Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Crazy-Kid-Proof "Coq au Vin"

The first thing I want to say about Coq au Vin is that it’s not for weanies.

Let me rephrase, it might be fine for weanies, just not people with small children. Oh, okay, it's fine for people with small children, just the kind of small children who sit quietly with a book in their laps and read to themselves while you cook.

That or you'll need a kid-proof recipe.

Oh don’t get me wrong, the Coq was great and the 4 kids and 6 neighbors ate like crazy and I’m thrilled I made it. It’s just that I was working off this recipe that was riddled with problems for a cook who has one child driving her tricycle into my leg while I’m at the stove and the other pelting me with raisins until I give her some boob. So, I re-jiggered the recipe to meet my needs.

But here are some things I learned while making Coq au Vin:

  • It's not really Coq. Coq au Vin generally requires a rooster - an old bird with lots of sinewy connective tissue that gets you a better broth. This is great except I don’t live on a farm and the nearest organic chicken is like 30 blocks away and I barely was able to drag myself downtown to get 2 organic birds, much less a rooster that spent his long, pastured life meandering around the barnyard, nibbling corn off the ground and chasing the hens at some hippy farm in the Catskills… and sells for $40 a carcass. Puh-lease. This Coq au Vin was made with a young (organic) chicken. And I reduced the cooking time. So sue me.
  • There are several recipes for this dish that require multiple pan changes and sauteeing vegetables separately. Are these recipe writers high on crack? Do they have so much time on their hands that three extra pans and separate cooking time is no big deal? Are they childless? Because I think if they had children and they had to clean the floor in front of the sink 10 times a day like I do, the idea of 3 extra pans would be akin to wearing a hair suit.
  • Jointing a chicken takes approximately 6 steps and about 10 minutes (with the usual interruptions for juice and boo boo kissing). Maybe more if you are a complete mess with a knife. In my world, an extra 10 minutes can mean the difference between getting dinner on the table or having to stop dinner because one little person tried to stab another little person with a Sleeping Beauty Princess Wand and one of them is screaming and bleeding and the other is pissed because her wand is broken and is demanding that I procure some sticky tape and fix the magic implement, so they both come screaming and crying into the kitchen, dripping blood and demanding justice. As I know these things happen while I cook, I asked the meat guy in the market to joint my chickens. Seriously, I’m like a genius.
  • Did you know that flambe is a part of making Coq au vin in some recipes? Like one of the ones I was using last night. Funny. Because dousing the chicken in brandy and setting it on fire and purposely igniting a column of alcohol-soaked flames shooting three feet into the air and burning off my eyebrows and possibly igniting several nearby flammable pink tutus is definitely going to put a damper on dinner. I ignored directions to set things on fire. And you should too unless your kids are on the other side of the house, dressed in Hazmat suits, ready to stop, drop and roll and have a clear path to the fire exits.

I re-jiggered the recipe using the best strategies from three recipes (one from amazing cook and fellow food blogger Anita at Married With Dinner, another from Gordon Ramsey, who is always extraordinary and reliable) and one from Martha Stewart, who can joint a chicken, throw a clay pot and weed her prize-winning daffodils all at the same time) and came up with this highly do-able version. I also broke it into steps so you can prep ahead or divide the steps into different parts of the day, so you don’t have one big hunk of cooking right before you eat. For instance, you can do step 1 and 2 in the morning and step 3 and 4 right before you pop the dish in the oven.

This is great meal for Sunday lunch, but it’s a wee bit complicated for a week night meal unless you do steps 1 and 2 in advance. Last night I cooked and served the whole thing in a big paella pan which looks mighty impressive when you bring it to the table all hot and steamy.

This recipe makes dinner for 6 and change (I fed 6 adults, 4 small kids and had leftovers for lunch for David and the girls.)

I wrote this recipe on the fly this morning, so don't be afraid to add or subtract to your taste. Don't worry. I trust you.

Xxxooo YM


Crazy-Kid-Proof "Coq au Vin"

  • 2 chickens jointed or 4 breasts, 4 thighs, 4 wings, 4 legs
  • 2 cups full-bodied red wine, such as Cabernet Sauvignon
  • Coarse salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 1/4 cup butter
  • 2 cups chicken stock (home-made if possible. If not, College Inn organic which was judged by Cooks Illustrated to be the best store-bought brand)
  • 8 ounces slab bacon, cut into 1/2-inch dice (sliced bacon or pancetta will do in a pinch but slab is better)
  • 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 8 ounces of small onions (pearl or cippolini) or 3 medium onions, finely chopped
  • 8 garlic cloves, thinly sliced (if the kids are climbing up your legs begging you to watch the Wiggles with them, use pre-chopped garlic. Who the hell is gonna know?)
  • 1/2 pound small cremini mushrooms
  • 2 handfuls of flour
  • 1 tablespoon tomato paste
  • 2 coursely chopped tomatoes (you can use a tinned chopped tomatoes in a pinch)
  • 4 celery stalks, cut into 1 1/2 inch lengths
  • 6 to 8 good size carrots cut into 1 1/2 inch lengths
  • 2 tablespoons Cognac (optional, but no need to flame it. Please.)
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 8 fresh thyme sprigs

Step 1

Mise en place: Cut celery, carrots, tomatoes, garlic, bacon and mushrooms and have them ready for later cooking. This will probably take you 10-20 minutes depending on how good you are with a knife.

