Coq au Vin Blanc

To me, this is a classic dish — chicken and root vegetables cooked in a bath of flavorful broth and white wine along with lots of fresh herbs and a little garlic. It’s a wonderfully comforting meal on a fall evening, but equally delicious any time of year 🙂

 


THE RECIPE


 

Coq au Vin Blanc

serves 2

Don’t forget to check out my Tips, Tricks, and Substitutions at the bottom of the recipe.

Ingredients

  • extra virgin olive oil
  • about 1/4 of a big, sweet yellow (Vidalia) onion, roughly chopped (big chunks)
  • 3 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
  • 2 chicken thighs, bone-in, skin on, dried thoroughly
  • coarse salt
  • 1 1/2 cups chicken stock
  • 1/2 cup dry white wine
  • root vegetables (about 2 medium carrots and equivalent parsnips)
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 6 mid-sized leaves fresh sage, chopped
  • 3 sprigs fresh thyme, leaves removed
  • 1 1/2 tsp cornstarch
  • 1 1/2 tsp cold water

Directions

  1. Lightly coat the bottom of a dutch oven or heavy bottomed pot (with lid) with the oil and place over medium/medium-high heat.
  2. Add onions to the pot and sauté until just starting to turn golden, several minutes.
  3. Toward the end of the sauté (maybe after about 5 minutes) add the garlic, stirring constantly so it doesn’t burn, and cooking until golden, but not brown.
  4. Remove the mixture to a bowl and set aside.
  5. Add a little more oil to the pot to ensure the bottom is coated.
  6. Add the chicken, skin side down and brown it by turning often until all sides are a beautiful, golden, walnut color.
  7. When the chicken is done browning, about 8-10 minutes, remove it to a plate and sprinkle all sides with salt.
  8. Pour out any leftover oil and place the pot back on the heat.
  9. Add the wine and chicken stock, scraping the bottom of the pot with a wooden spoon to scrape up any browned bits (which flavor the dish).
  10. Add the vegetables, bay leaf, sage, thyme, and cooked onion/garlic.
  11. Make sure everything’s immersed well in the liquid and turn up the heat to bring it just to a boil.
  12. Immediately reduce the heat to low, cover the pot with the lid, and cook for 20-30 minutes.
    1. Remove the meat to a plate to test for doneness. It should feel tender when pressed (careful not to burn your fingers) and, when pricked with a knife, the juices should run clear (not pink).
  13. When the chicken’s fully cooked, leave it aside on the dish.
  14. Discard the bay leaf (because it’s indigestible).
  15. Leave the lid off the pot and turn the heat to high, allowing the liquid to boil and reduce by about half its volume, about 6 minutes.
  16. Reduce the heat so that the liquid is just simmering.
  17. In a small bowl, mix the cornstarch into the water until it’s completely dissolved.
  18. Add this mixture to the liquid, stirring to combine.
  19. Once the sauce is thickened to your liking, add the chicken back for a short time to re-warm.
    1. If you don’t want to eat the skin, which is not crisp, remove it and discard before adding the chicken back to the pot.
  20. To serve, I recommend laying the chicken, veggies, and loads of sauce over a nice bed of rice 🙂

Tips, Tricks, and Substitutions

I always recommend following a recipe the way it’s written before making any changes; your substitutions will work out much better if you know what the food tastes like in its original form and can make educated substitutions. With that, here are my tips, tricks, and substitutions for this recipe:

Extra Virgin Olive Oil: I use it because it’s healthy, delicious, and I prefer not to use “vegetable oil” due to health concerns. If you decide to use a different fat, just make sure it has a high smoke point. No matter what you use, make sure it doesn’t get so hot that it starts to smoke before you’ve put any food in it, which is a bad thing for your health and the potential to not burn your meal 😉 If it smokes, dump it, carefully wipe the pot, and start over!

Sweet Yellow Vidalia Onion: This is my go-to onion because of the sweetness, but you can feel free to use a cooking onion, Spanish onion, or even shallots (though they’ll be really expensive!).  You could also use pearl onions, but realize that the inside might be fairly raw tasting because it’s difficult to get the entire onion to caramelize throughout.

What to do with the Extra Onion: Chop that up and store it in an airtight container in the fridge or freezer for later! It’ll save you time on another dish.

Garlic: Well, I don’t have a sub for this 🙂 If you don’t like garlic, you’re crazy. I mean to say…just leave it out 😉

Chicken Thighs: There’s nothing wrong with chicken thighs and, actually, they’re more moist and have more flavor and iron than chicken breasts! Use whatever cut you like, but keep in mind that you may have to remove the chicken earlier. Bone-in thighs should cook for about 30-40 minutes (depending on size) at moderate heat. If you brown them for 10 minutes, then you cook in the liquid for about 20-30 (always test early rather than late!). Use this as your guide for how to calculate the cook time of any other cut. For instance, boneless chicken breasts only need about 20 minutes of total cook time, so they may only spend 10 minutes cooking in the liquid.

Browning Chicken: This leaves little bits caramelizing on the bottom of the pan, which flavor your sauce — yum yum! You need high enough heat (you shouldn’t be able to hold your hand over the bottom for more than about four seconds before it feels pretty hot) and either skin-on chicken or floured skinless chicken. Otherwise, don’t bother because you’re just drying out and toughening the naked meat.

