Rediscover a Culinary Classic: What is Coq au Vin?

The classics sometimes get a bad name, associated with stuffy old restaurants that are no longer stylish, or even in existence. But there are good reasons that these recipes became classics. In this post, we will share the story of the ultimate one-pot comfort food dish:  coq au vin. You will also get some recipes so you can make it at home. Hello, Sunday dinner! 

The Epic Coq au Vin

Coq au vin is French for “rooster in wine” and is just that: chicken on the bone slowly stewed, or braised, in red wine. Can we really get to the origins of this dish? When was the first time an old barnyard rooster was stewed in a pot?

 

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Jiri Sliva cartoon

Some say that Julius Caesar was the first to enjoy coq au vin. It makes a good story. While Caesar was going about the business of conquering Gaul, the locals sent him a message tied around the neck of an old rooster: “Bon Appétit.”  Rather than be insulted, Caesar had it cooked in wine and herbs and invited the Gauls who sent it over for dinner.

Far more likely is that the recipe developed, like so many classics, out of necessity. Nothing gets wasted on a farm, and when an old rooster was no longer useful, his destiny was the stew pot. Tough older birds, hen and cock alike,  will still yield up tasty meat when cooked properly. Stewing in red wine is the way to tenderize these birds.

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Replacing Rooster

The recipe for coq au vin was not documented until the early 20th century, although there were dishes like it far earlier. True coq au vin was finished with the blood of the rooster and stabilized with brandy and vinegar to keep the blood from clotting. Again, unless you are slaughtering your own rooster or chicken, it’s unlikely that you will have this ingredient available.

Today the home cook intent on making coq au vin will not find an old rooster at the grocery store. Instead, we eat young chickens that are always tender and mild. This gives us very little culinary context for the aged cockerel in a stew pot. It also means recipes for coq au vin need to be adapted to the plump chicken; stewing times will be shorter. Lucky for us, the conversions have already been made.

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As always, it was Julia Child who brought this French classic to a wider audience with her hugely influential book Mastering the Art of French Cooking, and her popular TV show. Coq au vin became one of her signature dishes, and thus entered the consciousness of Americans.

Coq au Vin Recipes

Ariane’s version of the classic recipe uses 2 chickens instead of a rooster, ventrèche, and demi-glace, not blood. These are adaptions we can all live with.

And if you want Chef Eric Ripert’s take on coq au vin, you can try his recipe here. He uses brandy in addition to 2 bottles of red wine.

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Looking for a variation on the theme? Try it with white wine and cream in our Chicken with Pancetta, Mushrooms & White Wine Sauce recipe. Also known as coq au riesling, this dish will have you licking the bowl.

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We love to hear from you! Tell us about your cooking experiences with coq au vin right here in the comments, or on social media. Tag @dartagnanfoods on Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter and share photos of your culinary achievements.


Since 1985, D’Artagnan has been at the forefront of the farm-to-table movement, producing superior tasting products by partnering with small ranches and farms. We are committed to free-range, natural production, sustainable and humane farming practices and no use of antibiotics or hormones. That’s why D’Artagnan products have been revered by America’s most renowned chefs for over 30 years. We offer the same high-quality products to home cooks at dartagnan.com, along with recipes and guides to help you live the tasty life.

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