Coq au Vin

© 2012

Coq au vin is one of those quintessential French dishes that is so popular that virtually every French family has its own coq au vin recipe. Although I’m by no means French, this is one of my favorite meals and this is my version of coq au vin. It made for a stunningly delicious meal the other night. I used a beautiful Malbec from Argentina for the red wine which produced a dark, inky purple sauce. It’s rather regal in color don’t ya think?

Coq au vin actually translates into rooster in wine. Traditionally, it called for old rosters who had long past their prime to service the barnyard. Since they were no longer adequately serving the hens, they were served for dinner. 😮 These old roosters, having strutted their stuff for so long, were tough but flavorful. Consequently, in order to eat them, braising was the cooking technique of choice which is how this dish came about. If it were chicken in wine, it would have been called poulet au vin and, in fact, there is a recipe for poulet en vin blanc. As time passed, society changed along the way. The result is unless you live on a farm, where are you going to find a rooster? If you look real hard in your frozen freezer section, especially around Thanksgiving, you may find a capon but a capon is not quite the same as a rooster. It’s the same as the difference between a steer and a bull but I am beginning to digress. Because chickens were more available, people started using chickens as opposed to roosters but the name of the dish never changed.

In addition to using chickens as opposed to roosters, the traditional dish has changed in other ways. Indeed, one of the ways the dish was traditionally thickened was through the use of fresh blood. Because many people’s initial reaction to using fresh blood to thicken the dish is eeewwww, not to mention the unavailability of fresh blood in the marketplace, that, too, was omitted from the dish. Also, a traditional coq au vin was marinaded overnight. While you can still marinade the chicken overnight, most newer versions of the dish omit this process, as well. In my version, I omit the marinade and, not surprisingly, don’t use blood. I also don’t use a whole cut up chicken. Instead, I use bone-in chicken thighs. I feel they are perfect for this type of cooking. If you want to bother with cutting up a chicken or capon, don’t let me stop you. I just don’t do it. If you are interested in a more authentic (except for the use of a rooster), traditional coq au vin, Anthony Boudain’s cookbook Les Halles Cookbook: Strategies, Recipes, and Techniques of Classic Bistro Cooking, has a nice recipe. Regardless of which approach you take, there is a lot of love that goes into this dish so don’t try it if you are pressed for time. The total prep and cooking time will be roughly 3 to 3-1/2 hours. The net result for your effort will be an amazingly delicious meal more than worth the time and effort you put into making this dish.


  • 6 slices bacon cut into lardons (1-by-1/4-inch strips), blanched
  • 5 – 6 chicken thighs (roughly 2-1/2 lbs)
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
  • 3 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1/2 tsp fresh thyme
  • 2 medium white onions, diced
  • 1 carrot, small dice
  • 1 rib celery, small dice
  • 2 whole cloves
  • 1/2 cup canned plum tomatoes, diced with juice
  • 2-1/2 cups Malbec (or another fruity red wine, i.e. Zinfandel, Pinot Noir, etc.) – This translates into 1 bottle minus a healthy glass for the cook 😮
  • 2 cups chicken stock (preferably homemade)
  • 1 cup cognac
  • 20 pearl onions, braised
  • 1/2 lb small to medium cream mushrooms, capped and sautéed
  • Corn starch slurry (3 Tbsp corn starch & 3 Tbsp water)
  • Rice pilaf, for serving
  • Fresh parsley sprigs, for garnish
© 2012


Blanch the lardons. In a large dutch oven over medium heat, add the lardons.

© 2012

Cook the lardons over medium heat until they begin to take on color. You do not want them crisp. You are merely rendering out some of the fat.

© 2012

When done, remove from dutch oven and set aside.

Brown chicken. Season the chicken with salt and white pepper. I use white pepper for this dish because it is not as bold and has a winey character to its flavor.

© 2012

Add the chicken to the dutch oven over medium heat and brown the chicken on both sides.

© 2012

When you turn the chicken, away from the heat, carefully add 1/2 cup brandy. Return to heat and flame the brandy. Remove the chicken from the dutch oven and tent.

Add the onions, carrots, and celery to the dutch oven and sauté until tender, roughly 5 – 6 minutes.

© 2012

When tender, pour veggies, fat and all into a sieve and drain all the fat from the vegetables. You will wind up with roughly 2/3 cup of rendered fat from the chicken and lardons. Reserve the fat because you are going to use it. Inasmuch as you have it there is no sense in using butter or olive oil for the other steps in this recipe. Just use the rendered fat.

