Sometimes Kids, Cheaters Do Win {coq au vin}

So maybe it’s not the lesson you really want to pass along to your offspring, but at the same time, it’s true. There are times, including the obvious political scenarios and occasional ACC reffing blunders, where not only is cheating tolerated, it’s even encouraged.

I tend to turn a blind eye and cheat when it comes to: only flossing the week leading up to my dentist appointment or after eating ribs, eating Quaker instant oatmeal and shaking the odd wrapped present under the tree. Consequently, the following shortcuts are punishable by a solid flogging: microwaving butter rather than letting it come to room temp before baking, using instant grits ever or you know, like actually cheating on stuff.

Another one that sneaks in as an acceptable form of cheating is this recipe for coq au vin. When I googled the phrase, the first recipe that came up took 13 hours. I presume you were supposed to wrangle and strangle a live chicken, pluck and break down the carcass and fly to and from Bourgogne to find an appropriate bottle of red wine for the recipe. This one, however, is much more simple and although it won’t result in a new stamp in your passport, you will be eating dinner about 11 and a half hours sooner.

Adapted from Cooks Illustrated, this recipe will feed about 6-8 hungry adults as long as you serve it with potatoes or noodles. We chose boiled parsley fingerlings. Don’t be intimidated by the Frenchiness of the name or the massive amount of red wine involved – this is a great recipe, especially in the winter, and reheats great if you dig leftovers.

Here’s the low-down:

  • 1 bottle medium-bodied red wine (we used an $8.99 Castle Rock Pinot Noir)
  • 2 cups low-sodium chicken broth
  • 10 sprigs fresh parsley
  • 4 sprigs fresh thyme
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 4 slices bacon, diced
  • 2.5 lbs. boneless skinless chicken thighs
  • 5 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 2 cups frozen pearl onions
  • 24 ounces cremini mushrooms
  • 3-4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 tablespoon tomato paste
  • 2 tablespoons flour
  • Salt and pepper

For the parsley potatoes:

  • 16-20 fingerlings
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley
  • Salt and pepper

And, for ease of preparation, on the equipment front:

  • Large dutch oven
  • 2 Medium sauce pans
  • Various chopping and mincing platforms and utensils

Start off by cleaning the cremini mushrooms and cutting them in half or in quarters if they’re big. If you can’t find cremini (AKA baby portobellos), you can use button mushrooms or whatever else floats your boat. Also drain, thaw and dry your adorable pearl onions. You might as well prep up the rest of the things you’ll need so go ahead and cut up the bacon, mince your garlic and clean your potatoes and chop up the parsley.

Grab a medium saucepan and pour in the two cups of chicken stock, the bottle of red wine (save 1 tablespoon) and add the thyme, parsley sprigs and bay leaves.

Bring to a boil and let simmer until reduced to three cups or about 25 minutes. At that point, pull out the herbs.

Meanwhile, sauté the bacon in the large dutch oven over medium heat until browned or about 7 to 8 minutes.

Pull out the bacon and set aside and begin the chicken browning process. Lightly season the chicken thighs with salt and pepper and cook in the bacon fat over medium high heat in two batches until lightly brown – only about 2 minutes per side.

Once all the chicken is browned, pull it out of the dutch oven and set on a plate. Keep the pot on medium-high heat and melt 3 tablespoons of butter.

Add the pearl onions and mushrooms and saute until lightly browned, about 5 to 8 minutes.

You’re going to get some really dark, cruddy deliciousness on the bottom and I don’t want you to fret. It will/should look like this:

Be patient while one of two things happen. Either the mushrooms will begin to release water as you cook them and you can begin to scrape the bottom of the pan while it deglazes from that, or you’ll pour in the red wine mixture in no time. Either way, this will happen and the flavors will have so much more depth. In this case, it was the mushroom juice that led us here:

Glorious, isn’t it? Once the mushrooms and onions begin to brown, add the minced garlic and cook until fragrant, only about 30 seconds. Then add the tomato paste and flour to the mushroom mixture.

Stir to combine and cook the flour for about a minute and then add in the reduced red wine mixture, the bacon and the browned chicken and any juices that accumulated on the plate. Bring to a boil then reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer covered for 25 minutes.

Now would be a good time to turn to the taters.

Pop them in a medium saucepan and cover with cold water. Add salt and bring to a boil. Cook for 15-20 minutes until fork tender.

Drain your potatoes and toss them back in the pot. Add a couple tablespoons of butter, the parsley and salt and pepper to taste. Cover and set aside until you’re ready to serve.

To finish things up, fish the chicken thighs back out of the red wine sauce and set aside. Cover with aluminum foil to keep warm. Crank the heat on the sauce back up to medium-high heat and simmer until thick and glossy – about 5 to 10 minutes. Pull the sauce off the heat and add the last tablespoon of red wine to punch up the flavors a bit and the remaining 2 tablespoons of butter.

Snuggle the chicken back in the pot along with any juice from the bowl. Grab the potatoes and dish them up topped with a couple pieces of chicken (coq) and a big ladle-full of the tasty red wine (vin) and mushroom goodness and serve.

Doesn’t cheating feel good? It tastes even better. This is a big dinner that you can make for the whole family over the holidays. You can pause things in the middle around the time you’re pulling the chicken out and reducing the sauce if need be. I held this up for about 30-45 minutes the other night because we weren’t quite ready to eat and it worked out fine. It’s a good way to help you make sure everything and everyone is coming to the table at once.