Tuesday, November 07, 2006


Rustic Dinner: Coq au vin

Some nights are just perfect, and they can turn out that way with the least amount of effort. Such a night passed recently in our lovely Los Angeles home when our darling friend and poetess, Suzanne, came over for a rustic meal. Actually, it was mostly made rustic because of her contribution: onion and parsley bread - a recipe which I do not have, but she claims to have just thrown these key ingredients along with some garlic and standard white bread ingredients (flour, yeast, salt, butter, eggs, and milk) into a breadmaker. My angelheart Eric built on the classic coq au vin by incorporating star anise to give this quintessentially earthy dish a sweet lilt. Because we didn't have parsley (shock, horror!)for the bouqet garni (flavoring spices of fresh or dried herbs), Suzanne's bread both complemented and ameliorated the soul-warming goodness of the coq au vin.

Coq au vin

1 plump chicken, cut into 6 pieces
1/2 pound bacon, cut into thick cubes
12 small onions, peeled
2 sticks celery, chopped
12 baby carrots
butter for browning
2 tablespoons brandy
1 bottle good red wine (if you want to keep with tradition, use a Burgundian red)
1 cup chicken stock
bouquet garni (in our case: thyme, rosemary, basil, and tarragon)
2 star anise
3 tablespoons flour mixed with 2 tablespoons soft butter

1) In a dutch oven or large skillet, brown the chicken in some butter. Remove chicken from dutch oven once done.
2) Brown bacon and onions in butter.
3) Add celery and carrots until caramelized.
4) When bacon and onions are golden, return chicken to dutch oven, and liberally add salt and pepper.
5) Pour brandy over the chicken and let it cook off (you could flambe the chicken if you so wish, but my angelheart and I are too bollocky afraid of setting the kitchen on fire or burning ourselves that we have never been brave enough to attempt it).
6) Add the wine, chicken stock, bouquet garni, and star anise.
7) Cover the dutch oven and let simmer until chicken is tender (about 45 minutes).
8) Once chicken is tender, discard bouquet garni and put chicken into/on warm dishes.
9) Add flour and butter mixture to the sauce and stir it until it has dissolved and the sauce has thickened.
10) Pour sauce over chicken and serve.

This should make enough for six, but we were especially hungry on this chilly night that we had two pieces of chicken each. The bread was fluffy yet substantial, making for a delicious and edible utensil with which to soak up the incredibly rich flavors of the sauce. The star anise, paired with the tarragon, added a mellow sweetness to the rich dish, and it also worked well in tandem with the onion and parsley bread.

Next time I think we will replace some of the onions with fennel to add another layer of mild sweetness (incidentally, I love black licorice). Should you wish, add parsley to your bouqet garni and throw 12 or so small mushrooms into the dutch oven to brown with the onions (my angelheart kindly did not add mushrooms because of my aversion to them).

It was cold and howling a bit outside, and we ate by candlelight inside, further building on the notion that we were indeed spending a perfectly rustic evening (well, rustic for Carroll Park, Long Beach anyway!).


Your candlelight rustic dinner sounds delicious, Shaun! My boyfriend cooked us coq au vin a fortnight ago, and it's a really suitable dish for those long dark winter nights here..
This looks so good. 'Tis the season for such warming meals :)

Your site is beautiful! I too love Tamasin Day Lewis and Quinces so enjoyed your post about the Quince Tart, I'm in the middle of my own experiments with that most elusive of fruits, they smell so lovely when poaching...and Coq Au Vin is truly a classic dish! I will bookmark your site and keep checking back!
Pille - My angelheart and I long for those endless Winters, but I'm sure it is because it is easy to romanticize a situation in which one has never lived. I can imagine that something as hearty as coq au vin would be fabulous during such a dark season. What else do you like to eat in Winter?

Jasmine - It is indeed the season for such meals, but here in Southern California the Autumn is very long and slow in coming. Just when we think it has settled in, the temperatures climb again. If only we were further North - say, Canada!

Freya - Thank you for your very kind comment regarding the blog. I have actually attempted the Quince Tart again, and I will post that soon because I do not think people eat enough quince when it is season. I think it is becoming trendier though, which is so odd because I've been eating it every Autumn/Winter for as long as I can remember.
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