Wine-Friendly Recipe: Coq au Vin (Chicken in Wine)

40Th Anniversary, Mastering The Art Of French CookingThis month, our wine club is celebrating Julia Child’s birthday (August 15th, 1912) and giving a nod to the hit movie “Julie & Julia” which I think will do wonders for reviving interest in Julia and her message.

This classic dish from Julia Child (P. 287 of Mastering the Art of French Cooking) can be made with either white or red wine, though red is traditional.  For this dish to be more complimentary to white wines, simply replace the red wine ingredient with white.  In general, chicken is a versatile accompaniment to most any type of wine, depending on the chicken’s preparation, seasonings or sauce.


  • 4 Ozs Lean bacon
  • 1 Oz Butter
  • ~ 3 Lb Frying chicken, cut into pieces
  • Salt & Pepper to taste
  • ¼ Cup Cognac
  • ½ Bottle red wine
  • 3 Cups chicken stock
  • 1 tsp Tomato paste
  • 2 Cloves garlic, mashed
  • 1/3 tsp Thyme
  • 1 Bay leaf (very small if California bay)
  • 12-24 Small white boiling onions
  • ½ Lb mushrooms, sliced medium
  • 1 Oz Flour
  • 1 Oz Butter, softened
  • Parsley, chopped

Bring 2 Qts of water to a simmer.  Cut the bacon into ¼ inch lardons and simmer for 10 minutes, then rinse in cold water and dry.

Over low heat, melt butter in Dutch oven or casserole dish, then add bacon.  Sauté until lightly browned.  Set bacon aside, leaving the fat in the pan.

Increase heat to medium high.  Dry the chicken’s skin before placing it in the hot fat.  When lightly browned, season with salt and pepper, add the bacon and cover.  Reduce heat to medium and cook slowly for 10 minutes, turning chicken once.

Add the cognac and light it (it WILL flare up to 2+ feet, so take precautions!), then shake the pan until it goes out.  Add the wine and then just enough stock to cover the chicken pieces.  Stir in the tomato paste, garlic, thyme, and bay leaf.  Cover and simmer for 30 minutes.

Meanwhile, take out two sauté pans.  In the first, brown the onions in butter and then add some of the remaining stock or red wine, simmering until very soft.  In the other, melt butter and oil (~1 Tbsp ea) over high heat and brown the mushrooms for about ten minutes, turning only once (don’t crowd the pan, otherwise they steam).

Remove chicken to a side dish, and simmer its cooking liquid as you skim off the fat (tip the pan).  Raise heat to a rapid boil and reduce liquid by half.  Discard the bay leaf.  Blend the soft butter and flour until smooth, then whisk into hot liquid and simmer for ~2 minutes.  Arrange chicken in dish with mushrooms and onions, baste with sauce, top with chopped parsley and serve at table!

Wine Pairings
As mentioned above, this chicken dish spans a wide variety of dry table wines – just be sure to use the same type of wine in the dish as you serve at the table.  Here are some of my favorites:

pinot noirChronicle Wines, 2006 Pinot Noir, Sonoma Coast $35
This is one of my favorite new discoveries.  They have employed different winemakers for their pinots and their Zins (like the Chronicle ’06 Old Vine Zin from Russian River Valley – $28) – both of which  are nicely nuanced and intelligent wines.  A very tiny producer, this may just be the poster child for the sorts of wines I seek!

store_chardbottleElkhorn Peak, 2006 Chardonnay, Vineyard Select $28
I definitely prefer Coq au Burgundy to Coq au Burgundy Blanc, but for white wine lovers, this medium-weight Chardonnay goes well from stove to table.  You may prefer a white wine with a bit less oak, which can sometimes conflict with food.  But I’d avoid Sauvignon Blanc, which I think would reduce down until its grapefruit or grassiness would be turned up to eleven on the volume meter.

Happy MerchantCheers!
Dave the Wine Merchant

Quote of the Day
In France, cooking is a serious art form and a national sport
~ Julia Child, Food Visionary, Author and TV Personality (8/15/1912 – 8/13/04)

My Life With Julia Child

Julie_and_julia large posterThe movie “Julie & Julia”” hit theaters last Friday, just one week before Julia Child’s birthday on August 15th.  The foodie movie’s considerable buzz has gotten me thinking about the Grande Dame of American culinary education.  So in our wine shipments this month,we paid homage to Julia by selecting wine-friendly recipes from her original cook book “Mastering the Art of French Cooking”, first published in 1961 after 8-years of work.

My Life With Julia
The catchy title for this posting is a  bit of a stretch.    Actually, it’s a big stretch.  My time with Julia lasted all of 6 minutes during which not a single word was spoken (and since she lived to be 92, our shared time amounts to just one 10-millionth of her life).

Somehow, I doubt she remembered me.

200px-Julia_ChildBut I remember our shared moment.  It was in Chicago back in 1990 (a few years after this photo at right).  She was the keynote speaker at an international wine event and I was an attendee.  Of all the choices for the break-out sessions, I’d selected the vertical tasting of Mondavi Cabernets.  Mondavi was at its peak back then, and the tasting was hosted by a superstar from their sales team, a man whose aura of confidence extended at least 50 feet, a man who was not on a first-name basis with humility.

