Raymond Blanc's Classic Coq au Vin
This dish demonstrates what is truly great about French cuisine - the conviviality, the friends and laughter, the simple, hearty food, the rustic bread dipped into the sauce, and the heady red wine that will be drunk. Time stops. That is why this dish has become almost timeless and loved by nearly everyone. Despite a certain degree of complication it is a must for a fantastic dinner party.
|1.5kg (3¼lb)||organic or free range chicken, cut into 10 pieces (you could ask your butcher to do this)|
|1 heaped tbsp||plain flour|
|2 tbsp||olive oil|
|Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper|
|For the marinade:|
|1l (1¾ pints)||full-bodied red wine, such as Shiraz or Cabernet Sauvignon|
|3||medium carrots, cut into slanted slices 1cm (½ in) thick|
|2||celery sticks, cut into slices 1cm (½ in) thick|
|20||baby onions, peeled but left whole|
|1 tsp||black peppercorns, crushed|
|1||bouquet garni (a few parsley stalks, 2 bay leaves and 6 sprigs of thyme, tied together)|
|For the garnish:|
|1 tbsp||olive oil|
|200g (7oz)||smoked streaky bacon, rind removed, diced|
|400g (14oz)||small button mushrooms, trimmed|
|1 tbsp||chopped, fresh flat-leaf parsley|
You will need a large, oven-proof casserole with a lid.
Marinating the chicken: Bring the red wine to the boil and boil until reduced by a third, to remove the alcohol and concentrate the colour and flavour. Leave to cool. In a bowl, mix the chicken pieces, carrots, celery, baby onions, peppercorns and bouquet garni together and pour the cooled red wine over them. Cover with cling film, refrigerate and leave to marinate for 24 hours.
Place a colander over a large bowl and put the chicken mixture in it to drain off the marinade. Leave for a minimum of 1 hour to remove excess liquid. Separate the chicken, vegetables and herbs, and pat dry with kitchen paper. Season the chicken with 4 pinches of salt and 4 pinches of freshly ground black pepper. Reserve the liquid.
Toasting the flour: Pre-heat the oven to 200C / 400F / gas mark 6. Sprinkle the flour on a baking tray and cook in the oven for 8-10 minutes, until it is very lightly coloured. Set aside. Reduce the oven temperature to 150C / 300F / gas mark 2.
Frying the chicken: On a high heat, in a large, heavy-based casserole, heat the olive oil and colour the chicken pieces in it for 5-7 minutes on each side. With a slotted spoon, transfer the chicken to a plate and set aside. Add the drained vegetables and herbs to the casserole. Lower the heat to medium high and cook for 5 minutes, until lightly coloured.
Making the sauce: Spoon out most of the fat from the casserole, add the toasted flour and stir into the vegetables for a few seconds. On a medium heat, whisk in the wine marinade little by little; this will create a sauce and prevent any lumps from forming. Bring to the boil, and skim any impurities from the surface. The wine marinade will be slightly thickened and have the consistency of a light sauce. Add the chicken pieces and return to the boil. Cover with a lid and cook in the pre-heated oven for 30 minutes.
Finishing the sauce: If you wish you can serve the coq au vin as it is. But should you prefer a richer, more powerful sauce, drain it through a colander and, on a high heat, boil the sauce until it has reduced by one third. It should have acquired more body and become a rich, vinous colour. Pour the sauce back over the chicken and vegetables.
Cooking the garnish: Over a medium heat, in a medium non-stick frying pan, heat the olive oil and cook the diced bacon in it for 30 seconds. Add the button mushrooms and cook for a further 4 minutes. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Mix the diced bacon and button mushrooms into the coq au vin. Sprinkle with the parsley and serve piping hot, straight from the casserole.