This is David Lebovitz’s version in My Paris Kitchen of the classic coq au vin. Its rich dark sauce is made and thickened with chocolate. Yes, chocolate. Instead of blood, the slurry of cocoa powder is used. Forget about blood, it is not something accessible in the US, for better or for worst.
The common ingredients in the traditional coq au vin are red wine, bacon, mushrooms and pearl onions, this recipe has all these basic elements. However, I can’t help but to digress. I wanted to see how Julia Child cooked her coq au vin. Sorry, David, it’s hard to ignore the elephant in the room. Afterall, it was Julia Child who popularized the iconic boeuf bourguignon (beef stew in red wine, with bacon, onions and mushrooms), the beef version of coq au vin, and brought it to the dining tables throughout America.
I made the coq au vin following closely David’s recipe and then reviewed that of Julia’s; I learned a few things from this exercise. These are my observations. They are outlined in the cheat sheet below, comparing the two recipes side by side:
- The large chicken I bought was not ideal. I should have gotten a smaller and younger chicken of less than 3 lbs, as specified in Julie’s recipe. They are more tender and juicier. I couldn’t find smaller chickens since the farmer’s markets I usually buy from are not open in the winter months.
- I marinated the chicken in red wine together with vegetables and herbs for two days. If you’re short on time, skipping the marinade might just work fine. Julia’s recipe does not call for a lengthy soak. Given the slow braise, the marinade may only add marginally to the flavor.
- The taste of red wine is front and center. I’m not a fan since I’m not a drinker. To add dimension and flavor to the sauce, I’m more in favor of Julia’s using a combination of red wine and brown stock, with the addition of tomato paste and garlic.
- The dark sauce, according to David’s recipe, uses cocoa powder as a substitute for the old-world blood, which is not an ingredient easily found in today’s industrialized food supply. I like the substitution and the deep dark brown color of the sauce. It is more like a liquid, however, than a sauce. I served coq au vin with some vegetable pasta and that has worked well for my family. To thicken the sauce to the viscosity of gravy, Julia’s recipe offers a solution: use butter and flour to make a roux. I would try that next time.
Use variations of the recipe(s) that fit your taste and preferences. It’s reassuring to know that a delicious and comforting plate of coq au vin is well within reach of an average home cook. Do allow more than a few hours to make it. Like most slow-cooked dishes, part of the cooking can be relegated to and kept warm in a slow cooker. I finished cooking the dish in the oven. I’ve found braising in the oven provides more even heat, than simmering it on the stove top.
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