Coq au vin was originally prepared using a "coq," or rooster. Braising was the perfect way to make these stringy, old roosters edible. These days roosters are uncommon in the market, so we make coq au vin with chicken or "poulet." It is, however, still good—some may say better. Someday I'll make this dish with a rooster and let you know which is better.
Traditionally, this dish is made using red wine. When it is made with white wine, it is called coq au vin blanc, which is also quite delicious. The recipe that I am using here is a complete recipe, meaning I don't skip any steps. I marinate the chicken overnight in wine and vegetables and then braise it in the same marinade. I also make both of the traditional garnishes: glazed pearl onions and braised mushrooms. You can skip the marinade if you want to; it's not that big of a deal.
1. Chop up a whole chicken into sixths, or you can just buy a chicken in quarters or even just breasts or thighs. That isn't that important, though buying a whole chicken is always cheaper than buying parts. To breakdown a chicken, cut along the thigh and remove the whole leg. Then split the breast in half and remove the wings.
2. Marinate the chicken pieces in the braising liquid overnight. Chop up the onion, carrot, and celery into a medium dice. Pour the bottle of Burgundy into a sauce pan and cook off the alcohol by simmering it. When the steam no longer lights on fire, the alcohol is gone. Cool it and add the vegetables. Once it's cool, pour it over the chicken and bouquet garni, and then marinate overnight.
3. Make the glazed onion garnish. Clean about 30 pearl onions by hand, which is a pain in the butt. If you're lucky, you may find them pre-cleaned and frozen in a bag. Put the onions, sugar, water, and butter in a pan and simmer, covered, for five minutes. Next, uncover and cook off the liquid. Then fry the onions until glazed and browned. Set aside for later.
4. Make the braised mushrooms garnish. Clean 10 ounces of mushrooms of any particulate matter and slice off the bottoms of the stems. Fry the mushrooms in two tablespoons of butter until slightly cooked. Then add the ½ cup of marinade, cover and simmer for ten minutes. Remove the lid and add the two tablespoons of cognac. Taste and adjust the seasoning. Set aside for later.
5. Remove the chicken pieces from the marinade. They should be a nice, bright purple color unless you used a white wine. Don't worry, as the purple is only on the surface. Strain the vegetables out of the marinade and set the bouquet garni aside. Reserve the marinade; you will be braising with it.
6. Flour and fry the chicken pieces in bacon fat. Cube or dice up the 10 ounces of bacon and fry it until it is crispy, and then move the bacon bits to the braising pan. Mix the flour with a pinch of salt and pepper, and dredge the chicken pieces in it. Fry the chicken pieces in the bacon fat and set them inside of the braising pan too.
7. Deglaze the pan with the vegetables from the marinade. After you have fried all of the chicken pieces, add the reserved mirepoix (vegetables) from the marinade to the pan. Stir them with a spoon and fry them until they are soft and browned. Then deglaze the pan with the two cups of stock and pour it into the braising pan with the chicken, bacon, bouquet garni, and the marinade—but not the garnishes.
8. Braise or stew the chicken with the marinade. This is probably more of a stewed chicken than a braised chicken because you cook it on the stove. Regardless, simmer the chicken for one to two hours, checking once in a while to see how tender it is. Once the chicken is done, set it aside and strain the remaining liquid. Reduce the strained liquid until it's nice and thick. Then add the cognac and serve it with the chicken and garnishes over boiled potatoes.
If you don't feel like cutting up a whole chicken, you can just buy a chicken in pieces, or you can cook the chicken whole.
This method would probably work better with poussin or Cornish game hens. Hmm. That would be good!
Try not to eat all the braised mushrooms yourself—yes, they are that good.
Keep an eye on the chicken as it stews on top of the stove. You don't want a violent boil, just a gentle simmer.
Serve with boiled and heavily parsleyed baby red potatoes.