.


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