Coq au Vin – Cook-the-Book-Fridays

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.

Please visit Cook-the-book-fridays to see the comments and discussions on this recipe from the online group, a community of engaging home cooks, who are working through each and every recipe in David Lebovitz’s My Paris Kitchen. You are welcome to join the group and cook along with us.



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  • Reply
    Mardi (eat. live. travel. write.)
    February 3, 2017 at 10:58 am

    So interesting that you compared the two recipes (it's actually David LEITE's recipe that is in MPK though). I agree that this was a little too liquidy and next time I might not add back in all the wine marinade when I cook it. I also finished it in the oven (hoping some of the liquid would evaporate but it didn't) and it made the house smell dreamy! I'll definitely make this version again with a couple of tweaks more!

  • Reply
    February 3, 2017 at 11:58 am

    Wonderful pictures of your results! I too had a look at Julia's but it is different from the two DL!

  • Reply
    February 4, 2017 at 3:02 am

    Thanks for sharing your coq au vin analysis, Shirley. Nice ideas for next time. I appreciate the tip on roux from Julia because I would have preferred a thicker sauce than I got, even though it was delicious. It's always good to be reminded that even with classic recipes, there are many ways to get there.

  • Reply
    February 4, 2017 at 4:46 am

    I would make it again, like the way you'd approach it, with some tweaks.

  • Reply
    KB from Prof Who Cooks
    February 4, 2017 at 2:33 pm

    Thanks, Shirley! first, love the photo of your chicken that turned out not so hideously purple upon cooking it! Second, thank you for the cheat sheet. I can see how the Barefoot Contessa recipe falls somewhere in between these 2 with her own tweaks as well (she flambés the veg, I think…yes, I do realize that my franglais is showing there). I was surprised to see that this one was done on the cooktop since most recipes with this kind of braising time are thrown in the oven. I liked this one, but I think Barefoot Contessa's is still my go-to. I'll have to try Julia's recipe sometime.

  • Reply
    Karen @ From Scratch
    February 4, 2017 at 10:42 pm

    I had trouble photographing this one, but your photos turned out great! Thanks for the side-by-side comparison of the two recipes. I am sure that coq au vin is one of those recipes that has as many variations as there are cooks.

  • Reply
    February 4, 2017 at 11:01 pm

    I had to take the dish right next to the window so that I can get the biggest contrast of colors of the chicken. They worked.

  • Reply
    February 4, 2017 at 11:54 pm

    Thanks for the comparison of the two recipes. This was my first time making Coq au vin, we did enjoy it, but I would like to experiment with other recipes too. Those photos are beautiful, makes you want to dig right in.

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