It’s true when Ina says that coq au vin is just really beef bourguignon with chicken. The two recipes are almost identical, except that the chicken is cooked for thirty to forty minutes in the oven compared to the beef, which takes a little over an hour. My post last week was Ina’s beef bourguignon recipe and today we’ll explore her version of French coq au vin.
In last week’s post on beef bourguignon there was a discussion in the comments section regarding whether to flambé the cognac or just use it to deglaze the pan without the flambéing step. I’ve always been under the impression that the reason dishes were flambéed was to burn off the alcohol or raw taste, leaving a more rounded, complex flavor. But is that true or is flambéing just for show?
I’ve done a bit of research and found that American’s Test Kitchen conducted a test to see whether flambéing made a difference in the flavor of a sauce or not. Here’s what they found – when cognac was flambéed, the temperature at the surface of the pan quickly climbed past 500 degrees. When it was simmered, it maintained a steady temperature of about 180 degrees at it surface. When they tasted the flambéed cognac, “it was far deeper and richer in flavor than its simmered counterpart.” They concluded that “a flambéed sauce burns off most of the alcohol and the final result is a sauce with a greater depth of flavor” - making flambéing more than just for show. To read more of the article, click here.
To make matters even more interesting, The Food Network has videos of Ina preparing these two dishes, both which call for cognac. In the first video of the coq au vin, she does not flambé the cognac. However, in the second video for the beef bourguignon, she does flambé the cognac.
So, the question remains – should you flambé the cognac or should you just use it to deglaze the pan by cooking it rapidly to get up all the brown bits, or fond as it’s called in the culinary world. My feelings are that’s up to you. If you are comfortable flambéing, then by all means flambé. You do achieve a higher heat point which produces a more flavorful sauce and the test kitchen proved that. If you are uncomfortable flambéing (count me in this group), then simply deglaze the pan with the alcohol over high heat and be done with it. Or better still, do as I do and get someone else to do it for you. Meakin is the flambé expert in our family and I’ll share his tip with you. He likes to use a long instant push-button lighter – the kind you use to light charcoal in your grill – to ignite the cognac. It works great and there’s no need to search for a long match.
I would love your opinions – do you flambé or don’t you, and if you do, do you think it makes a difference in the flavor of the sauce?
Presenting Coq au Vin - another great French classic.
Ina’s Coq Au Vin
Adapted from Ina Garten, The Barefoot Contessa, and the Food Network – serves 3 - 4
2 tablespoons good olive oil
4 ounces good bacon or pancetta, diced (I don't recommend heavily smoked bacon for this)
1 (3 to 4-pound) chicken, cut in 8ths
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
1/2 pound carrots, peeled and cut diagonally in 1-inch pieces
1 yellow onion, sliced
1 teaspoon chopped garlic
1/4 cup Cognac or good brandy
1/2 bottle good dry red wine such as Burgundy
1 cup low sodium, fat free chicken stock, preferably homemade
10 fresh thyme sprigs
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature, divided
1 1/2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1/2 pound frozen small whole onions
1/2 pound cremini mushrooms (also called baby bella or baby portobello mushrooms), stems removed and thickly sliced
Chopped flat-leaf parsley for garnish
Preheat the oven to 250 degrees F. Heat the olive oil in a large Dutch oven. Add the bacon and cook over medium heat for 8 to 10 minutes, until lightly browned. Remove the bacon with a slotted spoon to a plate lined with paper towels.
Meanwhile, lay the chicken out on paper towels and pat dry. Liberally sprinkle the chicken on both sides with salt and pepper. When the bacon is removed, brown the chicken pieces in batches in a single layer for about 5 minutes, taking care not to crowd the skillet. Turn the chicken to brown evenly. Remove the chicken to the plate with the bacon and continue to brown until all the chicken is done. Set aside.
Add the carrots, onions, 2 teaspoons salt, and 1 teaspoon pepper to the pan and cook over medium heat for 10 to 12 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the onions are lightly browned. Add the garlic and cook for 1 more minute. Remove the pan from the heat and add the Cognac. Either flambé it or return the pan to the heat and reduce it down on high heat for a few minutes while scraping the brown bits from the bottom of the pan. To flambé, leave the pan off of the heat, stand back, and ignite with a long kitchen match (long instant push-button lighter) to burn off the alcohol. After either method, add the bacon, chicken, and any juices that collected on the plate back into the pot, then add the wine, chicken stock, and thyme and bring to a simmer. Cover the pot with a tight fitting lid and place in the oven for 30 to 40 minutes, until the chicken is cooked through but not pink. Remove from the oven and place on top of the stove. Mash 1 tablespoon of butter and the flour together and stir into the stew. Stir in the frozen onions.
In a medium sauté pan, add the remaining 1 tablespoon of butter and cook the mushrooms over medium-low heat for 5 to 10 minutes, until browned. Add to the stew. Bring the stew to a simmer and cook for another 10 minutes. Season to taste, garnish with plenty of chopped flat-leaf parsley, and serve hot. Noodles make a nice accompaniment.
Cook's note: As with the beef bourguignon or any braised dish, this can be made ahead and keep covered in the refrigerator for several days. Skim off excess fat with a spoon that collects on the top before re-heating. We think it's best served after it's had a chance to sit overnight in the refrigerator.
This will be shared with Foodie Friday at Rattlebridge Farms, Miz Helen’s Country Kitchen Full Plate Thursday, Foodie Friday at Simple Recipes, Foodtastic Friday at Not Your Ordinary Recipes, Seasonal Sunday at the Tablescaper, and On the Menu Monday at Stone Gable.