Coq Au Vin

This is a true bistro classic and a perfect dinner party dish. Just serve with a side salad and plenty of bread to mop up the juices.

Truth be told, Fred wooed me with this dish on our second date, so it’s become something of a family favourite.

It’s also why our version excludes the mushrooms, though for those purists out there, I have marked out where they go in. Just make sure that you cook off all their excess liquid as you sauté them to ensure their maximum bosky flavour.

Serves 4–6 people

100g lardons

a small onion or a couple of shallots, peeled and chopped

55g unsalted butter

a 1½ kg chicken, jointed into 8 pieces

70ml cognac

700ml red wine

350ml chicken stock

1 dessertspoon tomato purée

a couple of carrots, peeled and chopped

2 cloves of garlic, peeled and crushed

a sprig of thyme

2 bay leaves

a handful of parsley

25g flour

salt and freshly ground black pepper

Preheat oven to 200˚C or gas mark 6.

Fry off the bacon with chopped onion in 25g of the butter and a little olive oil until it’s lightly browned. Scoop out the bacon and onion into a heavy casserole. Brown the chicken on all sides, a bit at a time, removing to a separate plate as you go.

When all the chicken has been browned, return it to the pan. Now for the fun bit! Pour over the cognac and, keeping your head well out of the way, set fire to it. Gently shake the pan back and forth until the flames subside. Then transfer the chicken to the casserole.

You should be left with a rich brown juice in the frying pan. Add about a glass of the red wine and the stock, and return to the heat. Let it bubble fiercely as you scrape up the cooking residues from the pan, reducing it by almost half. Then pour all of this into the casserole.

Add the herbs, seasoning, tomato purée, carrots and the garlic to the casserole, mix it all around a bit, and pour in the rest of the wine until the chicken is just covered. Cover, and place in the preheated oven for half an hour, then turn down the temperature to about 160˚C for a further hour to cook slowly for another 45 minutes.

When the chicken is done, remove it from the sauce, and keep warm on the side. Skim off any excess fat on the surface. Check the seasoning, and if needed, add a little more salt and pepper.

Now add your sautéed mushrooms, if you like.

Boil the sauce rapidly to reduce. This bit depends on how desperate you are to tuck in, but you should aim to reduce the sauce by at least a quarter but no more than by half. Then discard the bay leaf.

While it has been reducing, blend 25g of butter with 25g plain flour to make a beurre manié. When you’ve reduced the sauce, whisk this into it hard, then simmer, stirring all the time, for a minute or two. You should end up with a sauce thick enough to coat a spoon lightly.

Return the chicken to the sauce and serve.

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