Thursday, 1 March 2012

Chicken in Red Wine, or 'Coq au Vin' for the Francophiles

Everything in the French language sounds better than English. Saying that, anything in English sounds better than German. While we may say 'I love you' to our objects of desire, the French may say 'Je t'adore' - but the Germans bark commandly to their lovers: 'ICH LIEBE DICH!'

The same is true for cooking: 'Chicken in Wine' sounds OK, 'Coq au Vin,' whispered by a young French waitress, sounds a bit sensual, but 'Huhn in Rotweinsauce' sounds like a punishment.

I don't care which language it is said in though; this dish (which originated on the French/German Alpine border - if you believe the Alpine and not the Dordogne tourist board's website) is delicious wherever you cook and eat it.

It makes so much sense to cook a rubbery old rooster in cheap red wine for ages until the two ingredients have compromised each other to the point of surrender. However, in this day and age, we would use a bottle of decent plonk and a plumptious, young chicken. Either way, it's still a treat to eat - even if the reason the dish was invented has long become irrelevant (but then so has the reason we eat most 'peasant' dishes - but I don't see them disappearing from poncey restaurant menus any time soon either).

Buy a whole free range chicken for £5, joint it into 8 pieces, and the cost of this dish comes in at £2.50 per serving, with a glass of wine left over for the cook.

Serves 4


1 free range chicken, jointed into 8 pieces.
2 tablespoons of plain flour
4 tablepoons olive oil
250g smoked bacon rashers, cut into 2 cm dice
2 onions, finely chopped
4 cloves of garlic
750ml bottle of red wine, less one glass for the cook
1 tablespoon of dried thyme
Pinches of salt and pepper
250g mushrooms, halved
250g whole baby onions, peeled

Crusty white, bread to serve

Coat the chicken in flour and lightly brown, with half the oil, in a large pan or wok over a moderate heat (7 minutes approx). Remove and set aside. Add the bacon, onions and garlic to the pan and fry until the onions are translucent (5 minutes approx). Add the chicken back to the pan and add add the wine, thyme and salt and pepper. Cook, uncovered, until the wine has reduced and the chicken has cooked (1 hour approx). In a separate blisteringly hot pan, fry the onions and mushrooms until lightly golden. Transfer to the stew and fold through. Serve the coq au vin with crusty bread.

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