Like boeuf bourguignon, another French classic in regular use, coq au vin is easy to make and can be served year-round. This recipe for the baked chicken dish comes from The Official Downton Abbey Christmas Cookbook (Simon & Schuster, $47), and it’s easy to imagine head cook Mrs. Patmore preparing it for the earl’s family.
Author Regula Ysewijn, a Belgian-born authority on British historical cooking, offers 75 recipes in her beautiful book. It’s a good read, including pocket histories of the cookbooks of Edwardian times, and has well-tested recipes, many of which could be easy family dinners.
One of the advantages of this recipe is that it can be made completely in advance, then refrigerated or frozen until it’s time to reheat. It’s a perfect winter dish to serve with either mashed potatoes or little boiled and buttered potatoes and a green vegetable.
If you don’t mind peeling onions, use a bag of the little pearl onions, and use plenty of mushrooms. Dark meat works best with this slow-baked dish, as white meat can dry out. If you use white meat, cook those parts for a shorter time.
Coq au vin
5 tablespoons (75 mL) flour
Salt and freshly ground pepper
4 whole chicken legs, halved, plus 4 thighs (about 5 pounds / 2.5 kg total)
2 tablespoons (30 mL) unsalted butter, plus 1 tablespoon (15 mL) softened
10 small dry shallots or 20 pearl onions, peeled, whole
1/4 pound / 125 g (4 slices) bacon, chopped
1 bottle (750 mL) red wine, Burgundy preferred
Bouquet garni (fresh flat-leaf parsley, thyme sprigs, 1 bay leaf) tied in a bundle with string
1/2 pound (250 g) fresh mushrooms, quartered if large
Preheat oven to 325 degrees F (165 C). In a bowl, combine 4 tablespoons (60 mL) of the flour with salt and pepper, and coat chicken parts.
Melt 2 tablespoons butter over medium heat in large, heavy ovenproof pot or casserole and cook shallots for about three minutes. Add bacon, stirring and continuing to cook until shallots are caramelized and bacon is crisp, about three minutes. Use a slotted spoon to transfer shallots and bacon to a plate.
Brown chicken in hot fat over medium heat in batches until golden brown, five to eight minutes. Return shallots and bacon to the pot and add the wine, bouquet garni and mushrooms.
Bring to a simmer for 10 minutes, then cover, transfer to preheated oven and bake about one hour, until chicken is tender. Discard bouquet garni.
Transfer chicken to a plate or large bowl, cover with aluminum foil and keep warm. In a small bowl, make a beurre manié by working the remaining tablespoon of flour into the tablespoon of soft butter with a fork. Add to sauce in pot and heat over medium heat, until sauce thickens, about 15 minutes. Return chicken to sauce, heat and serve.
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