Braising is a cooking technique we should all master. It’s not difficult and the results will make you look like an accomplished chef (not that you aren’t…). This simple process has just a few foolproof steps. In fact today’s chicken recipe has just 4 easy steps. The end result is rich and flavorful with the added bonus of the fancy-pants name, Coq au Vin. I like the way that rolls of the tongue (and into the belly)!
The concept behind braising is this: the main ingredient is seared, or browned in fat. It is then simmered in liquid on low-heat in a covered pot for a very long time. I like my Staub cast iron for this job because it has these litttle nubblies on the lid that allows the steam to rain back down into the pan in an even fashion. This is unlike the smooth lids of some other brands, which tend to accumulate the droplets then send them sliding down the edges of the pot. That is a very uneven distribution method in my opinion. I carry a Staub Coq au Vin pot in my OpenSky store.
You can choose to braise in the oven or on the top of the stove. Either way you will be proud of the food you bring to the table. This method of cooking is often used as a way to cook less expensive, tough cuts of meat.
Now don’t tune out. “Less expensive and tough” are not ways to describe the final product of your braising magic. Because braising makes tough, leathery meatâ€“ tender. Really! I promise.
Cooking the meat slow, moist and covered over low heat for a lengthy time breaks down the tough connective tissue in meat. Through time, the moisture and heat build, and the collagen (which is what makes the meat “tough”) dissolves into gelatin. The gelatin moves into the sauce and works as a slight thickening agent making the sauce smooth and velvety!
The key to success is time. Because as soon as the meat cooks through, its fibers begin to expel moisture. Therby causing the meat to become dry and less flavorful. If you were to pull the meat out of the pan at this point you would be disappointed with the results. But if you give the meat even more cooking time, these fibers relax and absorb the melted fat as well as the flavorful broth. This is called osmosis. The long and short of this is that everything rehydrates and becomes very tender with an amazing flavor! So come on, you can do this. Try it.
Coq Au Vin serves 4
- 1 chicken (about 3 pound) cut into 6 pieces
- 1 onion roughly chopped
- 6 carrots, peeled and cut into 1-inch pieces
- 6 sprigs of thyme
- 1 T whole black peppercorns
- 1 bay leaf
- 1 bottle red of red burgundy wine
- 3 clv garlic cloves, peeled and crushed
- 2 T vegetable oil, plus more as needed
- 1 T salt, plus more to taste
- 15 button mushrooms
- 24 pearl onions
- 6 strips of bacon
- 1 c chicken broth
- 4 stalks celery, cut into 1-inch pieces
- 1 ds red wine vinegar (optional)
- 0.5 c italian parsley, roughly chopped
The night before serving put the pieces of chicken in a large bowl. Add half of the carrot rounds and all of the chopped onion to the dish, along with half of the thyme sprigs, the bay leaf and the peppercorns. Pour the wine over the chicken and cover the dish. Put in the refrigerator overnight. The next day remove the pieces of chicken and the vegetables with tongs or a slotted spoon and set the chicken and vegetables aside on 2 separate plates. Strain the marinade, discard herbs.
Heat the oil in a large cast iron Dutch oven. Brown the pieces of chicken in it in several batches until golden. Set the chicken aside as it browns on a paper towel lined tray to drain. Add the reserved wine soaked vegetables and the crushed cloves of garlic to the dish, adding more oil as needed; brown them well. Return the chicken to the Dutch oven with the browned vegetables, along with the chicken broth, the reserved marinade and 1 tablespoon salt. Stir, bring to the boil, then cover. Let it simmer over low heat for 1 to 2 hours.
When completely cooked through turn off the heat and let the broth cool somewhat while you peel the pearl onions and cut the mushrooms in half.
Cut the bacon into 1-inch strips. Add them to a large cast iron skillet set over medium heat. Fry the bacon strips until crisp. Remove them to a paper towel lined plate to drain, reserving them for another use. Add the pearl onions and the mushrooms to the bacon fat and cook until golden. Turn the heat off and set them aside.
Remove the cooled chicken pieces from the Dutch oven and set them on a plate taking care to leave the very tender pieces intact. At this point you may stick the chicken pieces under the broiler for a miniute or two if you’d like to improve their color, but this is not necessary. Strain the remaining liquid pressing down on the solids to get as much flavor out as possible. Discard the solids. Return the chicken and the strained broth to the dish. Add the remaining thyme sprigs. Season to taste. Add the browned pearl onion, mushrooms, celery pieces and the remaining uncooked carrots. Cook over medium heat until the carrots and celery are tender and cooked through about 20 to 30 minutes, adjust seasoning adding touch of red wine vinegar as needed. Garnish with parsley and serve warm with crusty bread.
SERIOUS FUN FOOD