The first time I made Coq Au Vin, it was as a main course for a cooking competition that I was a contestant in (and winner of, by the way). That particular recipe varied a bit from the standard, especially in the fact that it didn’t contain any wine—the inclusion of alcohol in any dishes was against contest rules. The result was delicious, but despite some similiarities, it wasn’t really a traditional Coq Au Vin.
Since then, I’ve tried a number of other recipes for this dish, but this is the first time I’ve tried Julia Child’s. In fact, this is the first time I’ve ever used a Julia Child recipe—I’m ashamed to admit. However, I’m very impressed with the finished product, and despite the amount of effort, I WILL be making this again.
Though Julia Child did create her recipes with the average home cook in mind, many people are intimidated by her, simply because the recipes often contain ome steps or techniques that may sound complicated or unfamiliar to an average home cook. The truth is, most of these steps are quite easy to master and really shouldn’t dissuade anyone from picking up their spoon and spatula and giving it a shot. Whether these steps are altogether necessary or not, I’ve no idea—but I trust that Julia wouldn’t have included anything absolutely gratuitous. In any case, I followed the recipe exactly as written to the best of my ability.
The first step in this recipe is one that many people might find odd–blanching the bacon. This is just a fancy way of saying add-the-bacon-to-a-pot-of-water-and-let-it-simmer.
Why do this? Blanching removes all the various additives from the bacon, stripping it down to just its pork flavor, without the salty smokiness we usually attribute to bacon.
The chicken is then browned in the bacon, then wine is added…lots and lots of wine. The dish is then allowed to simmer slowly, and give the deep, hearty flavor a chance to develop.
The second step that many may find intimidating (simply due to the unfamiliar usage of french terminology!) comes with the creation of a “beurre manie”–which is nothing more than a thick paste made of blending butter with flour. This is then added to the sauce to thicken it. It’s an easy way to incorporate flour into a liquid without it clumping up in an unappetizing mess.
Even without cognac and fire, the finished dish is amazing. Almost like comfort-food-meets-gourmet. I served the chicken on a bed of egg noodles, surrounded by pearl onions and mushrooms (also included in Julia’s recipe, but cooked separate from the chicken).