Coq au Riesling

May 2, 2015

One of my all-time favorite recipes is Coq au Vin, with its deep, rich sauce; almost a demi-glace. Today’s recipe took an hour less than a standard, red-wine-based Coq au Vin, but I was skeptical when Chris Kimball lightened up its hallmark sauce using a white Riesling. The recipe resulted in great, well-balanced flavor. However, the sauce was a little too subtle; not bold or luxurious. Also, there was not enough chicken in the final dish; by the time I trimmed down my 5-lb whole chicken it was closer to 2-1/2 lbs of bone-in chicken. Given that the two recipes cost the same to make, I would choose the original Coq au Vin (even with the extra hour of cooking time). Overall, 4-stars; today’s recipe makes for an enjoyable meal.

Delicious, but I prefer Coq au Vin

Delicious, but I prefer Coq au Vin


  1. Using a 5-lb whole chicken left just over 2-1/2 lbs of bone-in chicken. Next time I think I will use 4-to-5-lbs of pre-cut chicken thighs. Because the pre-cut chicken would not provide me the back and wings (key to the recipe), I could still use some of the chicken trimmings that I always have in my freezer (for making chicken stock).
  2. The cooking times listed in the recipe were understated across the board. For example, browning the skin took 20 minutes, and browning mushrooms took 15 minutes.
  3. While the recipe calls for crème fraîche; I substituted a mixture of 50% sour cream and 50% heavy cream. There are a couple of variations of the substitution here.
  4. Chris Kimball suggests serving with buttered egg noodles or mashed potatoes.

The recipe calls for “dry Riesling”. Unfortunately, I discovered that the term “dry Riesling” did not help me to select the right bottle in my local wine shop.  I ended up selecting my bottle because it had 11.5% alcohol. You should go wine shopping armed with the following advice from Chris Kimball on how to select the proper bottle:

  1. Chris Kimball says that Austrian Rieslings are a safe bet; as most are dry. In my store, every single bottle of Riesling was German.
  2. He says to look for the word “trocken,” which means dry. Again, not a single bottle had the work “trocken”
  3. I did see that on the back label of some Rieslings there was a sliding scale indicating where the wine falls on the dry-sweet spectrum. but the few bottles that had the scale were all sweet.
  4. Finally, he says to look for Riesling that has 11% alcohol or above. The higher the alcohol level, the drier the wine. I found a $10 bottle that had 11.5% alcohol. The recipe left we with a glass to drink and it was indeed not a typically syrupy Riesling.
  5. Chris Kimball’s last alternative is to use a Sauvignon Blanc or Chablis. He specifically says to avoid Chardonnay, which will turn bitter as it reduces.

Rating: 4 stars.
Cost: $19.
How much work? Medium.
How big of a mess?  Medium.
Start time 3:45 PM. Ready at 6:00 PM.

Chris Kimball’s original recipe is here.  My descriptions of how I prepare it today are given below:

5-pound whole chicken,
Salt and pepper
2 slices bacon
3 shallots, chopped
2 carrots, peeled and chopped coarse
2 celery ribs, chopped coarse
4 garlic cloves, peeled and smashed
3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
2-1/2 cups dry Riesling (leaving 1 glass to drink)
1 cup water
2 bay leaves
6 sprigs fresh parsley, plus 2 teaspoons minced
6 sprigs fresh thyme
1 pound white mushrooms
1/4 cup crème fraîche

  1. Break down your chicken, removing the into its major components, setting aside the wings and back (and the little bag that comes inside the chicken). Cut each breast in half; so you should be left with a total of 8 pieces (4 breast pieces, 2 drumsticks, 2 thighs). Remove the skin from chicken breast pieces, drumsticks, and thighs; setting aside to use in Step 3.
  2. Sprinkle both sides of chicken with a total of 1-1/4 teaspoons salt and 1/2 teaspoon pepper; set aside until Step 7.
  3. Chop bacon. Set a large Dutch oven over medium-low burner, add bacon and stir occasionally until it begins to render the fat, about 3 to 4 minutes. Add the chicken skin, back, and wings to pot, and increase burner to medium. Cook, stirring frequently, for 12 to 15 minutes. Mine took 20 minutes before the bacon browned. The skin should also have rendered it’s fat and the chicken back and wings should be browned on all sides.
  4. Meanwhile peel and chop your shallots. Peel and coarsely chop your carrots. coarsely chop the celery. Peel and smash your garlic (no need to mince or press your garlic).
  5. Temporarily remove the pot from burner and remove and reserve 2 tablespoons of the fat to small bowl; set aside until Step 10.
  6. Return pot to burner (still medium). Add chopped shallots, carrots, celery, and garlic. Cook for 4 to 6 minutes, stir occasionally, until the vegetables become softened. Add 3 tablespoons flour and cook and stir for 30 seconds. Slowly add wine and deglaze the pan, using a metal spatula.
  7. Increase burner to high and simmer for 2 minutes until it slightly thickened. Add 1 cup water, 2 bay leaves, 6 parsley sprigs, and 6 thyme sprigs, and bring up to a simmer. Set chicken pieces in an even layer in pot. Turn down burner to low, cover pot, and cook for 25 to 30 minutes, stirring halfway through cooking. Remove the chicken pieces as each piece comes up to temperature; i.e. the breasts measure 160 degrees and thighs and legs register 175 degrees.
  8. While the chicken cooks prepare your mushrooms by trimming the stems. Cut small mushrooms in half and quarter any large mushrooms.
  9. Fish out and discard the back and wings. Empty the pot into a fine-mesh strainer set over a large bowl. Press down on the solids to remove as much liquid as possible. Allow to settle for 10 minutes, then use a wide spoon to remove and discard any surface fat.
  10. Meanwhile while the liquid settles, put the now-empty pot over medium burner. Add the fat reserved in Step 5, cut mushrooms, and 1/4 teaspoon salt. Cook and stir occasionally for 10 minutes until lightly browned (mine took 16 minutes because they release so much liquid that they wouldn’t brown)
  11. Return the cooking liquid to the bot and bring up to a boil. Reduce burner to maintain a brisk simmer for 5 to 6 minutes until the sauce has the consistency of heavy cream, stir occasionally.
  12. Turn down burner to medium low. Add in crème fraîche and minced parsley. Stir until combined. Add chicken pieces and any juices from the plate. Cook, covered, for 5 to 8 minutes until the chicken becomes heated through. Adjust salt and pepper according to your taste.
  13. Serve over buttered egg noodles or mashed potatoes.

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