This monthly cooking series features husband and wife team Barry and Kelley Courter.
BARRY SAYS: We were talking in the office the other day about the fact that some of our favorite foods were created by someone who figured out how to take an otherwise less-than-tasty dish that no one else wanted and make it good, usually by slow cooking it. Barbecue, greens, black-eyed peas, for example.
The coq au vin is, in many ways, one of those dishes, though the meal we had was tasty enough for royalty. The French translation is "rooster or cock with wine," and it is a sensory treat. From the aromas that spread throughout the house during the hours of cooking to the first bite of the chicken, which literally fell off the bone, it was truly delicious.
KELLEY SAYS: A friend of ours, who happens to be French, turned us on to this dish not long ago. I would have thought Barry and might have tried it in the past, but we had not.
It is important for the chicken to marinate. One day at least, but two days is better. Some recipes call for an older rooster (hence the idea of slow cooking to make something tastier than it should be); ours met his demise only a couple of days before, according to the local seller where I bought it. I personally like the dark meat better, so you could just use thighs and drumsticks for the dish.
This was a rich dish that was complemented by baked bread and gratin dauphinois, a potato dish made with cream, salt and pepper, garlic and a little nutmeg — both made fresh by our guest — and good wine. What a way to begin the new year, a meal that is to be enjoyed with good friends.
BARRY: It was fun hearing our friend talk about how the gratin dauphinois was a staple at his grandfather's restaurant in France, and how his grandmother made the coq au vin which, when our friend said it, it sounded like "coco von."
"She used every part of the chicken," he said.
By the end of the meal, we had dispensed with formality and swapped our forks and knives for chunks of the bread, which we dipped into the big platter of sauce.
KELLEY: This might sound like a complicated or hard-to-make dish, but while it was somewhat time-consuming, it really wasn't difficult. In any case, it was well worth the effort and something we will have again.
BARRY: This was an amazing dish.
Contact Barry Courter at email@example.com or 423-757-6354.
Coq au Vin
1 whole chicken cut up
2 tablespoons minced garlic
5 bay leaves
1 tablespoon crushed rosemary
5 whole allspice
1 onion sliced
3 stalks celery chopped
1/2 bottle red wine
Fresh-ground black pepper
One to two days prior to cooking, marinate the chicken, spices, vegetables and wine. Turn mixture every few hours so that wine coats the chicken. It will be purple by the time it's ready to cook.
Day of Cooking
4 slices bacon
4 tablespoons butter
8 carrots sliced in chunks
1 bag frozen pearl onions
1 package fresh mushrooms, halved
2 tablespoons tomato paste
6 fresh sage leaves, thinly sliced
8 sprigs fresh thyme
4 cups chicken broth
1/2 cup brandy
1/2 cup fresh chopped parsley
Salt and pepper to taste
Cook bacon till crisp, remove from skillet and drain most of the fat. Set aside. Remove chicken from marinade and pat dry with paper towels. Begin to brown chicken in a small amount of reserved bacon fat until slightly crisp. Set aside.
Drain off fat and add 4 tablespoons butter. Add carrots and cook about 5 minutes. Remove from skillet and add onions. Cook until they begin to caramelize, then add mushrooms and sage. Cook about 5 more minutes then add reserved marinade, tomato paste, thyme and brandy.
Place chicken in a large dutch oven along with vegetable mixture and chicken broth. Cover with a lid and simmer on stove about 1 hour. Check after about 30 minutes of cooking to see if you need to add any salt or pepper. At this point, you may also add more wine or brandy, if needed. Just before serving, add fresh parsley.
Serve with lots of bread to sop up all the juices.