Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Conquering the coq (au vin), keep it clean people

So I thought I’d do a quick post up of my experience cooking the Coq au Vin. As promised by El Chef Nick, it was surprisingly easy to create this French classic from scratch – and, proof in the pudding, my Dad had seconds, despite the onions.

It all kicked off the night before my parents arrived. I’d been cleaning the house for 3 evenings straight, wiping down baseboards, alphabetizing the cupboards and fridge, throwing out the various science projects that may have been growing in the back of each, stuffing all of my laundry into a downstairs closet I was 95% sure my mother wouldn’t open…the usual. Suffice to say – my body not accustomed to all this domestic activity – I was exhausted. Could I get away with pasta? I admit, the thought flitted through my mind.

But Nick, you’ll be proud: I took the dogs on their walk and then we drove, furry friends and I, direct to Tesco to make my purchases for the Coq. A small moment of panic, when I realized I’d forgotten my carefully written shopping list chez moi -- before realizing with much gratitude that I could just look at the blog online from my phone. Oh, the Power and Genius of online recipes. (A shout out also to my phone, itself, and to my employer for having gifted me said phone last Christmas. I would never have bought a smartphone of my own volition, but now cannot recall how on earth I coped without immediate, direct access to Internet at ALL TIMES, ANYWHERE, including the aisles of Tesco.)

Anyway, once I had all the ingredients back the house, I panicked a little again. Did I really want to start this at 9 p.m. at night? But thoughts of serving tortellini in pre-made sauce to my mother (horror, shame!) spurred me on and, once I got into my groove, it was fine. PLUS, I got to use my fabulous turquoise Le Creuset casserole pot – the only item in my kitchen (barring Miguel, the dogs or my cafetiere coffee maker) on which I consistently lavish love and attention.

What I liked most about making this is that, once the chicken thighs are browned, it’s basically just a question adding everything to the pot (in stages) and letting the oven do the work. I am a big fan of the one-pot recipe – this is only slightly more complicated.

Anyway, long story short – by the time I took the dish out of the oven on Thursday night, it was laaaate. Actually, it was so late and I was sufficiently tired that I set my alarm for 2:30 in the morning, so I could get up and pop it in the fridge once it had cooled to an appropriate temperature. But don’t let these machinations put you off – most normal people wouldn’t start making Coq au Vin at 9 p.m. at night and can easily avoid the above.

So, the question you’re all wondering, did I cheat at all? Well, no, not really. I did only cook 6 chicken thighs instead of the recommended 8. And I caved and bought a ready prepared “bouquet garni for white meat” (shhhhh, maybe Nick won’t notice), instead of the individual herbs. But other than that, it really was straightforward enough for an occasional cook to handle from start to finish. And the divine smell of onions (among other things) cooking in wine and chicken stock is worth the effort alone.

As Julia Child herself might say, “un grand succes!”


  1. Took me a paragraph or 2 to figure out that was Noush (I finally sorted it when I saw the writer sometimes lavished love on Miguel). ;-) Thanks for the coq au vin posts. It's actually a really popular dish here with the Master Chef tv crowd and I wasn't familiar with it at all. I'll have to give it a whirl. Great blog, Nick. I'll be catching up on it now that I know it's here!

  2. After reading Anoushka's account, i decided to have a go at the Coq au Vin today (more express style, as served it straight out of oven). Had to brave the snow and ice wrapped up in down-jacket and hiking boots in order to get to supermarket for supplies. Was so delicious - "ums" and "ahhs" abounded. One piece left oven, can only imagine how great its going to taste tomorrow. Great and easy recipe