Recipe of the Week: French Classic Coq Au Vin

We suggest making this rustic braised chicken stew while it's still semi-cold outside.
We suggest making this rustic braised chicken stew while it's still semi-cold outside.
Photo by Nathan Yergler

From classic comfort foods to regional standouts and dessert, we'll be sharing a new recipe with you each week.

This week, we're tackling the French classic coq au vin.

Literally meaning "cock (rooster) of the wine," the rustic dish was traditionally made using a rooster or any other old barnyard foul that farmers had on hand. These days it's commonly made with chicken and Burgundy wine. Though it was once considered a rural peasant dish, the French comfort food is too decadent to be considered anything but rich.

The dish was first brought into American kitchens en masse by the late and great culinary legend Julia Child. With her debut cookbook, Mastering the Art of French Cooking, and charming cooking shows, Child changed the way we cook and eat by making the art of French cooking accessible to the general public...and we haven't looked back since.

In Julia's version of coq au vin, chicken is browned in rendered lardons, flambéd with cognac and slow braised in red wine, beef stock and butter. The acids from the alcohol break down the chicken so that by the time it's combined with brown braised onions and sautéed mushrooms, it's so moist and tender it practically falls apart at the touch.

Here's how to make it:

"And thinking back on it [an unforgettable meal in 1948] now reminds me that the pleasures of the table, and of life, are infinite-toujours bon appétit!" -- Julia Child

Coq Au Vin (Chicken in Red Wine with Onions, Mushrooms and Bacon)*recipe adapted from Mastering the Art of French Cooking


  • 3-4 oz chunk lean bacon
  • 2 1/2 - 3 pounds cut-up frying chicken, bone-in & skin on
  • 2 tbsp butter
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/8 tsp pepper
  • 1/4 cup cognac
  • 3 cups young, full-bodied red wine (typically Burgundy or try Beaujolais, Cotes du Rhone or Chianti)
  • 1-2 cups brown chicken stock, brown stock or canned beef bouillon
  • 1/2 tablespoon tomato paste
  • 2 cloves mashed garlic
  • 1/4 teaspoon chopped fresh thyme
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 12-24 brown-braised onions (ingredients follow)
  • 1/2 lb sautéed mushrooms (ingredients follow)
  • Salt and pepper
  • 3 tbsp flour
  • 2 tbsp softened butter, to finish
  • Sprigs of fresh parsley

    For the Oignons Glacés à Brun (Brown-braised Onions):

  • 12-24 peeled pearl onions, about 1 inch in diameter
  • 1 1/2 tbsp butter
  • 1 1/2 tbsp oil
  • 1/2 cup of brown stock, canned beef bouillon, dry white wine, red wine or water
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • A medium herb bouquet: 3 parsley springs, 1/2 bay leaf, and 1-2 sprigs fresh thyme tied in cheesecloth

    For the Champignons Sautés au Beurre (Sautéed Mushrooms):

  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 1 tablespoon oil
  • 1/2 pound fresh mushrooms, washed, well dried, left whole if small, sliced or quartered if large
  • 1 to 2 tablespoons minced shallots or green onions (optional)
  • Salt and pepper

    This story continues on the next page.


    A flambé of cognac gives the braised chicken intense flavor.
    A flambé of cognac gives the braised chicken intense flavor.
    Photo by jstuppy


    Remove the rind and cut the bacon into lardons (rectangles 1/4-inch across and 1 inch long). Simmer* for 10 minutes in 2 quarts of water. Rinse in cold water and pat dry. *This is done to remove to smokiness of the bacon, but the step can pretty much be omitted in our opinion.

    In a large, heavy-bottomed casserole or Dutch oven, sauté the bacon slowly in 2 tbsp butter until it is very lightly browned. Remove bacon and set aside, leaving its fat in the pan.

    Pat chicken pieces dry and add to casserole, skin-side down. Cook, searing in the hot bacon fat, adding a drizzle of olive oil if needed, until all sides are browned. Be sure to not crowd the pan, so that the chicken properly browns and develops flavor.

    Season chicken with salt and pepper and return the bacon to the casserole. Cover and cook, turning the chicken once, over medium-low heat for 10 minutes.

    And now for the fire: Uncover, and pour in the cognac.Avert your face, and carefully ignite the cognac with a lighted match. Shake the pan back and forth for several seconds until the flames subside. See these tips on how to flambé safely.

    Pour the wine into the casserole and add just enough stock or bouillon to cover the chicken. Stir in the tomato paste, garlic, thyme, and bay leaf.

    Bring the mixture to a simmer, cover and simmer slowly for 25 to 30 minutes. When the chicken is tender and its juices run a clear yellow, remove from casserole and set aside, covering to keep warm.

    Meanwhile, prepare the oignons glacés a brun (brown-braised onions):

    Heat the butter and oil in a heavy-bottomed skillet until bubbling. Add the onions and sauté over moderate heat for 10 minutes, shaking the pan to roll the onions so they brown as evenly as possible. Be careful not to break their skins.

    Pour in the 1/2 cup stock, season to taste, and add the herb bouquet. Cover and simmer slowly for 15 to 20 minutes until the onions are tender, but retain their shape, and the liquid has evaporated. Remove herb bouquet.

    While the onions and chicken are braising, prepare champignons sautés au buerre (sautéed mushrooms):

    Place the skillet over high heat and add the butter and oil. As soon as the butter foam begins to subside, add the mushrooms. Toss and shake the pan for 4 to 5 minutes, until mushrooms have browned lightly. Remove from heat and season to taste. *Optional: Toss with shallots or green onions and sauté over moderate heat for another 2 minutes.

    Back to the chicken: Skim the fat off the top of the casserole, then raise the heat and boil rapidly, reducing the liquid to about 2 1/4 cups. Taste and re-season as needed. Remove from heat and discard bay leaf.

    Blend together 2 tbsp butter and 3 tbsp flour to form a smooth paste (fancy name: buerre manie).

    Whisk the paste into the hot liquid and bring to a simmer, stirring, for a minute or two. When it's ready, the sauce should be thick enough to lightly coat the back of a spoon.

    Arrange the chicken in the casserole, place the mushrooms and onions around it and baste with the sauce.

    Serve right from the casserole or arrange on a hot platter. We like serving ours with whipped potatoes and chopped fresh parsley.

    If you want to make the dish ahead of time (its even better the next day), film the top of the sauce with stock or dot with small pieces of butter. Set aside for no longer than 1 hour to cool, then cover and refrigerate. Before serving, bring to a simmer and baste the chicken and vegetables with the sauce. Cover and simmer slowly, about 4-5 minutes, until the chicken is hot enough.

    Bon appétit!

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