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Coq au Vin Secrets

One of the classics of French cuisine is Coq au Vin. Coq au Vin in English is Rooster in Wine. It’s a notoriously difficult recipe to nail correctly, and there are good reasons for it. Often it’s not the skill of the chef that’s the problem, but the ingredients used.

Back when it was much more common to raise chickens at home, roosters were kept until they could no longer breed. Then they would be slaughtered for eating. Old rooster meat, or old bird meat in general, is very tough. To get it to soften up, it must be braised for quite a long time. The trouble is that it is very difficult to get a rooster that old these days. The chicken bought at any grocery store is going to be a young hen. When that type of meat is braised for a very long time, it becomes very dry and mealy.

Your best bet is to go directly to a free-range poultry farmer and ask if they could reserve a rooster for you, but most people aren’t that lucky. There are a couple of tricks you can use to keep your bird from becoming dry. First, create a marinade from your red wine and whatever vegetables and spices you’re using and soak the chicken for at least a day. After that, strain the vegetables and marinade out and use them to make the sauce. That way the flavors of both the chicken and the wine get intermingled. The acidity from the wine will help break down the chicken for a more tender result.

Second, use less cooking time than you think. Take a good recipe like the one from Epicurious here: https://www.epicurious.com/recipes/food/views/classic-coq-au-vin-107153 and think about what is happening at each step. If you know the purpose behind each step, you can better understand the entire dish and how you can adjust things for your own circumstances, like adjusting the heat on your skillet or making sure you have an excellent pair of tongs for quick turning.

However, there is no substitute for practice. If you can nail Coq au Vin, a lot of French cooking will suddenly seem easy to you. Give it a try this weekend.



2015-04-04 00:00:00
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