Sunday, March 29, 2009

CI's Coq Au Vin

This was another joint cooking effort with my husband on a Sunday afternoon. A few days earlier he had been paging through my impulse-buy Cook's Illustrated Winter 2009 Soups and Stews issue and stopped at page 46. "I love Coq au Vin," he said, "Let's make this recipe." When Sunday rolled around, that's just what we did.
[general recipe at end of this post]

n.o.e.'s notes:

- Here's what this recipe claims:
"Put together and on the table far faster than I would have thought (in about one hour, give or take), this coq au vin proves that classic French, cooking can fit into any schedule."
A word to the wise: don't rely on this promise. You can immediately disprove it by reading through the recipe, at which point you will see that the the times specified for the individual steps add up to nearly 2 hours, without even counting time for chopping and prep. This recipe took us 2.5 - 3 hours, start to eating (one step, reducing the sauce, took us double the estimated time).

- This is a classic braised dish: brown chicken and set aside, saute vegetables in the same pan, add liquid and simmer chicken + vegetables until chicken is tender. Then reduce/thicken the sauce before serving all together.

- We used just over 4 lbs chicken - 2 large breasts and 6 small thighs.

- I had just 7 oz of mushrooms, so we were a bit short.

- 2 cups of pearl onions weighed 8 oz or more, not the 5 oz. the recipe says. We used the 8 oz. This would have been too many onions if we'd had the proper amount of mushrooms.

- Because of the size of our chicken pieces, we put the light meat and dark meat in at the same time, and it was all cooked in about 35 minutes of simmering.

- Reducing the sauce took a really long time. I don't think I'd reduce the sauce quite so much next time - 2 cups of sauce for 8 pieces of chicken means just 1/4 cup per piece - not much to cover a piece of chicken and some noodles! It would also be nice to have less time standing at the stove!

- We served the chicken with Light 'n Fluffy Extra Wide Egg Noodles - which are the noodles that are the highest rated by the Cook's Illustrated tasters (along with Black Forest Girl brand).

- For once, I think the number of servings in the recipe was too low - this would serve 6 people rather than 4 (at 4 servings, that would be a pound of chicken per person).

the verdict:

The end result was well worth the time and effort! The sauce was rich and brown and the layers of flavors and aromas were fantastic. Even though the chicken was nice and tender my husband said he'd simmer the chicken longer next time so it would be falling off the bones. The thigh meat was far better than the breast - we would do all dark meat in the future.

Goodness knows I'm not one to shy away from bacon, but we actually thought the bacon garnish detracted from the other flavors. Next time I'd skip the bacon and just use some reserved bacon fat from my freezer for browning the chicken.

The noodles were great with this dish.

This recipe is a serious contender for being our favorite "Fairly Complicated Chicken Recipe." We spent a bit of time debating whether it was more delicious than the Country Captain that we made a few weeks ago, and then finally realized it was like trying to choose a favorite child! (note to our children: although you are very different, you are equally wonderful and we love you both the same!) OK, Coq au Vin when you need a special "chicken + noodles" dish and Country Captain when you need that wonderful "chicken + rice". . .

I'm sending this over to Ruth for this week's Presto Pasta Night roundup (#107). Head over there on Friday to see a wonderful variety of noodle-y dishes.

the recipe:

Coq au Vin
Here are the ingredients:

6 oz thick-cut bacon, chopped medium (I used 4 oz of Benton's bacon)
4 lb. bone-in skin-on chicken pieces (CI says to use at least half dark meat for maximum flavor)
10 oz. white mushrooms (I used 5 oz white + 2 oz wild mushrooms)
5 oz frozen pearl onions, thawed (c. 2 cups)
1 T. tomato paste
2 medium garlic cloves, minced
3 T. unbleached flour
1 bottle - 750 ml - red wine (medium body)
2.5 cups chicken broth
1 tsp minced fresh thyme leaves (1/4 tsp dried)
2 bay leaves
2 T. unsalted butter
2 T. minced fresh parsley leaves

... And summarized directions:

First cook the bacon, remove it, then brown the chicken pieces in two batches, removing them to a plate when cooked.

