Anniversary Dinner: Main Course
For the main course of our anniversary dinner, I made Julia Child’s Coq Au Vin with Parsley Potatoes. Coq Au Vin means “chicken in red wine” and it has delicious brown-braised onions, bacon and sautéed mushrooms in it too. This was the dish that took the most time to make, but most everything else was prepared ahead of time so this was one of the few things that I had to make the day of. This would be a great dish for a dinner party, the chicken is so tender and flavorful and with the addition of the mushrooms, bacon and onions it doesn’t get much better!
Start off with a 3-4 oz chunk of bacon, remove the rind and cut into lardons (rectangles 1/4″ across and 1″ long). Simmer for 10 minutes in 2 quarts of water, rinse in cold water and then dry. This blanching process is a way to get rid of the smokey/salty taste of the bacon. In France they use a fresh unsalted and unsmoked pork that’s nearly impossible to find in America. Heat up 2 tbsp salted butter in a large dutch oven over medium-high heat. Sauté the bacon lardons in the butter until they are lightly browned, then remove to a side dish. Dry 3 lbs chicken drumsticks (the original recipe calls for you to cut a 3lb frying chicken into small pieces, but I found this to be much easier) and brown it in the hot bacon fat and butter in the dutch oven. Season the chicken with 1/2 tsp salt and 1/8 tsp pepper and return the bacon to the pot. Cover and cook slowly for 10 minutes, turning the chicken once. Uncover, and pour in 1/4 cup cognac (I used Courvoisier). Stand back and ignite the cognac with a long match or a lighter. Shake the dutch oven back and forth for several seconds until the flames subside. Pour 3 cups of a young full-bodied red wine into the pot (I used Beaujolais Nouveau) then add in just enough beef stock to cover the chicken. Stir in 1/2 tbsp tomato paste, 2 cloves of mashed garlic, 1/4 tsp fresh thyme and 1 bay leaf.
Bring to a simmer. Cover and simmer slowly for 25-30 minutes, or until the chicken is tender and its juices run a clear yellow when the meat is pricked with a fork. Remove the chicken to a side dish. While the chicken is cooking, you can make the brown-braised onions and the sautéed mushrooms. Start off by peeling 18-24 pearl onions. In a smaller dutch oven, heat 1 1/2 tbsp salted butter and 1 1/2 tbsp vegetable oil over medium-high heat. Turn the heat down to medium and add the onions. Sauté for about 10 minutes, rolling the onions so they will brown as evenly as possible. Be careful not to break the onions skins. Pour in 1/2 cup beef stock and add an herb bouquet (wrap 4 sprigs of parsley, 1/2 a bay leaf and a couple sprigs of thyme in a cheese cloth and tie it with kitchen twine). Cover and simmer for 40-50 minutes until the onions are perfectly tender but retain their shape, and the liquid has evaporated. Remove the herb bouquet.
For the sautéed mushrooms, place a skillet over high heat with 2 tbsp salted butter and 1 tbsp vegetable oil in it. As soon as you see the butter foam has begun to subside, indicating that it’s hot enough, add 1/2 lb sliced fresh mushrooms. Toss and shake the pan for 4-5 minutes. During their sauté, the mushrooms will first absorb the fat and then after 2-3 minutes the fat will reappear on the surface and the mushrooms will begin to brown. As soon as they have browned lightly, remove from heat.
Simmer the chicken cooking liquid in the dutch oven for a minute or two, skimming off the fat. Raise the heat and boil rapidly, reducing the liquid to about 2 1/4 cups. Correct the seasoning, remove from heat and discard the bay leaf. In a small bowl, blend together 3 tbsp flour and 2 tbsp softened salted butter using a fork. Whisk in to the hot cooking liquid. Bring to a simmer, and cook stirring constantly until the sauce becomes thick enough to coat the back of a spoon. Arrange the cooked chicken and bacon on a platter and add the mushrooms and onions to it. Baste with the sauce and garnish with parsley sprigs.
For the parsley potatoes, all you have to do is peel and cut up cooking potatoes, boil them until the can be pierced with a fork and then mash them and stir in some chopped parsley.