The classics sometimes get a bad name, associated with stuffy old restaurants that are no longer stylish, or even in existence. But there are reasons that these recipes became classics. In this series, we will share some of those stories, and our versions of the recipes so that you can rediscover these dishes at home. After all, everything old is new again.
Coq au Vin
Coq au vin means 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?
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. And stewing in red wine is the way to tenderize these birds.
The recipe for coq au vin was not documented until the early 20th century, although there were dishes that 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.
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
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.
Looking for a variation on the theme? Try it with white wine and cream in our new recipe Chicken with Pancetta, Mushrooms & White Wine Sauce. Also known as coq au riesling, this dish will have you licking the bowl.
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.