I recommend turning the chicken often so that it doesn’t burn, but you can leave it to brown fully on one side for a few minutes before turning, if that’s what you prefer. I’ll burn it that way, so I don’t 🙂

Also note that the chicken will come away from the pan when it’s ready, so even though I say to turn it often, if the skin is stuck, leave it be for a moment! If it seems like it’ll never unstick, your heat may not have been high enough before putting the chicken in the pan. Oh well, better luck next time, it’ll still taste great! No reason to cry over torn chicken skin, it’s just more flavor on the bottom of the pan 😉

Chicken StockHomemade is doubtless always the best, but my preferred store brand is Kitchen Basics. It’s dark and so, so flavorful 🙂 Plus, there’s just not a bad ingredient in it!

White Wine: This is pretty much your choice, just remember that you want something that would taste good as a drink. There’s no such thing as cooking wine! If nobody would drink it, nobody should cook with it.

Root Vegetables: Carrots and parsnips, carrots and parsnips. They’re a winning combo and you can’t go wrong! A lot could work well with this dish, though. Potatoes, turnips, maybe even celeriac.

Fresh Herbs: I discourage using dried herbs in place of fresh. The flavor is just not nearly the same. If you can’t get fresh, though, cut the amount at least in half and just taste from there to see if you want more.

Removing Thyme Leaves: The leaves come off so easily (on a nice mature sprig) if you just drag your fingers on either side of the sprig, against the direction the leaves are growing. If you’re having a lot of trouble with it because the sprigs are too young and tender, though, feel free to just drop them in the pot and discard before serving.

Mixing Cornstarch and Water: Cornstarch has to dissolve in a cool liquid because, otherwise, it’ll clump up and you’ll be eating little lumps of cornstarch floating throughout your sauce. Blechk.


THE STORY


This week, I’ve failed to come up with any sort of pre-planned meals and it’s sent me into a bit of a tizzy because I’m too indecisive to come up with anything good quickly. I find myself debating what kind of meat I should be taking out of the freezer, what the sides should be, what the flavor should be…and if I don’t remember to take the meat out the night before or in the morning before work, then we’re really screwed; that’s when I default to pasta…generally the same pasta over and over again 🙂

So, Monday night I took out two chicken thighs, figuring I’d come up with a recipe, Tuesday, on my lunch break…which I did not. When I got home, I decided I felt like Coq au Vin, but I hate making the same meal over and over and I’m supposed to make it with my friend, M, soon, so I really didn’t want to end up eating it three times in a three week. Plus, that’s the whole point of planning an entire week’s meals ahead; I can make something completely different all the time.

So, I thought that if I switched out the red wine for white, the beef stock for chicken stock, and then ignored the traditional Coq au Vin mix-ins (like bacon, tomato paste, and mushrooms), it would be changed up enough for me to feel like I was still getting some kind of variety. So, I pretty much came up with this dish on the fly. I took a look at two Coq au Vin recipes, simply to determine liquid-to-meat ratios and cooking times. Then, I thought about what would taste good with chicken and white wine.

That’s what I love about cooking. You can take almost any dish and simply use it as a base to translate it into something completely different! This is only the second dish I’ve come up with on my own using Coq au Vin as a base; the first was chicken curry and I already have so many more in my head. Coq au Vin is like a fricassée; you basically sauté your foundation flavors (onion and garlic), brown some chicken, then throw it all in a pot along with other flavor enhancers (like herbs, mushrooms, and tomato) and some liquid (beef stock, wine, and cognac). Then you just let the meat cook in the liquid, remove it, and reduce the liquid to become a thicker sauce. That’s it! It’s the simplest thing in the world and there are so many choices to change it.

The Coq au Vin Blanc sauce with vegetables.

With my chicken curry, for example, I sautéed onions, garlic, and peppers, browned my chicken, then threw it all in a pot with coconut milk, curry paste, and some other flavor enhancers like ground ginger and mirin. Once the chicken was cooked, I removed everything but the liquid, cooked it down to a sauce, and then put the whole thing over a bed of coconut jasmine rice laced with salty chopped peanuts. It was delicious!

Other ideas I’ve had are using the same method to cook chicken or beef in a chili sauce (much like a sauce you’d get over an enchilada), a sweet rum soy sauce (with sweet potatoes), and an apple cider sauce. You can pick out almost any vegetable to cook with it…any side dish like rice, potatoes, or pasta. The options are pretty much endless; you just have to think about what flavors you like, what you think would taste great together, and then you have a brand new meal! All cooked in the same pot…all superbly delicious.

So, with this meal, I sautéed onion and garlic, browned some chicken thighs, and then cooked it all with chicken stock, white wine, chopped herbs, and root vegetables. Once everything was finished, I served it over a simple bed of jasmine rice (my go-to rice!) seasoned with salt, pepper, a tiny bit of garlic powder, and a combination of extra virgin olive oil and butter.

It ended up, literally, being one of my favorite meals of all time. I couldn’t believe how well it turned out and I’m so excited. Thank goodness, for me, that I actually paid pretty good attention to the amounts I was using and the ingredients! Now, I’ll be able to replicate it any time I like 🙂

And so will you.

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