by Cat, October 2010 (photo, right, from Wikimedia Commons)
Includes: 1. Coq au Vin; 2. Coq Veronique (Using chicken or game hen)
See also: 1. Brining Chicken; 2. Brining Poultry; 3. Cornish Game Hens, Grouse, Pheasant & Other Small Fowl; 4. Roasting a Bird
When I was first on my own in Portland in 1972, I lived in a house of young men as their live-in housekeeper and cook. I’d not done much cooking on my own prior to this, but seemed to have a knack for the art. I first became interested in French cooking, when I read a recipe for Chicken Veronique in Woman’s Day magazine. I decided to give it a try for a special dinner. It was a hit! I’ve been a fan of cooking in wine ever since.
Braised Chicken in Wine, or Coq au Vin
This recipe is adapted from Fine Cooking.com (1), originally by Jeanne Kelly, using learnings from Mastering the Art of French Cooking (2) and Larousse Treasury of Country Cooking, 1978 Edition (3). The Fine Cooking recipe calls for Gewürztraminer (a German wine), but I much prefer dry vermouth. However, traditional Coq au Vin is made with a red Burgundy wine.
Traditionally, rendered pork fat, such as from cooking bacon, is used, but if you are avoiding pork, use coconut oil.
The Fine Cooking recipe uses just chicken thighs, but it is far more authentic to use a cut-up whole chicken (minus the back and neck bony pieces, which I set aside to make a future broth). And I like to brine at least the breast pieces before cooking, for flavor and moisture-retaining-tenderness.
If you are making true Coq au Vin, don’t use cream for the sauce. Simply reduce the cooking liquid. If you want to use cream as in the Fine Cooking recipe, you can either use Organic cornstarch (non-organic is likely GMO) or tapioca starch as thickener. Or, more French: mix equal parts soft butter & white flour to make a buerre manie (1 Tbsp each butter & flour for 1 cup liquid), then whisk into the hot liquid until it thickens.
Serves 4 – 6.
Ingredients & Equipment:
- 1 whole pasture-raised chicken, about 3 lb OR 2 game hens, butterflied and brined
- Kosher salt (for brining)
- 1 Tbsp lard or coconut oil, or ¼ lb bacon, diced
- 3 Tbsp brandy, warmed
- 2 cups small boiling onions (or 1 large onion)
- 1 – 2 cups seedless red grapes (if using red wine) or green seedless grapes (if using white wine), optional
- 2 – 4 cloves garlic
- 1 bottle (750 ml) or 3 cups red burgundy wine, or dry white wine such as vermouth
- 2 cups homemade chicken broth
- 1 Tbsp chopped fresh thyme, or 1 tsp dried; OR Herb bouquet of bay leaf, parsley and thyme
- ½ lb mushrooms, optional
- Unrefined sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
- Buerre manie (‘kneaded butter’) with 1 Tbsp each butter & flour per cup of liquid, kneaded to combine thoroughly, then shaped into tiny balls for optional thickener
Optional for cream sauce
- ½ cup heavy cream or real sour cream
- 2 tsp Organic cornstarch or 4 tsp tapioca starch
- large bowl
- large enameled cast iron Dutch oven
- small bowl
- Cut chicken into pieces (drumsticks, thighs, wings, breasts, backs, neck). Set aside the bony pieces (backs, neck) for another use such as broth. If the breasts are large, cut each half-breast into half.
- Brine just the breasts for 30 minutes, or all the pieces for 1 hour or more. Rinse and pat dry. Generously salt any pieces that have not been brined.
- Rinse and dry onions (alternately, can use 1 large yellow onion, cut into 8 or more wedges). Chop garlic and set aside.
- Optional: If using grapes, wash well then cut in half and set aside. If using mushrooms, wash, slice, then sauté in butter and set aside.
- Heat lard or coconut oil in Dutch oven or saucier over medium-high heat. Or cook diced bacon, reserving the fat. Working in batches to avoid crowding, sear chicken on both sides, until golden brown, 10 minutes or so per batch. Return all pieces to pan, add warmed brandy and flambé. Transfer chicken to large bowl or platter.
- Pour off all but about 2 Tbsp fat.
- Reduce heat to medium; add onions and grapes (if using), and pinch of salt to pan. Cook, stirring, until tender, about 7 minutes. Add garlic and cook 1 – 2 minutes more. Add wine and simmer, scraping browned bits off the bottom of the pan, until the wine is reduced by about half, about 5 minutes.
- Return chicken to pan, along with accumulated juices. Pour broth over all and sprinkle with thyme. Bring to simmer, then reduce heat to medium low, cover and cook until the chicken is very tender, about 25 minutes (45 – 60 minutes for butterflied game hen). Alternately, you can cook in a 300° – 325° F oven (using ovenproof Dutch or French oven) until tender, 45 minutes or so for chicken (or 60 minutes for game hen). Transfer chicken/hen to bowl and keep warm.
- Optional: Add sautéed mushrooms to chicken about 10 minutes before chicken is done, then remove with the chicken.
- Raise heat to medium high and boil liquid until reduced to about 2.5 cups, about 10 – 15 minutes.
- Make a buerre manie (1 Tbsp each softened butter and white flour per cup of liquid, kneaded to a paste, then shaped into small balls). Add balls to pan and stir into sauce until it thickens.
- If you want a cream sauce instead of the buerre manie: In small bowl, whisk cream and cornstarch or arrowroot, then whisk into the sauce. Cook, whisking constantly, until sauce simmers and thickens to consistency of heavy cream.
- Check seasoning. Return chicken to the pan and simmer gently over medium-low heat until chicken is heated through. Serve.
