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Like so much French fare, coq au vin is cuisine de bon femme [lit., cooking of a good woman]. Housewife food, or, rather, farmer’s wife food, in this case. Now, technically speaking, coq au vin is a fricassee, that is, a dish in which poultry pieces are browned in fat, then stewed in a flavorful liquid—usually wine—along with aromatic vegetables or spices and what not.
Looking over Chef Verné’s procedure, though, I’ve got to
say there’s just ... there’s a lot here I just don’t understand. I mean, why does
it take four days to make this? Why do you need four liters of wine? Why do you
need salted but unsmoked pork? And why do you need a two year-old rooster? And,
all of its blood? Oh well, you can’t challenge the French on these things, so I
guess we, might as well get this over with. [picks up the rooster cage] Come on.
[Wields a cleaver, and approaches the rooster] Hey, Mister Rooster. Time to learn about your place on the old food chain, okay? [opens the cage, and reaches for the rooster, which struggles, quickly releases the rooster, and closes the cage door] Okay, okay. Nice rooster. You, you didn’t want to see me kill the rooster anyway, did you? No, no, of course not. Let’s, let’s go to the grocery store, okay.
Now, why would a classic dish like coq au vin call for a tough old
rooster? Because, the average 17th century French country housewife had
And when one of them was no longer capable of performing its rooster-ly duties,
she needed a dish to justify doing away with the old guy, right? Now, such a
dish would certainly take advantage of the rooster’s fully developed physiology,
right? Including a considerable amount of connective tissue.
Now, take a look around the poultry case at your local market, and odds are, you’re not going to find any rooster.
[to butcher] Rooster?
BUTCHER: [shakes his head]
Didn’t think so. Okay, the next best thing would be a stewing hen. Stewing hen is a chicken that is usually about a year of age, it’s kind of retired from laying eggs, so they’re pretty tough.
AB: Stewing hens?
B: [shakes his head]
Some specialty markets carry them, but truth is, most Americans like their chicken young, tender, and relatively flavorless, so what sells are broiler fryers and roasters. Now broilers are typically harvested around twelve weeks of age, and roasters aren’t much older. Of course, neither comes close to giving us the kind of flavor or texture that we would get from a stewing bird or a rooster. So, for this dish, we’re gonna go with the next best thing. Thighs and legs.
AB: Thighs and legs. Four of each, please.
B: [nods, goes to fill the order]
They don’t have a lot of age on them, granted, but they’ve got more connective tissue and flavor than anything else in this case.
B: [hands AB a package]
AB: Thank you very much. Oh, say, you wouldn’t happen to have a pint of chicken blood back there, would ‘ya?
B: [shakes his head a little disgusted]
AB: Never hurts to ask.
[now in another part of the store]
Hmmm, while we’re on the subject of less than common meat stuffs, it appears that
we’re going need some salt pork. Now, they’re a couple of different kinds of
salt pork, but they’re all cut from the belly, like bacon. In fact, some of it’s
got so much lean on it that it looks like a blob of bacon. But the really really
good salt pork looks more like this. Yes, that appears to be mostly fat. There’s
a little bit of lean in there, but it’s mostly fat. But that’s okay, because
we’re only using a little bit, and only for flavor, and there’s a lot of flavor
in here. Now, the difference between salt pork and bacon, is that salt pork is
cured and dried, but never ever smoked, the way bacon is. Now, if you can’t find
salt pork, you can use thick cut or slab style bacon. But, it’ll never be the
Next on the list, pearl onions. Just like their full-sized cousins, pearl onions come in red, yellow, and white, which is what we’re going to use today, because it is traditional. Now I know what you’re thinking, “No dish is worth having to peel all these wee, little onions.” But don’t worry. There’s more than one way to skin an onion. Just snip off the root end, and then cut a deep “v” into the bottom. Drop them into boiling water for one minute, remove, and cool, until you can just handle them. Then you can just squirt them out of their skins. Trés simplé. [lit., very simple] Yeah. We’re also going to need eight ounces of button mushrooms, and the usual mirepoix lineup. One onion, a couple of carrots, and a few ribs of celery. Of course, it wouldn’t be coq au vin without some vin.
One of the earliest known recipes for Coq au vin dates from 1913.
GUEST: Michael Bryan, Executive Director, Atlanta Wine School
[AB picks up a bottle of wine, labeled “You are utterly clueless about wine”. He
puts it back, and starts running aimlessly through the wine section, eventually
bumping into another man] Oh, I’m sorry. Excuse me.
