The other day I was cleaning out my freezer and underneath the frozen pizza and bagels I discovered a couple of half-full bottles of red wine. Mind you, they weren't Grand Cru Burgundies or Premier Cru Bordeaux (which I wouldn't have had any left over). They were just good, simple, everyday reds, the kind you might have a glass or two of and find in the back of your refrigerator a few weeks later. I like to freeze leftover every-day type of red wine before it goes bad to use for future cooking.
There I was, frozen red wine in hand, trying to decide what to cook for dinner. Coq au vin — chicken with wine — came to mind since those two bottles were surely not going back into my newly-organized freezer. I found a recipe on the New York Times website and, with a few adaptations, made a delicious and hearty chicken stew.
What did we drink with it? Red wine, of course! I had just interviewed David Ramey for Grape Collective's online wine magazine (click here for the article) and I decided that a 2015 Ramey Wine Cellars Russian River Valley Pinot Noir would be a great with the chicken. This red wine strikes the usual Ramey balance of fresh and lively wines that are also full of delicious fruit flavors, a red wine that should never find its way to your freezer! Locate your bottle at wine-searcher.com. The coq au vin would also be good with a Pinot Noir from Burgundy, a Cab Franc from the Loire Valley or even an Italian Brunello — what David Ramey drinks when he's not having his own wine! Bon appétit!!
Serves 3 - 4 people
One whole chicken, cut up
2 ½ teaspoons kosher salt
½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
3 cups hearty red wine
8-10 sprigs thyme
8 ounces bacon, diced into 1/4-inch pieces
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, more as needed
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 medium onion, diced
1 large carrot, peeled and diced
8 ounces white or brown mushrooms, halved if large, and sliced
8 ounces (about half a bag) frozen pearl onions
A pinch of sugar
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 teaspoons tomato paste
1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
3 tablespoons brandy (I didn't have any brandy so I used bourbon)
2 slices white or whole wheat bread, cut into triangles, crusts removed
¼ cup chopped parsley
1) Season chicken with 2 1/4 teaspoons salt and pepper. In a large bowl, combine chicken, wine, and thyme. Cover and refrigerate for at least 2 hours or, even better, overnight.
2) In a large Dutch oven or a heavy-bottomed pot with a tight fitting lid, cook bacon over medium-low heat until fat has rendered and bacon is golden and crisp, about 10 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, transfer to a paper-towel-lined plate. Pour off 1 tablespoon of the bacon fat and replace it with 1 tablespoon olive oil
3) Remove chicken from wine, reserving the marinade. Pat chicken pieces with paper towels until dry. Heat bacon fat and olive oil over medium heat until it’s just about to smoke. Working in batches if necessary, add chicken in a single layer and cook until well browned, 3 to 5 minutes per side. (Add oil if the pot looks a little dry.) Transfer chicken to a plate as it browns.
4) Add 1 tablespoon butter, diced onion, carrot, mushrooms, pearl onions, the pinch of sugar and remaining 1/4 teaspoon salt to pot. Cook until vegetables are lightly browned, about 3 minutes, stirring up any brown bits from the pot, and adjusting heat if necessary to prevent burning.
5) Stir in garlic and tomato paste and cook for 1 minute, then stir in flour and cook for another minute. Push vegetables to one side of pot, pour brandy (or bourbon) into empty side, and cook down until evaporated. Add reserved marinade, stirring everything together and bring to a boil. Reduce halfway, about 12 to 15 minutes. Skim off any large pockets of foam that may form on the surface.
6) Add chicken legs, any accumulated juices and half of the cooked bacon to the pot. Cover and simmer over low heat for 10 minutes minutes. Add chicken breasts and continue cooking with the pan covered an additional 25 to 30 minutes. Remove thyme sprigs and taste. Add salt and pepper, if necessary.
7) In large skillet, melt 1 tablespoons butter and 1 tablespoon oil over medium heat until bubbling. Add bread and toast on all sides until golden, about 2 minutes per side. (Adjust heat if needed to prevent burning.) Remove from skillet and sprinkle with salt.
8) To serve, plate the chicken with some vegetables and sauce, sprinkle with remaining bacon and the parsley and serve with a slice of crispy bread on top.