Assembly or Serving ideas
- Serve with steamed brown rice or cooked egg noodles, and seared or steamed green beans or fresh asparagus spears.
- Another option is to add 1 ½ cups red or green seedless grapes to the hot fat after searing chicken (before adding onions), and cook about 3 minutes, until ‘just tender’. Remove from pan, and reserve. Add back to pan with chicken after making the sauce.
2/9/14: Made this with one brined game hen, halving the recipe as written. I used both boiling onions (frozen), and fresh button mushrooms, and some leftover Merlot wine. Did not add grapes. Braised on stovetop in my saucier, about 60 minutes total; it didn’t need 2 hours, so I updated recipe accordingly. Also used buerre mania (½ Tbsp each flour and butter) to thicken sauce. Result: Excellent!
3/24/14: Made as before but use both mushrooms and grapes. Very good, but I think should not use both mushrooms and grapes.
Braised Cornish Game Hens, Veronique
This recipe is inspired by Cornish Game Hens with Grapes from Nourishing Traditions by Sally Fallon. Her recipe is not braised, but baked. I much prefer braising, so I used ideas from Healthy – Delicious (4). In this regard, it is very similar to the Coq au Vin recipe above, but I like to make it with brined & halved Cornish game hens or wild grouse when I can get it.
To brine, plan on 1 quart brine per pound of bird, and up to 1 cup Kosher salt per gallon water for the brine. For more info on brining see my posts: Game Hens and Other Small Fowl, Brining Poultry and Roasting a Bird. or other sites: Big Oven.com (5), and Cooks Illustrated.com (6).
I cut the birds in half after brining, removing the backbone. It can be added to the braising mix, then removed before serving. Save it with other bones for a future broth, or feed it to your pet (my cats love the backbone!)
Prepare Israeli couscous as in the Healthy – Delicious (6) recipe, to serve with this dish. Rice or spouted & steamed quinoa also work well.
Serves 4 – 6.
Ingredients & Equipment:
- 2 whole pasture-raised cornish game hens or other small poultry, about 22 oz each
- Kosher salt, Rapadura sugar & dried thyme (for brining)
- 2 Tbsp lard or coconut oil, ¼ lb bacon, diced
- white or whole grain oat flour for dredging
- Unrefined sea salt & freshly ground black pepper
- 1 – 2 cups fresh grapes (red or green)
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- ½ – ⅔ cup dry white wine or red wine
- 2 cups homemade chicken stock
- 1 Tbsp chopped fresh thyme, or 1 tsp dried
- 2 Tbsp arrowroot mixed with 2 Tbsp filtered water.
- large bowl
- large saucier or enameled cast iron French oven
- small bowl
- Start this the day before you plan to serve. First butterfly the hens (remove backbone and splay the two sides of each hen). Brine for 1-2 hours in the fridge. Then rinse and drain hens; separate the halves by cutting through the breastbone.
- Because brining softens the skin so that it doesn’t get as crispy as desired, Place halved hens to dry uncovered on a plate, skin-side up, in the fridge overnight.
- Dredge hen halves in flour, and season with freshly ground pepper (if you don’t brine, then season also with salt).
- Brown halves and backbones in hot lard over medium high heat, 2 – 3 minutes per side. Or cook diced bacon, reserving the fat. You may need to do in batches to avoid overcrowding (adding more oil as needed with each batch). Keep browned pieces warm until all have been browned.
- Sauté grapes in oil in the pan about 5 minutes, then remove.
- Add wine and simmer, scraping browned bits off the bottom of the pan, until the wine is reduced by about half, about 5 minutes
- Return hens to pan (skin-side up), along with accumulated juices. Pour broth over all and sprinkle with fresh thyme; bring to simmer, then reduce heat to medium low, cover and cook until meat is very tender, about 45 – 60 minutes. Transfer meat to bowl.
- Raise heat to medium high and bring liquids to a boil, stirring to scrape up any bits and juices in the pan; continue to cook until reduced and thickens, about 10 – 15 minutes. In small bowl, whisk arrowroot and water, then whisk a bit at a time into the sauce. Cook, whisking constantly, until sauce simmers and thickens to desired consistency.
- Check seasoning. Return hens and reserved grapes to the pan and simmer gently over medium-low heat until chicken is heated through. Serve.
Testing 7/25/10: Used 1 game hen so made half recipe. I’m on a low carb diet, so I did not use flour/starch for dredging or thickening the sauce, and I used only ½ cup grapes. I’d intended to make this with red grapes/red wine but only green seedless grapes were available so I used those with dry white wine. Also used ⅓ cup wine instead of ¼ for half-recipe, which was a good change. Otherwise, as written for half recipe. After browning the chicken and sautéing the grapes/garlic, then deglazing the pan with wine, I had to let everything rest for over and hour because of an interruption. I returned the hen to the saucier and covered with the lid, heat off; and let the grapes rest in a bowl. This seemed to be a good thing as the sauce was out of this world. When I resumed with the braise, the hen cooked about 1 hour until done. Removed hen and grapes and cooked down the sauce without thickener, then served the dish in a wide shallow bowl. I did not serve with couscous or quinoa, just some braised kale and green beans. Result: Excellent!
- Fine Cooking.com (finecooking.com/recipes/braised-chicken-gewurztraminer-grapes.aspx)
- Mastering the Art of French Cooking
- Larousse Treasury of Country Cooking, 1978 Edition.
- BigOven.com (bigoven.com/recipe/162096/spatchcocked-cornish-game-hens)
- Cooks Illustrated.com (cooksillustrated.com/images/document/howto/ND01_ISBriningbasics.pdf)
- Healthy – Delicious (healthy-delicious.com/2010/01/braised-chicken-with-grapes)