Growing up, we had a new Au Pair every year. All hailed from Western European countries like Spain, France and German, and many from the UK. While it meant we had a new stranger across the hall each September, it worked well for our family and was wonderful exposure to different cultures.
A lot of my food memories thus revolve around the Au Pair of the year. There was the year of the quiche, or as we fondly retell it at the Christmas table (said in your WORST French-English accent), "Tonight, I make a quiche." It was that same Au Pair who made a wonderful mussel dish, my first introduction to the briny, special occasion steamed feast, and a Buche du Noel at Christmas. From the Brits we had many a Shepherd's Pie, and I still maintain that first Sue's was the best. Two British Au Pairs named Sue with rivaling Shepard's Pie recipes...
While it was various Au Pairs who introduced me to many comforts of French cuisine, like croque monsieur, quiche and toast dipped in Chocolat Chaud for breakfast, it was my father who introduced me to the French stews. Coq au Vin being his specialty.
When I asked him for his recipe, I learned it has evolved over the years. At first, I was slightly disappointed to find out there was no tried-and-true, passed through the generations recipe. Then I realized I hadn't noticed the difference in recent batches so why be disappointed. His most recent recipe edits are that he no longer scorches the meat in cognac, "it didn't seem to do much", and he added leeks from a Quebecois recipe.
The final version, after I added in a wee bit of chicken stock, is a rich, fall apart with your fork stew. The recipe seems just right, and I won't be tinkering it any further. The veg all meld together into silky goodness and plopped on top of cous cous or brown rice, we lap it up in mere minutes. Bon Appetit!
Coq au Vin
- 4 lbs of chicken thighs or a whole stewing chicken pre-cut into serving pieces
- 10-12 pearl onions, peeled
- 2 leeks, washed and diced
- 1 cup sliced cremini mushrooms
- 1/2 - 1 cup chopped carrots
- 1/2 cup chicken stock
- 2 cloves of thinly sliced garlic
- Bouquet Garni: 2 stalks of celery, Bay leaves, two to three sprigs of fresh herbs (rosemary, thyme and/or parsley) and butchers twine
- 1 bottle of Pinot Noir
- Flour, salt and pepper for dredging
- Dredge the chicken pieces in flour, pepper and salt
- Melt 2 tablespoons of butter in a 3 qt + dutch oven over medium low heat
- Brown the chicken pieces on all sides, remove to a plate
- Add the onions, carrots and garlic and cook for 5 minutes, mixing frequently, turn off when finished
- In a small pan, saute the leeks and mushrooms in butter for 3-5 minutes, deglaze with the chicken stock and cook another 2 minutes
- Make the Bouquet Garni by cutting the celery in half, putting the bay leaves and herb sprigs in between, covering up with another piece of celery, and tying together into a bundle with the butcher's twine
- Add the chicken back to the dutch oven, place the Bouquet Garni in the pot, toss in the leek/stock/mushroom mixture, and cover with the bottle of wine
- Cook, covered, in the oven at 350 degrees, 2.5 - 3.5 hours