Pour off most of the fat. Brown the mushrooms and onions, then add garlic and tomato paste, cook briefly, then add the flour for a minute.

Add the wine, broth, thyme and bay leaves to the pot, then the chicken. Cover and simmered until the chicken is fully cooked and tender - about an hour for the dark meat. (White meat cooks faster, so should be added after the dark has cooked for a while. We judged this based on the size of our pieces of chicken.)

Remove the cooked chicken and let it rest while the sauce reduces to around 2 cups (the recipe says 20 minutes, but it was well over 40 minutes. I wouldn't reduce it so much - the extra sauce will not go to waste!) Then stir in the butter and season the sauce. Pour over the chicken pieces, garnish with bacon and parsley.



j. d. e. said...

ha! nonsense! we all know that i'm the favorite child because i'm the baby. it's just like morrissey's song "the youngest was the most loved." he knows where it's at.

i would be all over the coq au vin if i weren't a vegetarian. YUM. although i don't see how it could beat The Captain.

Sara said...

I love coq au vin, the last version I made was from All About Braising. This version looks great.

Audrey said...

Wouldn't it be cool to have a magazine that tested the claims made in CI?(hee hee) ... I love reading the magazine -- and several of their recipes - but I'm not ALWAYS convinced they know best. I would nominate you as editor, which would be especially nice as you would have to work (or do espionage, at least!) down the street from me. This does look wonderful. I'm glad your impulse buy paid such rich rewards.

Cathy said...

I always immediately mentally double the stated prep time for all recipes that I make. I am clearly the world's slowest cook, and that's even when I don't get interrupted. This one would probably take me all day, but it sounds so worth the effort! I was really disappointed with Ina Garten's coq a vin that I made several months ago (other than the booze flaming part -- that was fun) and have been wanting to try another version. Given that this one made your top two "Fairly Complicated Chicken Recipes" -- well, there can be no higher praise. This looks just fabulous! Great way to spend a Sunday afternoon.

Sara said...

This looks wonderful. I love a slow cooked hearty meal like this on a Sunday.

Daniel said...

I can't stand it when a recipe misdiagnoses the cooking time. And this one was way off, wasn't it?

Still an amazing recipe, just not one you'd want to cook for company the first time you try it, lest you sit down to dinner at 10pm! Thanks for sharing.

Casual Kitchen

Anonymous said...

Wow! Your coq au vin looks wonderful.

I always double the time suggested by recipes because I'm slow and methodical. But I wonder why they were so off?

NKP said...

That does look delicious.
Thanks for the heads up re the timing!

pam said...

how fun that you and your husband cook together! We tried it once, but it doesn't really work for us...I'm too controlling!

Jessica said...

I love coq au vin and yours looks so perfectly wonderful that it's making my mouth water!

Di said...

That looks really good. I generally have good results with CI recipes. The scientist in me really likes reading all of their testing stuff, though I don't always agree with everything they say. I skipped the Soups and Stews special issue, but I just recently picked up the Spring Entertaining one.

Elyse said...

I just love that you and your hubby cook together. That's so fabulous!! And what a delicious dish you made. Looks totally worth the time it took to put together!

Ruth Daniels said...

Great "play-by-play" and commentary. My husband helps in the kitchen too....he does the eating and the cleaning up ;-)

Thanks for sharing with Presto Pasta Night.

TeaLady said...

Nancy! That looks incredible. I have never made this before, but may try now.

Kayte said...

This looks like something we would be whipping up over at Whisk Wednesdays...LOL...oh, yeah, that might be because it is originally French! LOL. This looks incredibly good...sure you don't want to add Whisk to your already crazy rounds of baking/cooking/photographing/posting? Are you SURE????