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Americans say chicken stewed in red wine; French say Coq au Vin

Over here in the West, Autumn hasn’t decided yet to descend upon us. But when the weather does turn cold, it’s hard for me to resist tender poultry steeped in a rich sauce. This recipe is adapted from the coq au vin recipe in The Joy of Cooking. Many steps, but worth the time. It’s still somewhat cheating from older recipes, which required a whole old chicken and many more hours of cooking. I’m also rather pleased how adding prunes lends a subtle sweetness. You can double the recipe — after all, the leftovers are just as good, if not better. (Wine does help a lot in tenderizing.)

This is best served with buttered egg noodles; the juices form a remarkably good pasta sauce. Have some green vegetables on the side, like Brussels sprouts, or spinach, chard, lettuce, lightly cooked or otherwise. Of course, you ought to drink any remaining (uncooked) red wine with the meal. 🙂

Yes, do use chicken parts complete with skin and bones. You do yourself a disservice in the flavor and texture departments if you use boneless and skinless chicken bits. As for the red wine, use something that you’d also want to drink. It doesn’t need to be expensive. Something light or medium bodied, dry, fruity and/or spicy: e.g., Pinot Noir, Sangiovese, Shiraz, or even a not-too-heavy Zinfandel.


  • 3 to 4 ounces bacon, sliced into 1-inch pieces
  • 1 1/2 to 2 pounds chicken pieces; I typically use 1 whole leg and 1 whole breast.
  • 1 large onion, chopped into 1-inch pieces
  • 3 to 4 medium carrots, chopped into 1-inch pieces
  • 3 tablespoons pastry or all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground coriander seed
  • 2 cups red wine
  • 1 cup chicken stock
  • 1 tablespoon tomato paste
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried (or 1 teaspoon fresh) thyme
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried (or 1 teaspoon fresh) marjoram
  • a generous handful of whole, peeled garlic cloves
  • (optional) 1/2 cup prunes, roughly chopped
  • 2 tablespoons butter or olive oil
  • 8 ounces white or brown button mushrooms, thinly sliced
  • freshly ground pepper


  1. In a large pot (e.g., a Dutch oven), fry the bacon until crisp. Remove the bacon to drain in a paper-lined bowl.
  2. Fry the chicken, skin-side down initially, over medium high heat until golden brown, about 3 to 5 minutes. Turn over and brown the other side, about 2 to 4 minutes. Place the chicken in a covered dish. The chicken won’t be fully cooked at this point; this step is to brown the pieces and create a fond in the pot.
  3. Remove all but 2 to 3 tablespoons of the rendered fat. Sauté the onion and carrots until the onions become translucent.
  4. Sprinkle the flour and coriander over the vegetables, and stir until it forms a lightly browned roux, about 1 to 2 minutes. Scrape the bottom and sides of the pot so that the flour and other bits don’t stick too much.
  5. Deglaze the pot by adding the red wine and chicken stock and bringing to a vigorous boil.
  6. Stir in the tomato paste, bay leaf, thyme, marjoram, garlic cloves, and prunes, if using.
  7. Add the chicken pieces (and any juices) back to the pot. Bring to a gentle simmer, and cook for at least 1 1/2 hours, with the pot covered; any less time and the chicken won’t become tender. In order to ensure that as much of the chicken meat is submerged in the liquid, you might need to turn the pieces every 30 to 45 minutes.
  8. In the meantime, sauté the mushrooms in the butter (or olive oil) in a separate wide skillet, until golden brown. Stir the mushrooms into the simmering pot. But hold onto that skillet; don’t clean it either, because you’ll need it for reducing the red wine sauce later on.
  9. While the pot is still simmering, preheat the oven to a low temperature, say 225ºF degrees.
  10. Once the chicken has become tender, transfer the pieces and vegetables to a covered, oven-proof dish. (Go ahead and discard the bay leaf, though.) Pop that into the oven. If you want to serve pasta with the coq au vin, you could start cooking it at this point.
  11. Transfer the liquid from the pot to the skillet. Deglaze any remnant mushroom bits, then reduce until syrupy, down to about half to a third of the original volume. This ought to take about 5 to 10 minutes in a 12-inch skillet, when done over high heat with energetic boiling. Skim off any excess fat during this time. Season with pepper.
  12. You can serve the chicken with the sauce on the side, but I like to pour the sauce over the chicken, then serve the dish. Garnish with the bacon bits from the first step.

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