Coq Au Vin – New York Style

“The secret to making a really good Coq au vin is not what you dump into the pot, but how you dump it.”
…a French cook in New York City

Coq Au Vin is a wonderful dish, easily prepared to bring out your French sensibilities, un repas chaud with a smile and a flourishing bouquet of aromas. It will have any guests or drop-in visitors begging for more.

What you will need to do first is throw away the French cookbooks or anything written in French, especially if you don’t speak the language as it might influence your experiment to wing gourmet cooking. The original dish called for a rooster, but it is far easier to get a chicken or hen these days, especially in the new world.

Coq au vin has been done in so many different ways that it’s safe to say “anyway you make it will intoxicate your sensibilities to the flavors as they permeate the air of your space.” French history reveals that the bourgeois aristocrats used brandy while the poor peasant population was left only with regular vin rouge and tears for want of more substance to sustain their family. Perhaps Coq au vin is an allegory for life?

Of course, this is only my own way of cooking this fabled dish, after returning home from a Francois Trauffaut film festival, a night immersed within vintage French cinema and Close Encounters Of The Third Kind, in which Trauffaut acted with Richard Dreyfuss who in a brilliant scenario redefined architecture to include a mountain made of mashed potatoes, all directed by Steven Spielberg in 1977.

However, the film that resonated most with my Parisian genes was the 1946 brilliant adaptation, La Belle et la Bete (Beauty And The Beast), with Jean Marais, Josette Day and directed by Jean Cocteau. A beautifully crafted film depicting a legendary french speaking beast, well dressed and sophisticated with a taste for all wild things of the forest including rooster. I’m sure his recipe for the ingredients for coq au vin would have been transforming as well as intriguing.

Cocteau’s interpretation of the beloved fable was filmed in black and white with scenes that resembled a Rembrandt painting in detail and ambiance with the French flair for the dramatic. The moving eyes and arms jutting out of the wall holding lit candelabras conveyed the magic that also gives Coq Au Vin its emotional flavor as a treasured French classic.

Specific Ingredients:
– Various Cut up identifiable pieces of skinned chicken: breasts, legs and thighs, whatever you want
– Fresh Garlic, salt, pepper, thyme, bay leaves
– Shallots, peeled, not cut too small
– Some sliced and diced up celery stalks
– Any vegetables you like, whatever you want: carrots, potato’s, string beans (French cut, of course)
– Mushrooms of all sorts – be careful with the hallucinogenic ones
– Chicken or vegetable stock, flour and of course butter
– Extra virgin olive oil
– Lots and lots of red wine, however much you want

Utensils:
A soup pot with a glass top so you can watch it simmer, a stirring spoon, a stove and some matches to light the stove if you’re living in the stix or in a third world country that hasn’t gone electric. Cooking with du vin rouge, in this case a utensil, is an art in and of itself. Never forget that “the secret to making a really good Coq au vin is not what you dump into the pot, but the way you dump it.”

First marinate the skinned chicken pieces in wine and fresh garlic for hours, a slow process of aromatically tenderizing the meat so it will melt from the bone when cooked. Saute the cut shallots, celery and garlic in your preheated pot with extra virgin olive oil until the shallots become translucent and the sweet smell of garlic fills the air.

Place each piece of wine saturated fowl in another flat, really hot pre-heated pan with olive oil for a minute or two to braise each piece lightly brown on all surface to seal in the juices, then place them in the cooking pot on low heat and cover for five minutes. Mix in your potpourri of vegetables and stir. Spill some wine into the dish and mix slowly. How much wine is used is up to you. Use your intuition here but make sure there is enough to completely cover the chicken and vegetables.

Place the cover over and monitor periodically. From a philosophical point of view, it will be done when you think it’s done. If you like a different consistency, sprinkle some flour into melted butter and mix into a cup or two of chicken stock, then pour the gravy into the pot: that will thicken the wine. If you really want to impress, substitute brandy for a cheap red wine, perhaps wear an apron with a map of France, and a French chef’s hat.

This recipe will feed however many you want depending on how much you decide to dump into the pot.

Now it’s time to prepare the dessert; perhaps a crepe with slices of baked apple and a dash of Redi-whip with some finely ground Starbucks beans sprinkled over the whip cream, but the recipe for that will be revealed another time.

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