© 2012

Return the chicken to the dutch oven.

© 2012

Add 2-1/2 cups red wine. Now, I used a $17 Malbec I had on hand. You can use a Cabernet Sauvignon, a Zinfandel, a Pinot Noir or any other fruity wine. Just make sure you use a wine that you would drink. Like the brandy, however, that does not mean to use an aged, first growth Bordeaux wine. Use common sense. I would never use a $30+ bottle of wine on this dish, even though the wine is a primary ingredient. Remember, you are cooking the wine and many of the nuances that make a wine worth $30+ will be lost in the cooking process. I would, however, use a good value priced bottle of wine in the $20 range, something I would drink but not one of my finer wines.

© 2012

Now add enough chicken stock to just cover the chicken, roughly 2 cups.

© 2012

Add the sautéed vegetables, thyme, tomatoes, garlic, whole cloves, and bay leaf.

© 2012

Turn heat to medium high and bring to a simmer. Reduce heat, cover and simmer or 20 minutes or until chicken is tender to the touch.

Make the braised pearl onions. Previously, I did a post on Braised Pearl Onions. If you have never used braised pearl onions in a dish or as a side, you’ve really missed something. They are incredibly delicious. Peeling the little suckers is somewhat time consuming but…Now, in my previous recipe, the braised pearl onions were used as a side dish for a Christmas meal. They will work beautifully for any holiday meal so I encourage you to consider them during this holiday season as you will definitely enjoy them, as will your family. In this dish, however, the technique is different.

While the chicken is braising, add 1 Tbsp of the rendered fat to a small sauté pan over medium-high heat. Add the peeled pearl onions.

© 2012

Cook the onions over medium high heat, stirring or tossing them until they begin to turn brown.

© 2012

Once they have browned, away from the heat, add 1/4 cup of a good, drinkable brandy/cognac. Now, don’t get carried away and use a Remy Martin XO cognac or something like that. Use the best brandy that you can justify. Just don’t buy the cheapest brandy available or cooking brandy. Return the onions to the heat and ignite the vapors to burn off alcohol. Then add enough chicken broth to almost cover.

© 2012

Bring to a boil, add a couple sprigs of fresh thyme.

© 2012

Reduce heat to a low simmer, cover and simmer over low heat for 20 minutes. Remove from heat and set aside until the end.

Sauté the Mushroom Caps. While the chicken and onions are braising, In another small sauté pan, add 3 – 4 Tbsp of the reserved rendered fat (mushrooms absorb lots of oil/fat) and heat over medium-high heat.

© 2012

Add mushroom caps and toss to coat with rendered fat.

© 2012

Add remaining 1/4 cup of brandy and flame. Sauté mushroom caps until they turn a nice brown. Set aside until ready to finish dish.

© 2012

Once the chicken has become tender, remove chicken from dutch oven and tent to keep warm. Bring sauce to a boil and reduce it to strengthen the flavors. When you get the sauce to the flavor you want, thicken the sauce. You have 2 ways to thicken the sauce. The traditional French method is through the use of a roux (equal parts of flour and softened butter). The dish, however, has enough fat in it so you will lose no velvety mouth feel by using a corn starch slurry which is what I did. Once you get the sauce thickened, return the chicken to the sauce to heat through.

© 2012

Add the mushrooms.

© 2012

While the chicken and mushrooms are reheating, reheat the braised onions. When everything has heated through and you are ready to serve, place a cup of rice pilaf in the middle of the plate. Place a chicken thigh on top of the rice. Add some of the mushroom caps and braised pearl onions on top of the chicken thigh. Garnish with a little fresh parsley. Serve & enjoy.

© 2012

24 thoughts on “Coq au Vin”

    1. Thanks, Tom. Let us know how you like it. 🙂 This really is one of my favorite meals and there are a myriad of recipes for it. I like this one because of the amount of wine it uses. You will find a lot of recipes that use half as much wine which defeats the purpose of having chicken and wine, don’t you think? 😉 If you want a little added depth of flavor, use a combination of chicken stock and beef stock. Typically, that is how I make it but I didn’t have any homemade beef stock on hand and I really don’t like the canned stuff. Another fun way to play with the dish is to try different wines. Typically, I use a lighter wine, i.e. Pinot Noir or Zinfandel, but I wanted to try this particular Malbec. We were both surprised (I don’t know why) at how dark, inky purple the sauce was. Nonetheless, it was incredibly flavorful.

