Nov 16 2012

Quick Coq au Vin (Sally)


French cuisine is sometimes accused of being too fussy or over the top but if you know any woman who likes France or all things French, a quick way to her heart is to cook a traditional rustic Coq au Vin and invite her around for a candlelit supper with some crusty French bread and – given its Burgundian heritage – a nice bottle of Pinot Noir wine.


Coq au Vin is a classic French chicken dish cooked in red wine and is absolutely delicious. It’s also great ‘comfort food’ in the winter. Some recipes can get complicated and take a long time to cook (and involve old cockerels and putting their blood in the sauce!) but here’s a quick and relatively simple way –for a man! – of cooking it that can be prepared in advance and reheated later so that you aren’t spending loads of time working in the kitchen instead of paying attention to her.


Let me know in the comments below how you get on with it or, if you have any questions, leave them below and I will answer them for you.


Have a great weekend,





The ingredients and measures below are plenty for two people. I recommend blanching the bacon in hot water first to reduce the saltiness of the dish. Use the best quality, freshest ingredients you can.

  • 3-4 slices of thick bacon (smoked ideally) cut off the rind but leave a little fat on – or use a small packet of lardons
  • 12 small pearly onions peeled and left whole, 1 small red onion sliced
  • 12 button mushrooms (trimmed, peeled, cut in half – or used tinned ones if you want to cheat)
  • 2 good size chicken thighs and 2 legs, on the bone with skin left on (add a couple more thighs if you’re hungry!)
  • 2 garlic cloves peeled and left whole
  • 1 ½ large glasses of good quality red wine and the same amount of chicken stock
  • A few sprigs of fresh thyme and parsley, 2 bay leaves
  • 2 knobs of butter (salted butter is OK if you are not adding salt)
  • 1 tablespoon of olive oil
  • A little pepper to taste (imho you don’t really need salt with this dish but that’s up to you)


How To Cook It

Put the bacon into a saucepan with a couple of inches of cold water. Bring to the boil then simmer for 2 minutes. Drain, rinse in cold water, pat dry with paper towels. Cut the bacon into strips.

Brown the bacon on medium/high heat in the olive oil for about 5 minutes in a pan that is big enough to hold the chicken. You ideally need a pan with a lid. Remove the bacon, set aside. Keep the bacon fat/olive oil in the pan, reduce the heat to medium. Cook the onions for a few minutes until slightly brown. Remove the onions and set aside with the bacon.

You may need to add a little more olive oil if the onions soaked it all up. Just a dab.

Working in batches if your pan isn’t big enough to hold all of it, add the chicken, skin side down first. It’s best to work in batches of say 1 thigh and 1 leg if you don’t have a big enough pan as trying to cook too much meat in too small a pan is always hard work. Brown the chicken well, on all sides. Try and get the skin quite crispy but without burning it. Halfway through the browning, add the garlic and the pepper.  You don’t need to cook the chicken all the way through at this stage – just focus on getting a brown and crispy skin.

When it’s brown enough to your liking, spoon off any excess fat. Add the chicken stock, wine, and herbs. Add back the bacon and the onions. Lower heat to a simmer. Cover and cook for 20-30 minutes, or until chicken is tender and cooked through. Remove chicken, bacon and onions to a separate plate. Remove the bay leaves, herb sprigs, garlic cloves, and throw away.

Add the mushrooms to the remaining liquid and turn the heat to medium/high (boil but don’t go mad so that it’s splashing everywhere or sticking to the bottom of the pan). Boil quickly, stir occasionally, and reduce the liquid by half to three quarters until it becomes thick and saucy. Lower the heat, stir in the butter. Return the chicken and onions to the pan to reheat and coat with the sauce.


How To Serve It

Although everyone seems to think that white wine goes with chicken, I would suggest a decent bottle of red Burgundy to go with this. See the link here for some ideas as to which one. Keep the serving simple – a small portion in the centre of a plain plate with a little fresh chopped parsley on top. Serve with some crusty French bread with butter and that’s all you need. If you really want some vegetables with it, go for French green beans as a side dish or put some baby carrots in at the same time as the mushrooms go into the sauce when cooking it.

I think this dish tastes even better if left to stand for a day. You can cook this in advance – say, the night before – let it go cold, cover and put in the fridge for 24 hours then reheat in the oven the following evening when you are ready to serve up. If you want to be a philistine I suppose you could microwave it instead but she will be far more impressed if she sees you pulling it out of the oven!



I’ve put this particular approach up because I think it’s easy for a man (or any inexperienced cook) to put together and it’s a quick approach. There are lots of variations on this dish that involve longer preparation time and even longer cooking time. You can find one of my favourite longer recipes for it here. Kate tells me she likes to put a tablespoon of Tio Pepe (very dry sherry) in hers just before serving it up, some put a tablespoon of brandy in it.


Coq au Vin