Simplified Coq Au Vin (and How Not to Cook in One’s Own Kitchen)


Long frustrating story, but the bottom line is: Keyspan sucks. There’s still no gas in my apartment. The good thing is, my friends have been offering me their delicious home cooking, and in one instance let me use their kitchen to make them dinner. It’s been a harmonious transaction.

My new neighbors Sam and Richard gave up their kitchen for a night. So I made them this coq au vin (above); Sam countered the next night with decadent enfrijoladas (like enchiladas only smothered in beans instead of chile). Then my friend Lindsay threw an impromptu dinner party and made a smattering of dishes like a vegetarian sloppy joe, angel hair with pesto, sauteed kale with onions, buttered green beans, and mesclun salad, served with lots of wine and cheese. She says this is what you make when you crash through the Fairway Market not having a clue what you’re going to cook for friends who are coming over in a few minutes (some of whom are vegetarian).

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Sam’s enfrijoladas: she soaks the tortillas in some oil, then folds cheese into them and smothers them in a pan of black beans. As a garnish, she tops with sour cream, onions, cojita cheese, and stewed chipotle pork left over from another night.

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I’m not exactly sure how Lindsay’s sloppy joe mixture came together, but it included eggplant, crushed tomatoes, fake sausage meat, onions and cheese.

Back to the coq au vin recipe: thanks to Becca and Bob, I now have my very own new copy of Mastering the Art of French Cooking, given to me for my birthday along with Julie and Julia, which I’ve begun. I’ll admit, I was never a stickler for following recipes by the book. In fact, I rarely use them this way; I do very much enjoy reading recipes, and having them in my head for a while, and months or so down the road I might decide to wing together the dish, however morphed they’ve become by that time or affected by my own whimsy. As often, my latest whimsy involved practicality, a compression of ingredients and tricks–and in the case of coq au vin, even the name of the dish calls out to me a simplification of ideas. In Mastering the Art of French Cooking, Julia Child and her co-authors describe lighting cognac on fire towards the beginning and several other steps and ingredients I’ve left out. I say as long as you’ve got chicken, wine, bacon, onions, and a few herbs you’re fairly good to go. It’s best served with potatoes, in my opinion, and the other night I tried this with some mashed yukon gold potatoes which were quite nice.

Simplified Coq Au Vin
(makes 4 servings)

Most recipes will call for a good shot of shallots, but as long as you have a few smallish, firm red onions, they should be almost sharp enough to make up for the lack. No, it doesn’t have to have mushrooms either, though they’d be nice if I’d remembered to pick up some.

2 lb chicken pieces (drumsticks, thighs, breasts) with skin and bone
2 1/2 cups red wine (or about 1-2 cups wine and 1/2 – 1 cup chicken broth)
2 strips bacon, cut into smaller pieces
2 small-medium red onions, diced
1/2 cup diced carrots
4 garlic cloves, smashed
1 Tb tomato paste
Generous handful of parsley, chopped
Salt and pepper to taste

In a large pot or dutch oven, sautee the bacon until done but not too crispy. Remove. Brown the chicken pieces (skin side down first) until lightly seared, and remove. Sautee the onions and carrots for 3-5 minutes, and return the bacon and chicken to the pot. Add 4 smashed garlic cloves, season with salt and pepper and some of the parsley, and smother with wine and optional chicken broth. Stir in tomato paste. Simmer for 35-40 minutes or until chicken is fully cooked and at least half the liquid absorbed. Garnish generously with parsley and serve over potatoes, noodles, or rice.


Cost Calculator:
(for 4 large servings)

2 lb cut-up chicken: $3.00
2 cups red wine (a Syrah in this case…): $3.50
2 red onions (at $0.99/lb): $0.40
1/2 cup chopped carrot: $0.15
1 handful parsley (at $0.99/bunch): $0.20
1 Tb tomato paste (at $0.69/small can): $0.10
1/2 cup chicken broth (at $1.00/can): $0.20
2 strips bacon (at $4.99/lb): $0.35
Salt, pepper, garlic: $0.05

Total: $7.95

Health Factor:

Six brownie points – They should post advertisements hailing the antioxidant power of red wine instead of POM in the subways. Then, maybe I wouldn’t feel so bad about eating it simmered with bacon and chicken with the skin left on. I suppose there are things to point out, such as the antioxidants, in the recipe that are particularly rewarding, and who knows, maybe it actually will help cut your cholesterol while you’re consuming them as one.

6 Responses

  1. Yvo

    Mm, that looks fantastic. Saw your “You are what you eat” on Ganda’s site- congrats! Coq au vin always scared me, because of the name (which would probably reduce my boyfriend to immature giggles; if I pronounce it properly, he’ll mock my nasal “van” and if I pronounce it how it looks, well, he’ll mock me anyway!”) but if it’s “this easy”, I’ll make it! BTW, I also have been drooling over that Le Creuset dutch oven for months, maybe even years now 🙂 Do you have a red one?

  2. cathy

    It’s funny, I must have lusted over it too so much that both my boyfriend and my mom got me the exact same thing (both in red) on my birthday…one had to return theirs. Don’t make the same mistake, and delegate!

  3. Amelia

    nice ,i enjoyed reading this and i will be back

  4. glb

    This looks great, and simplified. Dh gave me MTAOFC for Christmas. But, think I’ll try this first. I read the book Julie & Julia ages ago. Rented the movie, watched 4xs. DH gave that also for the holiday.

    I luckily live in a lower cost for food area. I think I can make this for @ $5.


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