    1. Thanks, Karen. It was really wonderful. The Baby Lady was still talking about it this morning before she left for work. 🙂 I’m really enjoying your posts from Europe. The sites, the food, the people. It’s all wonderful and I can tell your enjoying your trip. Travel safe, my friend.

    1. Thanks for dropping by and the compliment. Mashed potatoes is one way of presenting the dish, as is noodles. It’s all a matter of preference. We actually thought about the mashed potatoes but opted for the rice. I’m more of a rice pilaf kinda guy. 😉

  1. Great post as usual, Richard! I’m going to throw a couple of Burgundy parties in spring and this is one of the dishes I will be cooking for a group of 16 – twice. And serve with a great red Burgundy, obviously. I hope I will be able to find some kind of organic farm-raised chicken, capon or rooster with a lot of flavor. If not, I will probably use thighs like you did. Thighs are great! Like your recipe — the nice thing about using regular chicken thighs is that it’s easy to cook to tender without drying out the meat.

    1. Thanks, Stefan. Parties of 16 – twice! Whoa, that’s a lot of work and this dish is time consuming (if done right). While I probably could find a rooster, they are very expensive and it would have required advanced planning on my part. Generally, we figure out what we are going to eat sometime during the day and hope we have everything on hand to make it. 😮 Like you said, chicken thighs are easy which is a real plus. 🙂 Another thing I like about thighs is they fit in a skillet/dutch oven/casserole, etc. better.

      1. The fun thing about the parties of 16 is that everyone helps out (not all at the same time of course…).
        Another fun thing is that I serve two wines with each course, and we decide together which one works best.
        The most recent nights like that were about cheese, so not much cooking involved.
        The next ones will be in December and will be about making snacks from scratch. Fries, hamburgers, veal croquettes, etc. Those are the most popular evenings so far with all 32 seats being claimed within just a few days. I might have to go to three nights of 16…

        1. I’m going to a post about Coq au Vin (trial cooking for the parties of 16) and saw in many recipes that the lardons are blanched first, as in yours. Do you know the purpose of that? To extract salt?

        2. Blanching the bacon is supposed to remove some of the salt, smokey flavor and fat. It depends upon the type of bacon you are using. For instance, if you are using a Smithfield country cured bacon, it’s very salty. If you don’t blanch the bacon the dish will be overly salty. Some bacons are also heavily smoked. So you may want to remove some of the smoke flavor. Technically, blanching requires par cooking it in water, a step I skipped because of the bacon I used. I par cooked the bacon in the pan simply to remove some of the excess fat from the dish.

  2. Tasty, tasty, stuff! I can tell as I read over blogs in the northern hemisphere that the weather is getting cooler. Feel almost ashamed to write it’s 23+C here and beach evenings trips every second day but I do love a braise and I’m the kind of fruitcake who eats icecream in the dead of winter and lamb shanks in the heat if summer, I’m not ‘food it’s when it comes to seasons.

    Love the facts on a traditionally Coq au Vin, I think I’ve gotta step my game up because mine look nothing like your delicious dish there!

    1. Thanks, Alice, for the very nice compliment but your dishes always look unbelievably good! While it may appear it’s getting cooler, in parts of the US it is but it was 76 F when we made this for dinner. We’re just tired of waiting for it to get cold. We’re still sitting on the back porch in the evenings and too far inland or else I would be still checking out the beach. 😉 Enjoy your summer and all the bounty that comes with it. At some point it will get cold in DFW and we will wish it were warm again. 🙂

  3. Some 30 years ago, i had a recipe for coq au vin that was very well-received but was lost sometime along the way to the Present. I do know, however, that it couldn’t compare to your dish. Your recipe sounds just incredible, Richard! In fact, it is similar to the boeuf bourguignon I make, cognac included. One difference, though, one very important difference for a thirsty cook, is that the boeuf bourguignon uses the entire bottle of wine. This recipe is so much more considerate of the cook’s needs and I need to make if one Sunday afternoon. Thanks for sharing.

    1. Thanks, John. I hope you do try it and let us know what you think. 🙂 As for the wine, you have to have 1 glass for the cook otherwise how do you know if this is a wine you would drink; therefore, use as a base for a meal? This is all very scientific. 😉

  4. Must be that time of the year. I was talking with my husband the other day about digging out my mum’s recipe for this. She used to make it all the time and I love it. This recipe looks amazing as well so I may have to take inspiration from both!

  5. Another cracker Richard. I am very impressed. I have cooked a version of this using regular chicken. and with older birds. My issue seem always around getting the onions. Damn it.

Food for thoughts

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s