Coq au Vin

January 19, 2014

There are only a handful of recipes that make up part of who I am as an individual. Coq au Vin is one of them. I first had the dish is Paris in 1992, but was unable to replicate its rich sauce upon my return home to San Francisco. It took me 20 years of trial and error (and the invention of the internet) for me to even come close. Coq au Vin taught me the important lessons of patience and perseverance in my 20’s. My life would have been different had I chosen a different item for that 1992 Parisian menu. Last night, I made my best Coq au Vin yet. 4-1/2 stars. A few minor tweaks will easily bring this up to a full 5-stars. Delicious and worth the 3+ hours.

Your 3 hours will be richly rewarded

Your 3 hours will be richly rewarded

The secret to delicious Coq au Vin is patience. It takes over 3 hours, and even after removing the fully-cooked chicken, it still requires reducing the sauce as much as 50 minutes. In Step 10, take the time to measure out the sauce to ensure you’ve reduced it far enough. After 35 minutes, I still had nearly 4 cups of sauce (see photo at bottom of post), though I was expecting only 2 cups.


  1. I recommend using salt pork. I modified the recipe below so I will use it next time. Last night I used thick-cut bacon, but the smokey flavor of the bacon doesn’t integrate completely into this recipe.
  2. This recipe is more typically usually accompanied only by parsley potatoes. I served them with mashed potatoes today.
  3. Chris Kimball says to use 24 frozen pearl onions, and to thaw, drained, and pat them dry with a paper towel. In the past I have been unable to find frozen pearl onion, except sold in a disgusting pre-made cream sauce. I did try the cream sauced variety (from Birds-Eye) once, but will never use them again. Today, I did see that Birds-Eye also sells a larger bag of un-sauced, frozen pearl onions. I used my fresh boiler onions.
  4. Chris Kimball recipe doesn’t call for any brandy, but I added some based upon Julia Child’s recipe. She adds and flames the Cognac just after browning the chicken, but I did it after softening the mushrooms, because of the 1/2 cup of chicken fat that I removed in Step 5.

Rating: 4-1/2 stars.
Cost: $18.
How much work? Medium.
How big of a mess?  Medium.
Start time: 3:00 PM. Dinner time: 6:20 PM.

Chris Kimball’s version of this recipe was in his 10th Anniversary America’s Test Kitchen Cookbook. The descriptions of how I prepared the recipe today are given below:

6-oz Salt Pork
4-lbs Bone-in chicken thighs
8-oz Pearl Onions (Labelled boiler onions in my supermarket)
10-oz white mushrooms
1/4 cup brandy
2 medium cloves of garlic
1 tablespoon tomato paste
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 bottle medium-bodied red wine
2-1/2 cups low-sodium chicken broth
2 teaspoon minced fresh thyme or 1/4 teaspoon dried thyme
2 bay leaf
Salt and ground black pepper
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 tablespoons minced parsley
2 pounds russet potatoes (for mashed potatoes) or small new potatoes (for parsley potatoes).

  1. Remove the rind and cut the salt pork into lardons; 1/4″ x 1″ match sticks. Cook the salt pork in a dutch oven for 10 minutes over medium heat until browned, using a spatter screen if you have one (which you will also use for the chicken). Remove salt pork to paper towels and pat to remove any excess grease. Set aside until ready to serve. If your chicken is not yet prepared as part of Step 2, then remove pot from heat.
  2. Meanwhile while the bacon is cooking, prepare your chicken by trimming away any excess fat. Dry the chicken using paper towels and season both sides with salt and pepper.
  3. If you have less than 2 tablespoons of pork fat, add vegetable oil. Cook the chicken in two batches over medium-high heat, cooking for 8 minutes per side (a total of 32 minutes). Again, use a splatter screen if you have one, because the spattering chicken makes a big mess. After each batch is complete remove to a plate and set aside.
  4. While the chicken cooks prepare pearl onions and quarter mushrooms. If using fresh pearl onions, roll the onions between your hands to remove as much of the papery exterior as possible, then slice off root ends. Add the onions to boiling water for 1 minute, empty to a strainer then shock in an ice water bath. This will help you remove any remaining outer skin.
  5. Remove all but 1 tablespoon fat from the pan (I removed 1/2 cup of extra fat), and cook the quartered mushrooms and pearl onions over medium burner for 10 minutes. Pour brandy into pot and light it on fire with a long match or BBQ lighter. Swirl the pan and let the flames go for about a minute until they start to burn out naturally.
  6. Press garlic cloves directly into pot and add 1 tablespoon tomato paste. Cook for 30 seconds, then add flour and cook for 1 additional minute.
  7. Add wine, chicken broth and deglaze the bottom of the pot. Add thyme, bay leaves add 1/4 teaspoon pepper.
  8. Return the chicken to the pot, nestling the pieces so that they are submerged. Cover pot and cook chicken over medium-low burner for 45 minutes, maintaining a slight simmer; until chicken reaches correct internal temperature; 175 for dark meat. Use a slotted spoon to remove the chicken when done, placing in a large bowl and tent with aluminum foil to keep warm.
  9. While the chicken cooks, put a large pot of salted water on the stove-top and begin heating for your mashed potatoes.
  10. Reduce sauce, uncovered, for between 35 and 50 minutes until the sauce has reduce to about 2 cups and is thick. Replace the chicken in the pot for last 5 minutes to reheat.
  11. Remove pot from heat and put chicken on serving platter. Fish out the 2 bay leaves, whisk in the butter and adjust salt and pepper according to your taste. Pour sauce over chicken and spring with pork and parsley.
After 35 minutes I still had nearly 4 cups

After 35 minutes I still had nearly 4 cups; keep reducing!

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