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What is Coq Au Vin?

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  • Written By: Niki Foster
  • Edited By: Andrew Jones
  • Last Modified Date: 28 November 2016
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Coq au vin is a French dish of chicken or capon braised in wine with button mushrooms, lardons or pork fat strips, and often onions and garlic. Sometimes, other vegetables, or brandy, are added to the recipe. Coq au vin is usually made with Burgundy wine, though different regions in France often use a local wine for the dish. Coq au vin is a favorite dish for the chilly winter months, and a comfort food for some people.

Coq au vin literally translates as "rooster in wine," and presumably, the recipe was originally a way to mellow the stringiness of rooster meat through slow braising. The dish is believed to have originated as peasant fare that sought to creatively make use of whatever food was available, though coq au vin is now a staple of haute cuisine. Coq au vin is rumored to have existed since the days of the Roman Empire, but it was not documented until the early 20th century. Many of the earliest accounts of it note a much longer history, however. The simplicity of the dish also suggests that French peasants were cooking it long before anyone took the trouble to write down a recipe.

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It is very unusual to cook with rooster today, so most recipes call for chicken, which has a much more palatable texture. A lot of connective tissue, or tendons and gristle, contribute to the consistency and flavor of the sauce, however, so dark meat chicken is the best choice. Capon, a castrated rooster, may also be used, but some argue that capon is too expensive and delicate a meat to be used in such a dish, which would largely mask its flavor.

When making coq au vin, the chicken is first marinated in wine, then seared in fat, sometimes with some brandy added and burned off, before being slowly simmered in wine with mushrooms, lardons, and spices. Traditionally, the spices include salt, pepper, and a bouquet garni, a bundle of herbs tied in string that is removed prior to serving. The bouquet garni contains parsley, thyme, and bay leaf. The sauce is thickened either with a roux, a cooked mixture of flour and butter, added early in the cooking process, or with a bit of blood added near the end. Recipes using white wine, such as the version served in Alsace made with Riesling, may also include cream and morels.

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