How to prepare a classic french coq au vin?

November 27, 2023

Imagine a chilly evening in a rustic French country house. The scent of a stew, gently simmering on the stove, wafts through the air. The rich aroma of chicken, wine, onions, and bacon intermingling, creating an irresistible olfactory allure. This is the essence of coq au vin, a beloved French dish that has stood the test of time. Today, we’re going to delve deep into this recipe, learning how to prepare this classic French dish from scratch.

A Glimpse into the History of Coq au Vin

Before embarking on our culinary journey, it’s beneficial to understand the roots of the dish we’re about to create. Coq au vin, directly translated to "rooster in wine", is a traditional French recipe that has been refined over centuries. It was originally a peasant dish, a way to cook tough, old roosters in a way that would make them tender and flavorful. The roosters would be slow-cooked in red wine, along with onions, bacon, and mushrooms, all of which would infuse the meat with deep, rich flavors.

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The humble coq au vin grew in popularity and eventually found its way onto the tables of the French nobility. And today, it is revered as a classic dish in the French cuisine, loved by many around the globe for its hearty, comforting, and sumptuous taste.

Gathering Your Ingredients

To begin, let’s gather our ingredients. To create a traditional coq au vin, you’ll need a few key elements:

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  • A chicken, preferably whole and free-range for the best flavour.
  • A bottle of red wine, a Burgundy or Rhône Valley selection is traditional, but any full-bodied red will do.
  • Thick-cut bacon, for that added smoky depth.
  • Fresh mushrooms and onions, for a touch of earthy sweetness.
  • Butter, to enrich the sauce and make it silky.
  • Chicken stock, to deepen the flavour of the sauce.
  • A bouquet garni, typically including thyme, bay leaf, and parsley, to add a herbal note to your dish.

Remember, the quality of your ingredients will directly influence the quality of your dish. Go for the best you can find, and your coq au vin will be all the better for it.

Preparing Your Coq

The first step in the process is the preparation of your chicken. You’ll need to cut it into pieces, separating the breasts, thighs, wings, and drumsticks. Once cut, season them generously with salt and pepper.

Next, you’ll want to sear the chicken in a hot pot. This will give the pieces a nice, golden color and help build the flavor of the dish. Once seared, remove the chicken from the pot and set it aside.

Building the Base of Your Sauce

This is where the magic truly begins. You’ll start building the base of your sauce by cooking your bacon in the same pot you used for the chicken. This will add a smoky flavor to your dish and also render some fat, which you’ll use to sauté your onions and mushrooms.

Next, you’ll add your butter to the pot, along with your onions and mushrooms. Cook them until they’re golden and caramelized, which will add a rich sweetness to your dish. After this, you’ll add your wine and chicken stock to the pot, along with your bouquet garni. This forms the base of your sauce, a rich, flavorful mixture that your chicken will cook in.

Slow-Cooking Your Chicken

Now that your sauce is prepared, it’s time to reintroduce your chicken to the pot. You’ll nestle the pieces into the sauce, ensuring they’re mostly submerged. Then, you’ll bring the pot to a simmer and let it cook slowly, for about an hour and a half.

This slow-cooking process is crucial for developing the flavors of your coq au vin. The heat will gradually break down the collagen in the chicken, making it tender and flavorful. Meanwhile, the chicken will infuse the sauce with its juices, creating a rich, savory dish with layers of flavor.

Finishing Your Dish in the Oven

The final step in preparing your coq au vin involves transferring the dish to the oven. Preheat your oven to a moderate temperature, around 350°F or 175°C, and place your pot inside.

Baking your dish in the oven helps to concentrate the flavors and achieve a thicker, more robust sauce. You’ll want to leave it in the oven for about 20 to 30 minutes, checking occasionally to ensure the sauce doesn’t reduce too much.

You’ll know your coq au vin is ready when the chicken is fork-tender and the sauce has reduced to a rich, velvety consistency. Once it reaches this state, remove it from the oven and let it rest for a few minutes before serving. This will allow the flavors to meld together and the sauce to thicken slightly.

There you have it – a classic French coq au vin, prepared with care and attention to detail. It’s a labor of love, but the result is absolutely worth it. This dish is a testament to the power of simple, quality ingredients, and the magic that can happen when they’re combined with time and patience.

Enhancing the Flavor with Additional Ingredients

In the process of creating a classic French coq au vin, there are a few additional flavors that can elevate the dish. One of these is the addition of tomato paste. While not always traditional, adding a tablespoon or two of tomato paste can heighten the flavor of the sauce, balancing the richness of the red wine and chicken stock with its bright, tangy notes.

Another non-traditional but flavorful addition is pearl onions. These little onions, when added to the pot, caramelize and soften, adding a sweet and slightly pungent note to the dish. They also look beautiful in the stew, like little jewels amidst the chicken and mushrooms.

Finally, a classic French technique to thicken and enrich sauces is the use of a beurre manié, a paste made of equal parts butter and flour. At the end of the cooking process, you can whisk in a small amount of beurre manié to give your sauce a silky, glossy finish.

These additional ingredients are not necessary to create a delicious coq au vin, but they can certainly enhance its flavor and presentation. As the famous chef Julia Child once said, "You don’t have to cook fancy or complicated masterpieces – just good food from fresh ingredients."

Serving Your Coq au Vin

Once your coq au vin is ready, it’s time to think about serving. This dish is traditionally served with accompaniments that complement its rich flavors and provide a textural contrast.

One popular option is mashed potatoes, which are creamy, comforting, and can soak up the delicious sauce. Another option is to serve your coq au vin with a crusty French bread, perfect for dipping into the sauce.

If you want to add a bit of freshness to balance the hearty coq au vin, a simple green salad dressed with vinaigrette would work perfectly. For the wine, stick to the same type of wine used in your stew, as it will pair beautifully with the dish.

Whether you prepare this dish in a Dutch oven or a slow cooker, the most important thing is to take your time and enjoy the process. After all, coq au vin is not just about the end result, but about the journey of flavors and aromas that bring you there.


Creating a classic French coq au vin is a rewarding culinary adventure. This dish, rich with the flavors of red wine, chicken, bacon, and herbs, is a testament to the art of slow cooking. While it may take some time and patience, the end result is nothing short of a masterpiece.

Whether you’re a seasoned cook or a beginner in the kitchen, this coq au vin recipe is an excellent addition to your culinary repertoire. It is more than just a meal; it’s a dining experience that invites you to slow down, savor each bite, and appreciate the simple pleasure of good food. So why not roll up your sleeves, gather your ingredients, and embark on the delightful journey of preparing a classic French coq au vin?

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