The room quickly hushed as his session began.  Several minutes into his well-rehearsed presentation (he actually genuflected as he said the words “Opus One”), an aged Julia quietly ambled in.  She took the empty seat next to me and I could hear a quiet rustle in the room as everyone discreetly ignored the presenter to sneak a peek at Julia.  Had the presenter not been such a stranger to humility, he might have relished his honored guest.  Instead he simply asked for everyone’s attention.

As the presenter marched ahead, I tried to think of something witty to say, something Julia hadn’t heard a million times before (“Your boeuf bourguignon changed my life” or “What do you think of Dan Ackroyd’s spoof of you on SNL?” or “How many times DID you drop something on the floor during your live TV show?” or…)  – no such drivel would suffice.  I wanted my opening phrase to provide a foundation for a lifetime of exchanged letters, opinions on new food trends and mutual dinner invitations whenever travels brought us into the same ZIP code.

As I sat pondering my ideal introduction and most attendees were once again returned their attention to the speaker, Julia grew increasingly impatient.  She listened for a few minutes, making eye contact with noone, and then proceeded to taste the first of the six wines neatly semi-circled on her place-mat.  She swirled, sniffed, sipped… and made a small puckery face as she shook her head.  As attendees began to watch, she repeated this six times, then got up and left, just as unceremoniously as she’d entered.  It may have been the only time that presenter ever stumbled during his spiel.

Sadly, my witty greeting for Julia never got out of the garage.  I’d like to tell you it was good enough to have started a life-long friendship, but it’s permanently sidetracked somewhere in the neural network of my brain, crowded out by almost 19 years of other stuff.  So we’ll just never know.

This Month’s Recipes
To pair with this month’s wines, I selected two recipes from Julia’s first cookbook – a Pissaladière Niçoise (Onion tart with anchovy & olive) and a Coq au Vin (literally, chicken in wine) with onions, mushrooms and bacon.  Enjoy!

Happy MerchantCheers!
Dave the Wine Merchant

Quote of the Day
Life itself is the proper binge
~ Julia Child, American Gourmet Food Pioneer, Author and TV Personality (8/15/12 – 8/13/04)

Michael Pollan vs. Julia Child

Julie_and_julia large posterOver the last decade, cooking shows have become the culinary equivalent of professional wrestling.  Once the Food Network discovered that America’s love affair with “Reality TV” extended into the kitchen, their mission changed from one of teaching to one of entertaining.  And sadly, their ratings have soared.  Now the Network’s transition is nearly complete, with Alton Brown being their sole prime-time show that actually teaches cooking skills.

NYT PollanBut the new hit movie “Julie and Julia” suggests that perhaps there is a counter-cultural movement afoot.  At least, that’s my hope, despite Michael Pollan’s cheerful (not) piece in Sunday’s (8/2/09) New York Times Magazine “No One Cooks Here Anymore” (image, right).  Pollan’s typically well-researched article suggests  there’s at least a portion of our great nation who thinks of cooking as a spectator sport. Which means we think of cooking pretty much like we think of sports – something to be left to the professionals.

Julia oh Julia, Wherefore Art Thou Julia?
Pollan may have his finger on the pulse of America’s eating habits.  His thought-provoking article even references panel research from the NPD Group, a national survey company employed for decades by the nation’s largest food companies to monitor America’s food habits.

So perhaps I’m holding out naive hope that Pollan and the NPD study are missing a large portion of culinary America, the Culinaria I live in and hope that you do too.  The one portrayed in the new movie Julie & Julia, which I’m sure you’ve read so much about by now that I don’t need to add to the hubbub (except to say I can’t imagine a venue more perfect for Meryl Streep’s considerable talents – MAN, she must have had fun with that role!)  The movie is destined for cult status among foodies – it was #2 in box office receipts during its opening weekend, and I suspect its success will continue on DVD/Netflix, and in long-tail perpetuity on late night pay-per-view.  The movie is not really about food as much as it is about how great food, and the ability to prepare it, can transform a rudderless soul.

But I am more hopeful about America’s potential food habits than Pollan’s article says is justified.  At the same time we’ve seen distressing levels of food intake and fewer meals made from scratch, we’ve also seen steady increases for all of the following over the last FIFTEEN YEARS, a long-term trend that co-exists with Pollan’s and NPD’s frightening statistics about fewer in-home meals are being prepared during the same time period:

  • The “Organic” food category has been the fastest-growing category in most grocery stores (though the recession may have taken a toll on this, I believe it is short-lived)
  • Farmer’s Markets and Community Gardens are on the rise in all cities across America
  • Urban gardens, and
  • Urban chicken coops are likewise rising
  • A growth in sales at heirloom Seed companies, and
  • Premium Artisanal cheeses and breads, while not “home cooked”, have become staples at gourmet shops and grocery stores, and correlate with a rise in America’s food standards
  • U.S. premium wine sales have increased steadily for 15 years (for the first time since records have been kept) – a fact I believe correlates with a growth in meals prepared and eaten at home.

So I challenge all those reading this (and especially any of those who participate in the NPD panel!) to just make ONE more home-made meal each week.  Apply heat to raw ingredients.  Follow a recipe using fresh ingredients you’ve purchased yourself.  And pair your meal with a well-chosen bottle of wine.  Just once a week, that’s all I ask.  Your waistline will thank you for it.  And so will I.

Happy MerchantCheers!
Dave the Wine Merchant

Quote of the Day
If you don’t want to use so much butter, you can always substitute fresh cream!
~ Julia Child, August 15, 1912 – August 13, 2004 (Happy Birthday, Julia!)

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