MICHAEL BRYAN: Can I help you with something?
AB: Well, I’m, I’m looking for, for wines, to cook with.
MB: Okay, take a deep breath. What are you going to cook?
AB: Chicken stew. Umm, fricassee, umm, coq au vin.
MB: I can help you. [pans to the camera] I’m a wine guy. [back to AB] And here’s what we need to understand about wine. When we cook with it, it changes. And if I had some kind of model to represent this, I could show it to you.
AB: A visual aid?
AB: I’ll be right back! [returns with a visual aid, consisting of four colored cylinders, dropped into a table with four holes cut into its surface] Behold! The components of wine.
MB: Okay, well, um, there’s actually a few hundred components of wine, But, eh,
but this will work. We can work with this.
Wine for Cooking
|MB: The alcohol is going to have evaporated.||Alcohol Evaporates|
MB: Let’s call this the water, which is 80% of wine to start with, and it’s
going to be forming a lot of the body of our sauce.
AB: So we want to keep some?
|Water Forms Body|
|MB: What’s going to happen with our good fruit character and our finished sauce is this is going to have concentrated, and it’s a big part of our dish.||Fruit Character Concentrates|
MB: Let’s call this our tannin, and we’re dealing with a red wine here, so it
has a tannic presence ...
AB: ... the astringent quality.
MB: Right, and what we want to do is de-emphasize the tannin, because it could give kind of a metallic taste to the sauce.
|Tannins De-emphasized to reduce astringent taste|
MB: So that’s our finished, cooked,
AB: Okay. This is what I wanna have at the end. What is it gonna look like at the beginning?
|MB: Out of the bottle, we’re going to have our water increased, of course, because it hasn’t evaporated yet. Our alcohol is also going to be higher. Our fruit character is not as concentrated. And our tannin is going to be slightly higher as well.||
Fruit not as concentrated
AB: So, there’s my wine. That’s what I need. So, what does that mean in here?
MB: Okay, the profile of this wine is a pinot noir.
|Wine for Drinking|
AB: Okay, now that’s a type of grape, and I know they grow that in, like, California, Washington, Europe, all over the place. How do I know which one to
MB: Well, it is grown all over, okay. There are certain places that are better than others. Oregon and California do a great job. But it’s home is Burgundy.
AB: The very same place that coq au vin originated.
AB: But I don’t want to spend too much money.
MB: You don’t have to. This is a competitive market wine, okay. You can find deals everywhere. I particularly like the red burgundies, as their known.
AB: Yes, how much?
MB: Ten to twelve dollars is what you’re looking at.
AB: And it’s French?
MB: It is French.
AB: And it’s shaped like this? [indicates the model before them]
MB: It looks like this, and it also ties in very well with the flavors of our sauce.
AB: So I can cook with this, and I can drink it at the same time?
MB: At the same time.
AB: I’m sold. Thanks a lot for your help, wine guy. By the way, the table is yours, but [points to the guys moving the tubes under the table] they need to eat twice a day.
Cellar all out of Burgundy? Try Beujolais or Rioja.
The recipe calls for lardons, which is French for fat, short matchsticks or elongated cubes. And trust me when I tell you that these are easier to fabricate when the fat is frigid. So consider storing your salt fat in the freezer to keep it firm. You’re going to slice down this way, into quarter-inch slices, and then we will stack those up, and cut them into long strips this way, and then we’ll cut them into thirds.
6 Ounces Salt Pork
Or Slab Bacon Cubed
|But if we just dump these into a pan and turn on the heat, they’re going to burn before they give up their liquid love. So we turn the heat to medium, and add a couple of tablespoons of water to the pan. Now, while that does its thing—five or ten minutes—we’ll deal with the chicken.||2 Tbs. Water|
|Lay out your chicken pieces on a rack, and season liberally with salt and pepper.||
4 Each Thighs & Legs
Season with Kosher Salt & Freshly Ground Pepper
|Next, grab yourself a zip-top bag, and fill it with a quarter to one-half cup of all-purpose flour. Then simply add the chicken pieces—one to two pieces at a time—seal up the bag, and give it a shake to coat. It’s fun for the whole family. Just let them sit and air dry. This is going to help bond the flour to the skin.||
1/4 - 1/2 cup
As you can see, a good bit of fat has come out of the pork, and the lardon have shriveled up a good bit, so it’s time to get rid of the water now. Just leave the lid off, and when the bubbling is over, you’ll know that the water is gone.
