Coq Au Vin Blanc is a classic French dish. White wine braised chicken surrounded by a heavenly and simple sauce perfect for those nights when all you need is a big bowl of comfort and some crusty bread to dip into it!
Coq au Vin…a classic, rustic French chicken stew that has gotten a bad rep. Think a divine and indulgent dish like this is not clean eats? It is… and I’ll show you why.
Years ago…in the wonderful land of culinary school…almost all my chefs in my first year were French. My very first chef, Chef Michele (that’s a man), spoke with a thick French accent, always wore the crispest chef whites with the French flag etched into his collar, smelled like sweet Cognac and clean laundry and said things like “shit pan” instead of sheet pan, causing an uproar of stifled laughter.
Chef Michele was a tough cookie. He would get angry fast and never hesitated to kick anyone out of class out of sheer principle.
However, Chef Michele was also a gentle teddy bear. He saw the students who were genuinely trying to learn rather than be a know-it-all, as many chef students are even this early on in the game, and he took them under his wing.
And the ones that were on his good side, he never punished but stood by their side and corrected and taught. I was fortunate enough to be on his good side.
My first few months of Culinary school were a new world to me. And my goal was to become acclimated with this new world as soon as possible.
Chef Michele, frequently told us stories about his beliefs on food. He would tell tales about his town in France. How his mother used to make homemade mayonnaise out of bright orange yolks and fragrant olive oils.
How cream sauces and sweet butters were staples in their diet. And chickens were used whole. Innards were made into savory pates, bones were used for stock and chicken skin was savored with each crispy and oh so very satisfying bite. Fat was good and pure. Chickens were small and deliciously tender.
Vegetables were ripe and seasonal. Tomatoes were a blazing red and begging to be bitten into. Peaches were succulent and their juices ran all over your hands when you bit into them.
He talked about food like it was life itself. And then he said, “But food is life. Food is savored, enjoyed, celebrated. In France, food was enjoyed at breakfast, lunch and celebrated for hours at dinner. We used to sit down and discuss our days and life over dinner. My parents with glasses of locally made red wine, us with milk bought from the farmer down the street who’s cows we waved to every morning on the way to school. What you consider food in America is embarrassing. McDonald’s is NOT food.”
Many students in the class would get angry and consider him unpatriotic. But students who had grown up outside of the states or had traveled, understood. I lived this life in my home country. Everything was fresh, delicious and seasonal. Even foods loaded with fat and butter never made us fat.
You know what makes you fat? McDonalds. McDonalds makes you fat.
Not just McDonalds…Burger King, Coca-Cola, Doritors, Little Debbie, Hostess. That makes you fat. Foods that are processed, stuffed with chemicals and then reheated in a vat of oil or microwave. Then loaded up with processed fats to cover up the bitter after taste that all those chemicals give it.
So how exactly is this delicious Amish chicken that you see gloriously displayed above clean eating? Simple. There isn’t anything in there that I could not grow in my garden. (Except the chicken of course, the Amish raised that baby for me chemical and hormone free).
See clean eating is not all protein shakes and egg whites. No one would last on that.
Clean eating is natural fats, whole veggies, fruits, proteins, whole grains and even dairy.
It’s not something you grab out of a cupboard or a pantry. It’s made from scratch. With your own hands, in your own kitchen with ingredients as minimally processed as possible.
If we can all go back to eating the way people did at the turn of the century or the way they do in small villages all over the world, obesity would not be an epidemic in this country.
Clean eating is a beautiful balance of living your life. Incorporating healthy ingredients and bright flavors to enhance your meals rather than hydrogenated oils (yuck) and chemical laden, processed garbage.
So enter this glorious chicken.
I made this chicken for the very first time at the end of my first year in culinary school. Under the careful supervision and instruction of Chef Tual. Chef Tual spent his career in America as the Executive Chef at the Ritz Carlton. Not an easy feat. He was similar to Chef Michele, but he smelled of delicious apple Calvados liqueur rather than Cognac. He very much reminded me of the French chef in the Little Mermaid movie…except with a full head of gloriously gray hair.
Chef Tual was one of my favorites. And he stood next to me the whole time as I cooked his favorite childhood dish for family meal: Coq Au Vin…literal translation, Cock in Wine (go ahead have a giggle.)
By my side he stood teaching me little tricks…but he said the beauty of this dish is the simplicity of its nature. Chicken, herbs and wine all blend together to make an aromatic stew that will warm any belly and put a smile on anyone’s face.
Chef Tual was pleased with my creation I suppose, because upon his very first bite he loudly proclaimed, “C’est magnifique!” It’s magnificent. And truth be told it really was. He ran to the baking department and grabbed several freshly baked loaves of baguette and we all crowded around the gigantic rondo (a wide pot) and nibbled on chicken skin and dipped the crusty baguette into the divine sauce. The class went quiet as we all savored each bite and all that was heard was the loud humming of the exhausts.
It was quiet perfection.
So…preheat oven to 250-degrees
We start with really beautiful chicken pieces. I like to use only the leg quarters but feel free to use the breast as well. Go for the good stuff if you can. I prefer Amish chicken or locally farmed over conventional and even organic.
Pat them nice and dry. (A dry chicken = a beautiful sear. Remember that. One of the golden rules of searing.)
Season them really well with Kosher salt and black pepper.
Place some coconut or avocado oil in there. About 2 tbsp. I like using these oils because they have a high smoke point. Which means the oil does not break down at a low temperature…which means you get a deep colored sear.
When your pan is scorching hot, place your chicken pieces in there carefully SKIN SIDE DOWN. DO NOT TOUCH FOR 5 MINUTES. In order for a nice skin to form, you need to let it sear undisturbed. This is a problem that many housewives get. They need to mess with it.