Step 2

Heat the butter and oil in a large ovenproof casserole (or a big paella pan, if you are feeding a crowd). Fry the bacon pieces in the butter/oil until browned, and remove to a plate with a slotted spoon. Lightly brown the onions in the same pan, and likewise remove them to the plate.

In a ziplock bag, add chicken pieces and flour (salt the flour a little) and shake until pieces are covered. Shake off excess flour, tapping them slightly and working in batches, brown the chicken in the bacon-butter-oil juices until they are golden on all sides. (You may have to add a bit more oil if you are browning 2 chickens instead of 1). Remove to a platter when they are browned.

If you are doing this step ahead, set aside browned chicken and onions and bacon for later cooking. But don't wash out the casserole, there are lovely juices and flavors in there.

Step 3

Preheat oven to 300 degrees F. Add the red wine to the casserole, scraping the bottom and sides of the pan to remove any stuck-on bits. Add cognac. Add the stock to the pan and heat to a simmer. Return the bacon, onions, and chicken to the pan along with the herbs, garlic, and tomatoes. Salt and pepper to taste. Cover and cook in the oven for about an hour and a half until the meat is completely tender.

Step 4

An hour before serving, throw carrots, onions and celery in the pot.

About a half hour before serving, saute the mushrooms in a bit of olive oil. Anita suggests salting at the end so your mushrooms are tastier. I agree.

When the dish is done, remove from the oven. Discard any stray herbs and skim off the fat. Add mushrooms. Serve in the pan/casserole for country style dining or prepare bowls of meat and veg with ample sauce.



Annie K. Nodes said...

Did Lucy eat it? It's got (SHRIEK!) sauce!

Le laquet said...

I use a recipe from an old French friend (her recipe for rabbit with olives is to die for too) which has more wine but no brandy and is always better the next day when it's sat over night. But you're right not one for you when you have children under foot.

Anita said...

You crack me up :)

Seriously, though -- the flambée step is surprisingly mellow. Unlike, say, flamed crepes or a sauté, there's plenty of liquid in coq au vin to keep the flames in check. No column of fire, no singed eyebrows... Just the gentle lapping of pale blue flame to make the chicken skin all crispy.

The Yummy Mummy said...

Annie - No, no, you don't understand...we are against sauce on Mon, Wed and Sat. Opposed to cheese Mon and Tues. And on Thursdays, we have a wild card day where we might accept or reject anything - just to keep things interesting for Mommy. I hit the wild card day and everyone ate well. Sometimes you just get lucky.

Laugh at me now sister but this is your life in a year...BwaHaHaHa Ha Ha Haaaaaaaa!!

My dear friend from Kent - the rabbit and olives recipe sounds scrumptious...did I miss that on your blog? And the "more wine" thing sounds pretty good, too.

Anita - Thanks for being a good sport about this post, for getting the joke and for supplying the Coq au Vin recipe that got it started. You're a real inspiration for new dishes around here...which reminds me, your Mock Porchetta is on my list!!


Shannon said...

I saw your comment on Ruhlman's blog, so I came to visit :)

I love your commentary on this post. And I love that you tailored a time consuming recipe for people with kids.

This is important for me because when I cook, my 3 kids know it's time for them to go nuts and drive mommy nuts as a result. I'd like to spend as little time being nuts as possible ;)

ntsc said...

One good thing about kids is that they eventually grow up, go to college and you can move. We did this.

Fortunately I didn't have the breast feeding problem, it isn't something boys do well, but I still had a 'helping' 3 year old the first time I tried to impress a girl with Coq au Vin. Must have worked as she was still in bed when I left for work this AM.

As said the flambee is simple not a whoosh, you may actually have trouble igniting it. As for jointing a chicken, the forementioned girl looked at me real funny the first time I did it, she had been going to buy a cut up chicken and I wouldn't let her. It takes under 2 minutes although my ex-mother in law's cleaver was and still is a great help.

Followed you back via the trail of offal.

ntsc said...

Oh yes, the girl now joints her own chicken.


The Yummy Mummy said...

Okay NTSC, I just followed the trail of offal back to your site and have to tell you that I have serious pan envy - it's like art in that kitchen of yours. (And don't even get me started on the stove. And the like hundred loaves of amazing home-made bread.)