|As you can see, we’ve got a good bit of fat here, so it’s time to do some browning. We’ll start with our peeled onions. Just toss those in, make sure the heat stays on medium, and try keeping them moving at least 50% of the time, until their wee little bodies are all golden brown.||24-30 Peeled & Trimmed Pearl Onions|
|Next, we will bring up the chicken. Now, the big thing about the chicken is that you do not want to crowd the pan, okay. Three to four pieces tops, and don’t go moving it around, okay, or it’ll stick. You don’t want that. Oh, and don’t touch the heat knob, okay. You don’t need high heat to brown things. Just leave it on medium; take about four to five minutes on each side. Oh, and if you’ve got one of these handy-dandy splatter guards, I advise that you implement it at this time.||
3-4 Pieces Of
Chicken At A Time
Coating the chicken with flour now, will help thicken the sauce later.
If you ask me, there’s no reason not to move the chicken directly to your enamel vessel, or Dutch oven, or even crock pot ... but that’s another show.
Go ahead and line this vessel with two ribs of celery, two carrots, and one onion that have all been quartered, along with six to eight fresh sprigs of thyme, three cloves of garlic crushed, and one bay leaf. Now this is going to provide kind of the aromatic base on which we will lay our chicken.
2 Ribs Celery Quartered
2 Carrots Quartered
1 Onion Quartered
6 – 8 Sprigs Of Thyme
3 Cloves Garlic
1 Bay Leaf
ROOSTER: [clucks as if in protest]
AB: Well don’t watch if it bothers you. [under his breath] Sensitive for a bird.
Actually, that’s not quite enough fat in the pan, so we’ll add just a little pat of butter, and then pour on eight ounces of quartered button mushrooms.
1 Tbs. Unsalted
8 Ounces Button Mushrooms Quartered
Now why cook more vegetation after we’ve cooked the chicken? Because, these mushrooms are going to act like little sponges, and they’re going to soak up a good bit of that fat and flavor. There certainly wouldn’t be enough here to cook the chicken afterwards, okay? Now just let this cook over medium heat until the mushrooms are golden brown and delicious: about five minutes.
After your mushrooms are done, dump them into a zip-top bag along with the onions and pork lardon, let them cool on the counter for about ten minutes, and seal and stash in your refrigerator.
Now back to our pan. Pour off any excess fat; and I usually do this on to some paper towels, so I can throw it away. There. Put it [the pan] back on the heat.
Now, you see this nastiness? [points to browned pan] The French call that fond [lit., melts], and without this chemically complex, crusty pan scab, French cuisine probably wouldn’t exist at all. What we have to do is get that off of the pan and into the food, and the best way to do this is to dissolve it via deglazing with a cup of flavorful liquid, like, say, a cup of our burgundy. Here we go.
|1 Cup Pinot Noir|
[Pours the burgundy into the pan, which immediately ignites] Oh, I forgot to add that it’s important to do this off the heat. Otherwise, you get a lot of flames. Why does this happen? Well, it helps to know a little bit about alcohol. [lids the flaming pan]
|Professionals in a closed kitchen. Do not attempt at home.|
Let’s say for a moment that this is a sample droplet of wine. Just an average red wine which is generally sixteen to twenty proof. Now that means that it contains somewhere in the neighborhood of eight to ten percent ethyl alcohol, or ethanol, which is being portrayed here by the little red Christmas ornaments, and the clear ones are, you know, water, sugar, other stuff like that.
Water, Sugar & Other Stuff
Now, at room temperature, this ethanol is not flammable. It’s just completely, you know, harmless. But, when the temperature goes up, and hits 172.4 degrees Fahrenheit, the ethanol starts to turn to vapor, and once it’s airborne, believe me, it is very flammable indeed. So, kill the flames before deglazing with wine or spirits, okay? And if you’re not going to do it for me, well, do it for your insurance agent.
And now, we complete the liquid phase. We take our deglazing liquid, and we add to it, two tablespoons of tomato paste. To add to the chickeny essence and to give us a little more body, two cups of chicken broth. Next, but not least, the rest of our two bottles of burgundy. Straight in. And, we lid.
2 Tbs. Tomato Paste
2 Cups Chicken Broth
Remainder Of 2 Bottles of Pinot Noir
This pot now moves to the refrigerator for, well, at least overnight. Now, Chef Verné’s instructions clearly state that marinating the meat will tenderize the rooster ...
