National Coq au Vin Day and a non-recipe for it

The seminal French dish Coq au Vin (rooster in wine) comes from an old farm house need to soften up an old rooster in a wine stew from whatever was on hand at the farm. Traditionally it includes carrots, pearl onions and mushrooms. Knowing this national day was coming I checked out many recipes.

I have several in my collection and found dozens more online. My goodness, this traditional rustic meal has been turned into haute cuisine with some plans calling for multiple pans and often multiple steps and days to prepare it. Rather than pick one of the persnickety (and often delicious) recipes, I thought, what the heck, I’m just going to go with what I got and not choose a recipe. I did pick up some pearl onions and mushrooms but all the rest was what I had on hand. While improvising I did take time to do the mise en place as seen here. No recipe amounts, but you can get an idea of scale.

I didn’t have an old rooster, but I did have boneless, skinless thighs handy, so I knew I would not have to cook as long and it would be easier to eat. I started with my favorite cast iron dutch oven in which I sauted my bacon lardons. After crisping them up, I removed them with a slotted spoon to paper towels and then browned the chicken in the remaining grease. After nicely browned, they were removed to a plate.

Now it was time to saute vegetables, starting with minced onions, celery and sliced carrots. After about five minutes I added the mushrooms and pearl onions. Added in some thinly sliced garlic and cooked for another minute or so. Then a glob of butter and small handful of flour to create a thickening roux. Then a bit of thyme and in comes the wine and a couple of glugs of brandy as well as some of my homemade chicken broth. After stirring to thicken back goes the bacon and chicken. Reduced to a simmer and pop on the lid for and hour or so.

Just a simple farmer’s stew made in my small New York City kitchen. It may not be fancy French fare but it sure was delicious. It was even better, as stews often are, the next day. So take a chance, don’t slavishly follow some fancy recipe. Make a traditional farmer’s stew, even if you don’t have stringy old rooster handy!

As always you can find more at and on Twitter @walterthinnes

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