Here in Seattle, the first week of September has been more like the first week of October, so of course I instantly started craving Fall/Winter meals. I wanted Coq au Vin, but we've been cooking so much (two food blogs in one household it a lot to keep up with!) that I knew I wouldn't have the time or patience for the long version of this French classic. We brainstormed and came up with a great quicker version (it's a little silly to call it "quick" because it still takes 30 to 45 minutes of active time and about an hour and half total, but that's a lot less than usual). I know, there's no real substitute for time, but sometimes we just don't have time. I cheated a little by using a roux to thicken the sauce. Coq au Vin is really all about the sauce. A great alternate name for this dish would be Mushroom, Bacon, Red Wine Gravy with Chicken. Serve it with mashed potatoes - incredible.
"Quick" Coq au Vin
2 celery stalks
4 garlic cloves
2 bay leaves
4 fresh thyme sprigs
fresh cracked black pepper
1 T tomato paste
1 bottle red wine (I used a Cabernet)
1 lb crimini mushrooms, sliced
1/3 lb bacon, cut into 1/2 inch pieces
2 lbs boneless, skinless chicken thighs (or about 3 lbs with bones)
2 cups chicken stock (I always use Better than Bouillon at half strength and add more if needed)
2 T butter
2 T flour
I know I'm getting a little Rachel Ray with this recipe by having a couple things going at once (which I usually find totally unrealistic - all of her 30 minute meals would take me an hour), but that's what makes the sauce for this so good without as much time.
- Roughly chop the onion, celery, carrot, and garlic. You don't even need to worry about getting all the skin off the garlic or peeling the carrots because this will be strained. Saute all of this in a little olive oil in a sauce pan for about 5 minutes (the onions will just be starting to color).
- Add the tomato paste and saute until the bottom of the pan is light brown with stuck tomato paste.
- Add the bottle of wine, the bay leaves, pepper, and the thyme sprigs and scrape the bottom of the pot to get all the brown goodies off.
- Let this simmer until it has reduced by half, stirring a couple times, while you work on the rest. I stick my stirring spoon in the liquid to measure so that I have an idea of when half will be. By the time you need this later in the recipe it should be ready.
- On high heat, saute the mushrooms in a little olive oil in a deep sided saute pan (or a pot if you don't have a saute pan big enough). Keep them moving so that they get some good brown edges, but don't burn - mushrooms like high heat. Set these aside on a plate for later.
- Cook the bacon in the same pan until it is nicely browned. Set aside with the mushrooms. Leave just enough of the bacon fat in the pan for searing the chicken.
- Sprinkle one side of the chicken with salt and pepper. Place this side down in the hot pan with the bacon fat. Now sprinkle the other side of the chicken.
- When the first side has some good brown edges, flip it and do the other side. You're not cooking through here so don't worry if they're still raw in the middle.
- When the second side of the chicken has browned, strain the reduced wine and add to the pan. It should bubble and lift off the good brown bits that have formed on the bottom.
- Add the stock, cover, and reduce to a simmer for 20 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add a little water (or thinned stock) if needed.
- After 20 minutes, flip the chicken over and simmer uncovered for 10 more minutes.
- When you've flipped the chicken, it's time to get your roux ready. Don't be intimidated, roux is just cooked flour.
- Melt the butter in the pot you used to reduce the wine. When it is bubbling, sprinkle the flour over it and whisk to make it smooth.
- Keep whisking until the flour has started to lightly brown, then ladle in about a cup of the cooking liquid from the chicken and whisk a lot. (I think this is the scary step because the roux will start to thicken the liquid right away and I always worry I'm making lumps, but just keep whisking and add more liquid if it seems too thick.)
- Add this to the chicken along with the mushrooms and bacon. Give it all a good stir.
- Taste for salt. Whenever I cook with stock I add very little salt until the end. Even half-strength stock, or low-sodium stock, is pretty salty.
- Simmer for about 5 minutes more (or longer if you feel like it isn't thick enough, but you'll have to stir more now that the roux has been added) and you're done.