AB: ... chicken, sorry. Chicken.
This is big, fat, culinary lie, which we will deal with on another episode. What’s really happening here is that the flavors are going to meld. The browned chicken, the wine, the aromatics are all kind of slowly intermingling with one another and that’s why it’s going to take a little bit of time for that process.
Now, let’s review, shall we? Our steps so far: let’s see, my translation of Chef Ver ...
... Chef Verné says, well, you know ... You know what, I’m getting a little bit tired of what Chef Verné says. Look, this is what we’ve done ...
2. Render Fat
3. Season and Flour Chix
4. Brown: Onions
5. Deglaze Pan
8. Build Sauce
9. Add chunks
We’ve cooked some chunks, right. We’ve got the onions, the mushrooms, and the pork, which we have set aside in a baggie, right? Now, on the other side of the equation, we browned some ...
R: [continues to cluck]
AB: ... CHICKEN ...
... we browned some chicken, and we threw in some aromatics and some wine, and we currently have that marinating. Two separate operations, which can be done two, three, even four days ahead of time. So all of these steps, all of a sudden, look a little more reasonable, because we can divide it up over time.
[To rooster, still clucking] I’ve got to get out of here for a while.
The first domestic poultry was introduced into
China from the Malayan Peninsula in 1400 B.C.
AB: [walks in carrying the rooster] You naughty, wicked rooster. I cannot believe you chased McGregor’s dog across the street like that. It was actually a little, kind of funny, yeah. I’ve got to live here, so you just go in your room, and think about what you did. I’m going to go cook a chicken.
Well, it is the next day, and we certainly had time for this to marinate. So, straight out of the refrigerator, and straight into the oven, which we will then set to bake at 325 degrees.
Now, grab your kitchen timer, and set it for about two hours. That should be just enough time for the liquid not only to cook the chicken, but to dissolve the collagen into gelatin so that the ...
R: [continues to cluck]
AB: Hush up!
... so that the stew has a nice finger-licking good texture. Now times will vary, depending on your chicken, your pot, and your oven, but you’ll get a look at it in a few minutes. Oh, and every hour or so, open the lid, and poke around. Make sure that the chicken stays submerged.
|Check & Stir 2 to 3 Times|
Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’ve got to wash this chickeny hand.
After 2 Hours...
Ahh, mes amis, allow me to present, ze coq au vin. Mmmm, can you smell it? Of
course you cannot. How mean of me. Now we strain.
Now, first step, download the chicken. I just like to put this into a big foil pouch, so that I can put it back in the oven and use the residual heat to keep this warm.
AB: Yes, I’m certain this is very upsetting to you, but this is what happens to bad
Now this [pot of veggies and sauce] we will drain. I just
have a colander sitting on a saucier. You can use any heavy saucepan or sauce
pot. And as for the remaining vegetables, believe me, they have given their all,
but I can think of one thing to do with them besides throw them down the garbage
[dumps vegetables into his dog’s food dish]
Time to build the sauce. We put our cooking liquid in the saucier over high heat and bring this to a boil and reduce by a third, which will take probably a half hour, depending on your cook top and your pan. How do you know you’ve reduced it by a third? Simple. Just take a [wooden] spoon like this, stick into the vessel, so that you see how deep it is, and just kind of move that rubber band down to mark that level. Kind of like that. Then you’ll be able to come back, measure it again – you’ll know how much a third is. Cool.
Well, I’d say that we have most certainly reduced by a third, and we’ll give it a taste – mmm. Good wine flavor, definitely chickeny, and there’s definitely some gelatin there, lip-smacking goodness indeed.
[opens the refrigerator, French accent again] Now eet iz time to retrieve ze chunks, wheech we weel add directly to ze sauce, like zees. We weel give it a stir, and we will allow this to cook for another 15 minutes, and then, we dine, non? Oui.
Pour the sauce over the warm chicken, and serve over egg noodles, and you’ve got yourself a big old bowl of France.
So, what have we learned? Well, I think we’ve learned that we need not send off for some fancy-schmantzy French chef’s marketing ploy just to get our fricassee fix. We’ve also learned that coq au vin is a complex classic that can indeed fit into a modern American lifestyle. If you ask me, that qualifies it as Good Eats. Oh, and we also learned that chickens ...
R: [clucking from inside a box]
AB: Sorry, roosters
... make lousy indoor pets. See you next time.
Transcribed by Michael Roberts
Proofread by ???
Last Edited on 08/27/2010