Thursday, October 9, 2008

Cheap Night Fancy: Coq au Vin

When planning the Forkably Hip menu, I knew I wanted to serve food which would be more upscale and fitting with the jet set we wanted to attract. Originally, I aimed to price the plates around $50.00 serving fancy food like Salmon Roulade for the entree, however after Amber and I started talking over the details, we both agreed a less expensive plate price with more frugal food options would be more in fitting with our prospective blog mission statements. Charging less money, I would have to switch gears to save money on my expenses. When thinking what entree I could make easily on a tight budget, Coq au Vin instantly came to mind.

Literally meaning cock, or rooster (get your mind out of the gutter) in wine, this dish is made by braising chicken in red wine. It goes best with dark meat, which happy luck would have are the more budget cuts. My family has been making this dish for years, and although not difficult or expensive to make, presents a certain amount of high falutin feelings when served and eaten. As Amber and I both like to fake fancy on the cheap, I knew I'd found my meal ticket!

Floured chicken ready for browning in preparation for braising.

Although I grew up on the joy of cooking Coq au Vin recipe, I decided to work from the Alton Brown recipe because he requires most of the work to be done the day before, allowing me to make the most of my time.

The main difference between the Joy of cooking recipe and the Alton Brown method is Joy has you cook everything together, where Alton Brown separates the onions, mushroom and bacon out and has you marinate the chicken in the wine and chicken stock sauce overnight.

On left, browned chicken with veggies and herbs, on right, adding the wine/stock/tomato paste mixture to the chicken and veggies.

He also suggests you add veggies such as onions, celery, carrots, thyme and bay leaf to the chicken and wine sauce. The choice of or amount of veggies you add here isn't of paramount importance as they are basically being used to help flavor the liquid in the pot much like a stock or soup base. The flavors will enhance the braising liquid which you later drain the veggies out of to make into your coq au vin gravy. I had the ends of a leek as well as the stems of a fennel bulb I was using for my starter, so I threw those in to accompany the suggested vegetables. I always feel a few pepper corns can't hurt either.

The chicken in the wine/stock with veggies is left to marinate overnight and then roasted in the oven the next day for 2-3 hours until cooked.

Cooked Coq au Vin comes out of the oven, ready to be strained.

At this point, the chicken is removed from the pot and veggies need to be strained out of the braising liquid. This liquid is boiled on the stove top to reduce the sauce until thickened to a gravy. In addition to reducing, I also added 1 part flour to 1 part butter to help it thicken faster. When the gravy is thick enough, you add the chicken as well as the onions, mushrooms and bacon. Dinner is done.

If you want to make it the same day, the Joy of cooking recipe is for you, which takes about an hour or two of cooking time although you could make the Alton Brown recipe the same day by eliminating the overnight marination.

Coq au Vin served in a pastry bowl with a side of roasted root vegetables.

Whichever recipe you choose, this dish yields a lot of bang for your buck, it doesn't require that much skill, kitchen time or money, yet produces a luxurious dinner which will be sure to produce oohs and oohlalas from your dinner guests.

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