This month we have partnered with 90+ Cellars to bring you a delicious wine and food pairing complemented by two great wines from 90+ Cellars: Lot 179 Pinot Noir and Lot 75 Pinot Noir (reserve). We paired these incredible wines with a classic wine-based recipe - Coq au Vin (chicken cooked in red wine) - and we know you will love our take on this classic dish!
What is Coq au Vin?
Coq au Vin is a classic French dish from Burgundy. It involves cooking chicken in red or white wine – sounds irresistible already right?
The chicken is braised in wine along with herbs and some vegetables. This results in a luscious, delicious, and tender pieces of chicken that literally fall off the bone! The wine and cooking liquid turn into a delectable sauce, making this the perfect dish to comfort the soul!
History of Coq au Vin
Julia Child popularized this dish on her television show in the 1960s, but coq au vin had been around for quite some time before this. How long? Well, like most classic dishes, that is debatable.
So that leads us to the “coq” part of this dish....
“Coq au vin” literally translates to “rooster with wine.” So, think an old rooster that has no use any longer but to be eaten. Old roosters are very tough – and you won’t find one in a grocery store for that reason. But back in the day, the solution to this was to braise it in something delicious and widely available in the Burgundy region of France - wine of course!
Braising has probably been around for many centuries. There really isn’t a definitive “invention” of the technique and, if there were, I would contest that I bet it had been done by accident hundreds of years prior to that. Braising is best for tough cuts of meat, but it can also be an amazing way to transform certain vegetables as well.
Today we use tender chickens. Obviously, we don’t need to cook a nice tender chicken as long as one would have in the 1800’s with an old rooster! But the technique still works very well – especially on the dark meat of a chicken.
Fast forward to how the dish has evolved. Now, most versions use chicken, often the whole chicken cut into its individual parts and cooked in a nice little wine bath. By adding some ingredients that are readily available, like great herbs, mushrooms and onions, the French have an amazing dish that is served alone as a stew or with potatoes, root vegetables or almost anything!
Simple, but complex, basic, genius and classic. All these terms apply here. The chicken turns out so tender and flavorful, and literally falls off the bone! If you’ve never tried this dish, you must.
Our take on Coq au Vin
After making this classic dish a few ways, we found what we liked the most in the recipe below. By twisting and tweaking classic ingredients and adjusting for the wide array of ingredients that we have available to us, we found this version to be unforgettable!
By the way, most people have so many more available ingredients than when this dish was conceived. And it makes sense that we progress this amazing classic to the heights it was destined for. And that is exactly what we hope we accomplished here.
What cuts of meat are best?
Because braising is such a great technique that results in tender juicy pieces of chicken that will fall right off the bone, we chose to make this with hindquarters (thighs and legs) of the chicken, exclusively. No chicken breast meat or wings here – and for good reason. Although it works and is tasty, it just isn’t as good and does dry out due to the lack of fat and connective tissue on these cuts.
The dark meat on the chicken thighs and legs is so much more flavorful and doesn't dry out. This is why it is our choice for Coq au Vin.
How to get that crispy golden chicken skin
Another revelation for us really had to do with presentation, at first, but led us to a massive flavor enhancer. We are talking about that crispy golden skin!
Making this dish in the traditional way will produce a wine-colored chicken hindquarter that is full of flavor but has a soggy piece of skin attached to it. No one likes soggy skin!
To save this flavorful part of this dish, we add a bit of olive oil and broil the chicken hindquarters skin side up for a few minutes after braising. We then reduce the liquid a bit more to make the sauce slightly thicker to serve over the chicken. The skin is now perfect for eating with that crispy texture everyone craves!
What type of mushrooms are best for Coq au Vin?
Using white mushrooms is traditional but the small cremini or baby bella (or “brown”) mushrooms will yield a deeper flavor that will be much appreciated in the final dish. Also, keeping the mushrooms whole will result in great flavor and texture, as well as a really nice presentation for the final plated dish.
The treatment of the mushrooms is a vital part of this dish. Just throwing them in the pot with the chicken is not the answer – I can assure you. For best results, cook them separately and add them to the dish later like we do in this recipe
Don't forget the herbs!
Individual taste is the most important thing with this dish. We’d like to share a few tidbits on making a special Coq au Vin that really make a difference.
Traditionally, bouquet garni in this dish includes bay leaves, parsley, and fresh thyme. We kept this the same for our dish. We did however add rosemary for a small amount of the braising time. The added flavor from the rosemary does wonders and really complements the flavor profile of the chicken.
Other important ingredients
Adding carrots balances the sauce and gives this dish an added element. Even if you are frequently proclaim “I don’t like cooked carrots,” it is well worth doing for the flavor of the sauce and you can eat around them if you wish, or if you are under 4-years-old. We joke!
We prefer to use boiler onions over pearl onions for a few reasons. First, boiler onions are slightly larger so they withstand the long cooking time of this dish a bit better. We found that pearl onions often disintegrate or fall apart and lose their texture in this dish. We wanted onions that still looked like onions at the end of the cooking process, so the slightly larger boiler onions are our preference.
Also, boiler onions are not quite as sweet as the pearl onions, and with the addition of carrots to this dish, we prefer that the onions are not quite as sweet.
Lastly, we decided to use pancetta as opposed to bacon. Most recipes typically call for bacon, but we prefer the flavor of pancetta because it is not smoked. Feel free to use bacon or pancetta here, though, whichever is available.
What should you serve with Coq au Vin?
Don't forget the sides! The side dish can be anything you want, but we found that mashed potatoes are especially delightful with Coq au Vin. The juice the chicken braises in turns into something between a sauce and a gravy and is so packed full of flavor that it needs a companion. The best gravy/sauce wingman that we know of is mashed potatoes.
Any great recipe is not complete without the wine! 90+ Cellars has so many options for great wines to pair with any meal. A meal like this Coq au Vin, that is literally cooked in wine, needs something similar in profile to match its flavors. We went with the 90+ Cellars Lot 179 Pinot Noir and the Lot 75 Pinot Noir from their reserve collection to give two options to match your price point. Both of these wines are fantastic pinots that pair perfectly with this Coq au Vin dish.
The Lot 179 Pinot Noir is the perfect easy-drinking everyday red wine. It is slightly fruity with hints of blueberries and raspberries, yet perfectly balanced with notes of flowers and spice. It can take on the wintery flavors in this Coq au Vin like a charm!
The Lot 75 Pinot Noir is our favorite to pair with this Coq au Vin recipe. Especially if you prefer a bit more complexity in your wine with bold expressive flavors that bring out the broad range of herbs and flavors in this dish. Lot 75 is scented with black cherries and cocoa and has notes of cedar and violets. It is a fantastic wine that will not disappoint!
Try this tasty and amazing Coq au Vin recipe and you’ll be rewarded, especially when paired with great wines like these from 90+ Cellars! Enjoy!
If you like this recipe for Coq au Vin, let us know in comments below. Or share your recipes on social media and tag us @cooking_with_wine!
Don't forget to check out some of our other popular recipes below: