Every so often, the simplest ideas presented to me by the Tyrian Chef’s Guild send me way, way back in time in my headspace. This time, a seemingly nondescript dish, a Poultry and Winter Vegetable Soup, reminded me of a certain dish I haven’t cooked up in years for… well, no apparent reason, really. This dish has been a well-loved, classic winter dish in our family ever since I can remember.
It’s also the cause for a slightly embarrassing situation at a ritzy hotel restaurant, involving a chicken, a bad, movie’esque stereotype of a french waiter and a somewhat snotty teenage mini-me. So, after being poked into kitchen-action by this little recipe on Tyria’s side of the screen…
…I thought sharing this wintery comfort dish and the story behind it with you guys might be a good idea~
You see, we live in an area comfortably sitting in between several wine regions, with the french-alsatian border close by. With my families’ ties beyond said border, of course a Coq au Vin was a common guest on our dinner table during the colder months of the year. What I didn’t realize back then was the simple fact that what I knew and loved as “Coq au Vin” wasn’t the classic version of it. Due to our position on the (wine-) map, the regional version of the dish is usually prepared with white wine, Riesling,to be exact, rather than the classic red but of course nobody thought to mention that to a kid when it merrily ordered a Coq au Vin at a white-tablecloth family shindig.
You can probably guess at a 12-year-old’s reaction at the table when presented with a pile of boney chicken bits covered with a thick, reddish-brown goop while expecting a creamy, white, mushroomy sauce… Nobody, not my grandparents, nor their guests or the waiter – but least of all, me! – was amused after the showdown. The Coq au Vin was delicious, by the way, but of course I couldn’t admit that back then… anyways, lesson learned, what had been showing up on our table at home was, in fact, a Coq au Riesling. As soon as I was old enough to buy a bottle of Riesling without raising eyebrows, I went through my grandma’s recipe collection and cooked up a pot of – in my book – the “real deal” and, with only a few alterations and 21st century tweaks – again with the gallons of duck fat in early-1900’s recipes…! – stuck to this recipe ever since. Here goes~
The Coq au Riesling
These amounts will net you 3-4 generous servings
1 Tbsp Butter
1 Carrot, finely sliced
2 Shallots, finely chopped
125g Smoked Bacon or Pancetta, sliced into thin strips
4 Cloves of Garlic, thinly sliced
800g Chicken Pieces, on the bone – I always use 8-10 drumsticks, depending on their size
300g Brown Button or Portobello Mushrooms, quartered or diced into 1cm cubes
200ml Crème Légère
Sea Salt and freshly cracked Black Pepper to taste
3 Sprigs of Thyme, leaves picked
1 Bay Leaf
½ Lemon, Zest
A Handful/half a Bunch of finely chopped fresh Parsley
1) Set a large, heavy-based pan or casserole with a fitting lid onto medium-high heat.
2) Add the bacon cubes and render off their fat as the pan is warming up.
3) Once the cubes have obligingly surrendered their juices into the pan and have taken on a nicely golden crisp, remove them from the pan and place them on a paper towel for the time being.
4) Add the butter to the bacon juices and give it 1-2 mins to melt.
5) Pop in the chicken pieces in batches and fry them, turning them over regularly, until they’re evenly browned and crisped up all around.
6) Remove them from the pan once you’re satisfied with their coloring and tuck them in under aluminum foil.
7) Add the shallots to the pan and stir-fry them until they start to soften up – 3-4 mins should do the trick.
8) Add the garlic and sautée the lot for another 30 secs before removing the mixture from the pan.
9) Set about ¼ of the bacon cubes aside for decorative touch-ups at the end and pop the rest back into the pan
10) Add the mushrooms and allow them to dance in the pan for 3 mins.
11) Pop the shallot-and-garlic mixture back in, along with the bay and thyme leaves, lemon zest and a generous pinch each of salt and pepper.
12) Deglaze the pan with the wine and make sure to whirl up all those delicious roasting juices sticking to the bottom of it with a wooden spoon or spatula.
13) Gently place the browned chicken pieces inside once the initial cloud of wine-fog has dispersed.
14) Bring the liquids up to a boil, then turn down the heat to medium-low and pop on the lid.
15) Leave the lot to simmer away for about 20 mins – until the chicken is cooked through. Slide a very sharp knife into one of your bigger chicken pieces, right down to the bone to color-check if the meat’s ready.
16) Remove the chicken and cover it, once more, with a layer of aluminum foil. Keep the pieces in a warm spot.
17) Turn up the heat to medium-high again and stir the cream into the sauce.
18) Bring it up to a gentle boil, turn the heat back to medium and leave the sauce to simmer and thicken for 10 mins.
19) Remove the bay leaf and have a taste of the sauce. Adjust the seasoning of necessary.
20) Transfer the chicken back into the sauce once you’re satisfied with its taste and texture and give it about 5 mins to heat through again.
21) Divide the chicken pieces onto plates and cover them with a thick and comfy blanket of the creamy sauce.
22) Sprinkle the chopped parsley on top and scatter the servings with the remaining bacon.
23) This dish usually ended up on our family’s table with a side of a rice-and-wild-rice blend and a huge bowl of a mixed garden salad – but a nice loaf of crusty bread works just as well~