STOP messing with it. Go check out your Facebook updates or better yet dice up your shallots and onions for the next step.
5 minutes later you will have some gorgeously browned chicken. By crusting it up, it will now lift off easily. If not give it a minute or so and then gently turn it with your tongs. Let it cook for another 5 minutes.
You are going to want to continue doing this in batches with all your chicken. I was making 16 pieces so I had to do it in 3 batches. But it’s worth it. Because when you remove the chicken you get this.
Do you know what that is? That’s flavor. That’s caramelized protein and rendered fat that gives your sauce all its flavor. That’s perfection. Beautiful perfection. At this point, there seems to be a lot of extra fat that has accumulated on the bottom from the rendering of the chicken fat. I pour most of it off. Fat is good…but no one needs to bath in it, your chicken included.
At this point, we turn down the heat to a nice medium and add in our onions, shallots, garlic and thyme. Go ahead and add the thyme in whole. You will pick out the stems later when it is done cooking.
Toss it all together with the remaining fat and let it sweat. Meaning, no color, just let it get nice aromatic and translucent. Let it go for about 5-7 minutes. Then add in your flour, some salt and pepper and mix to combine to make sure your onions absorb all the flour, it will seem almost like a paste. Cook for 3 minutes to let the flour taste cook out.
By the way…what you just did there…you added the flour to thicken your sauce once we add the liquids to it.
Chef Tual gave me one little secret that I carried with me… Calvados. That gloriously, sweet apple brandy he always smelled like, he also added a touch to his coq a vin. And it makes a HUGE difference.
Calvados is expensive. So if you can get any other apple brandy heck even apple cider would work.
Turn up the heat and pour in your brandy. Remember NEVER pour out of the bottle directly. First pour it into a glass.
This may cause it to flame up if it catches the fire…which is doubtful with a high rimmed pot…but also fun 🙂
Your job at this point is to scrub the bottom with a wooden spoon. (Using a liquid to help you pick up those bits is called, deglazing.) Scrub, scrub, scrub. Get all those beautiful little pieces off the bottom to make your sauce yummier and your pan cleaning easier.
Once all the alcohol has boiled off add in your chicken pieces back into the pan and add wine. Traditionally, coq a vin is made with red wine. I prefer it in white wine. I find the flavor is a bit milder and the color of the chicken remains a golden brown rather than a dark purple.
The chicken should be covered ALMOST all the way. Taste for salt and pepper and bring the pot up to a boil. Cover with a tight fitting lid and place into the oven for 30-40 minutes or until your chicken is cooked through.
Before serving removing remaining thyme stems. Sprinkle with some parsley or extra thyme. And serve with creamy skinny mashers.
Now some options…
Making ahead of time: Like many other braises and stews it freezes incredibly well. I like to put it in the fridge once it’s done and then REMOVE THE FAT that has come to the top of the pot. You will have a cleaner and leaner sauce. Then I put it into the freezer and when I am ready to serve, I place it into the oven for 30-40 minutes at 350-degrees and it’s perfection.
Thickening: If you would like a thicker sauce, prior to serving, remove your chicken out of the pan and bring the liquid to a boil. In a separate bowl, combine a few tablespoons of softened butter and a few tablespoons of flour and mix well to form a paste. (This is called a beurre manier and is my favorite way to thicken a sauce.) Once the liquid is boiling, drop the beurre manier slowly into the liquid, piece by piece and whisk it in. Remember, it will only thicken if you allow it to come to a boil.
Leaning it out: If you would like it even leaner, ensure you skim the fat off the top as I stated above and do not eat the skin. Trust me the chicken will be delicious nonetheless.
Thickening and Making it Richer: If you like a richer sauce…remove the chicken from the pot, bring the pot to a boil and add in heavy whipping cream. This will also thicken your sauce.
Options: Feel free to add mushrooms for a deeper woodsy flavor.
Coq Au Vin Blanc...White Wine Braised Chicken
- 2 tbsp coconut oil or avocado oil
- 1 onion finely chopped
- 1 shallot finely chopped
- 4 garlic cloves rougly sliced
- 8 chicken pieces on the bone
- 4 stems of thyme
- 1/4 cup of Calvados or apple brandy
- 2.5 cups Riesling or semi sweet wine of your choice
- salt & pepper to taste
- handful chopped parsley for garnish
- 8 oz or 1 cup cremini mushrooms optional, quartered
- 1 cup cream optional
- Preheat oven to 250-degrees
- Heat up oil in a large pan over medium heat.
- Pat the chicken dry and season liberally with salt and pepper.
- Brown the chicken pieces all over and remove from the pan. Start with the skin side down and DO NOT TOUCH FOR 5 MINUTES. In order for a nice skin to form, you need to let it sear undisturbed. Turn to the other side and do the same.
- Remove the chicken and set aside.
- Add the onions, shallots, garlic and flour. Combine well so the flour coats the onions and shallots.
- Allow to sweat while covered until the onions are soft and translucent and very fragrant.
- Pour in the Calvados or apple brandy and scrape the bottom of the pan to lift up all the bits.
- Add the chicken back to the pan along with the wine.
- Allow to come up to a boil. Turn off the heat and cover. Place into the oven for 30-40 minutes or until the chicken is cooked through.
- (OPTIONAL) Once chicken comes out of the oven, place back on stove, bring up to a boil and add cream.
- Allow to cook for another 10 minutes.
- Add the chopped parsley and season to taste.
- IF you want to thicken the sauce a bit more at the end, combine a bit of flour with softened butter and add to sauce. It will add like a mini roux. This process is called beurre manier.