Coq au Vin (Serves 8)
This classic French dish is perfect for a special meal when family and friends are getting together. It makes humble chicken pieces into something rich, luxurious and satisfying. Despite being a bit of a labour of love to put together you won’t be disappointed and the big bonus is that it can all be prepared ahead of time, leaving you free to enjoy the festivities. Serve with creamy mashed potatoes and steamed green vegetables. Or, keep it simple and serve with a crisp green salad and crusty French bread.
2 kg chicken joints e.g. thighs and drumsticks
1 bottle red wine
500ml good chicken stock
3 large carrots, peeled and thickly sliced
3 sticks celery, thickly sliced
20 baby onions or 10 shallots, peeled
3 cloves garlic, peeled
a few peppercorns
a bouquet garni, made with bay leaf, thyme, parsley and celery leaves
2 tblsps plain flour, plus extra
2 tblsps brandy
1 tblsp butter, if needed
160g smoked bacon pieces
200g button mushrooms
chopped parsley, to finish
Trim the chicken joints of excess skin and fat. Place them in a large bowl, with the carrots, onions, garlic , peppercorns and bouquet garni. Add the wine, cover and leave in the refrigerator overnight, or for at least a couple of hours.
Put two tablespoons of the flour into a small frying pan and dry fry over a moderate heat, stirring constantly, until the flour is lightly browned and gives off a toasty scent. Set aside. Preheat the oven to 160˚ C / Gas 3.
Strain the marinade into a large jug and reserve. Lift out the chicken pieces and pat them dry with kitchen towel. Place the vegetables and bouquet garni into a large flameproof casserole.. Heat a little oil in a large frying pan and brown the chicken pieces on all sides then place them on top of the vegetables.
Add the brandy to the hot frying pan and quickly scrape up all the browned juices. Stir in the toasted flour and cook for a few moments over a moderate heat then, little by little, add the reserved wine marinade and chicken stock, stirring to make a smooth sauce. Season with black pepper. Pour this over the vegetables and chicken, cover and cook in the preheated oven for 1 hour or until the chicken and vegetables are tender. Discard the bouquet garni.
Check the sauce: it should be smooth and coat the back of a spoon. If the sauce needs to be thickened, pour off the sauce into a medium size saucepan. Cream together a tablespoon each of butter and flour. Over a gentle heat, whisk in the creamed mixture, a teaspoonful at a time, and heat until the sauce is thickened and glossy. Check the seasoning adding salt and pepper, if needed. Return the sauce to the casserole.
Heat a little oil in a frying pan and cook the bacon until the fat runs. Add the mushrooms and cook over a high heat for a few minutes. Mix into the casserole and return to a low oven until ready to serve. Serve sprinkled with chopped parsley.