So glad you followed the scent of beef heart tartare over to my neck of the woods, but what is the deal with you? Where do you live? (Someplace snowy) Why do you have all these pictures of culinary school? (Are you a chef?) Who is this woman who stayed to eat your Coq au vin? You are an enigma and I want to find out more...and I couldn't leave a comment on your site or find an e-mail, so it's like you have a "mystery thing" going on. Ahhhh! That's how you woooed her...

And yes, perhaps I was a little overly dramatic about the flambe...but you know, neurotic New Yorker and all. Thanks to you and Anita for setting me straight.


ntsc said...

Did you follow me back to my wife's menu site, www.vldyson.com ? Or to my blog http://blog.charcuteire.com ?

If you are New York City, as you say, I am probably only a few blocks from you. I work near Lincoln Center.

The stove was the silver aniversay present to the girl who stayed to eat the Coq au Vin, although she got it shortly after the 23rd. We live across a valley from Harriman State park. That kitchen has 12 burners.

I am not a chef, but an electical engineer with one of the TV networks. However my wife and I both do some serious cooking. The cooking school is exactly that, I do one day classes at the CIA and, so far, one 'boot camp'. My wife has done two 'boot camps' as well as a bunch of day classes.

Currently I'm getting into Charcuterie via Ruhlman and Polcyn.

The Yummy Mummy Cooks Gourmet said...

Ah Ha!...Mystery solved.

For those of you playing along, I just got an e-mail from NTSC. This guy is great! He's making his own charcuterie.

You can find his blog "The Art of the Pig" at http://blog.charcuteire.com

And now for the big questions - Are there any charcuterie blogs out there written by women because it seems like such a guy thing (although I could be mistaken which is why I ask) and more importantly, should I make my own charcuterie? And how would Lucy and Edie feel about this?

So many important things to ponder...


ntsc said...


Is the first one that comes to mind, actually the only one.

The dry cure stuff is probably beyond a NYC apartment, which is what I assume you live in, unless you have two wine refrigerators, in which case put the reds on a closet floor. You want 50-60F. This also solves the rodent problem.

As I replied on my blog, by making it your self you know what is in it, and how much fat is in it.

Also do note that charcuteire is not quite the approved spelling, bt was as close as I could get a domain name.

ntsc said...

I'll take that back, here is another one.

This is Darcie who posted on the Ruhlman offal post.

Shannon said...

I'm following along and wish I lived in Newburgh, NY again. I'd be a student at the CIA if I were.

Interesting comments made by interesting people!! Thanks for the lift during a heavy, dreary winter here in NH.

The Yummy Mummy said...

Shannon - Thanks for e-mailing me the Spaetzle recipe. I think this might be a fun recipe to make and cool for the kids. I'll post it after I make it.

NTSC, I'm thinking I might need to do a little intro to charcuterie assigment, if you have one for me to try. I'll do it and link back to your blog. Something easy that doesn't require a wine fridge or would require suspending meat shlongs from my cabinetry.

(Or maybe meat shlongs might be nice...)

Maybe something the kids can do with me. I'm game for a challenge...I think.

By the way, yes, we live in a NYC- sized apartment (3 bedrooms but still a medium-size-ish kitchen) and we don't have a wine fridge because David thinks it's "unnecessary". I'm still working on him.


ntsc said...


I can dig up a hotdog recipe (CIA) that doesn't need a casing, an Italian sausage that can use rice as a substitute for some fat - sweet or hot - and you could use without casing in a pasta sauce on a day when your daughter likes both pasta and sauces.

Also breakfast sausage, which is pattys not casing. While all of these are better if done with freshly ground (i.e. home ground) meat you can make them all with good ground pork or whatever.

I can't get anything off until tomorrow though

The Yummy Mummy said...

Just so you know, I'm not afraid of a little fat.

Fat is great for little developing brains and I'd rather have that than cupcake fat.

Bring it on!

ntsc said...

I don't substitue for fat either, but knowing that you can subsitute cooked rice for fat in sausage is useful information. I found the recipes and will get them off as soon as I've finished my first cup of coffee.

ntsc said...

Sent you e-mails, please let me know that you got them.

ntsc said...

Sent you e-mails, please let me know that you got them.

The Yummy Mummy said...


You are the best! Thanks for sending off the recipes.

My first order of business will be making homemade hot dogs. I'll keep you all posted...


ntsc said...

Always willing to help a fellow cook.

ejm said...

Well done!! That sounds fantastic.

My husband makes the most fabulous "coq au vin", also by not using an old bird but by using thighs only. Skinned. And sometimes he doesn't add bacon. It is a straight forward one-pot-on-the-stove recipe and it's seriously good.


P.S. I found you via the blogher post about grocery shopping with small children.

In case you'd like to compare, here is our coq au vin recipe

Wendy said...

Just found your blog and I love your writing style! I'll be back!

I have a 3 and a 4 yr old... I'm sure I'll find recipes here to make them happy :)