Thursday, March 7, 2013

Ina’s Coq au Vin – It’s just Beef Bourguignon with Chicken

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.

Have a great weekend everyone.


  1. To flambe or not ... haven't ever tried. The thought of purposely bringing flame into the kitchen just seems wrong! Ok, I'm terrified of the thought! May try it on the deck when the weather improves. Decks are easier to replace than kitchens ...

  2. Mouthwatering! That is a dish I have never cooked.

    I'm a fraid of playing with fire in the kitchen... ;-)



  3. I've flambe'd a few times. I'm really cautious though because I don't think I will look all that attractive without eyebrows.

  4. I did read (a long time ago) somewhere that flambeing gave a greater depth of flavor. I also read it was to burn off the alcohol so there'd be no alcohol for non-imbibers (highly unlikely reason). When I flambe (seldom), I do use the long lighter and stand well back. I have done coq-au-vin from a newspaper recipe and it was good. I can only imagine Ina's being better. It certainly looks to be.


  5. I have not made this in years:)I have tried.. but it's not a habit of mine:)

  6. Great winter dish. I always flambe but I've never given it much thought. Hmmm...

  7. I make a coq-au-vin with white wine that I love. Have not tried it the original way with red wine. Yours look delicious. I don't flambe, because my stove top is up against a wall, with a microwave about it. If I had a stove in the center of an island I would try it!

  8. Pretty amazing that you and Susan (Savoring Time In The Kitchen) both posted an adaptation of Ina’s recipe for this dish on the same day. They both look and sound delicious and someday I must make this dish.

  9. That is so funny that we posted Ina's recipe within a day of each other :) I thought it was delicious! I like how you served yours over noodles without as much of the cooking liquid. I also like how browned your pearl onions are. Did you saute them?

    We just finished the last of ours last night but I had made a double batch since we had our daughter for dinner on Monday night. This is a great recipe.

  10. I've made beef bourguignon a couple of times, but never coq au vin, though it's a recipe I've always wanted to try. Thanks for the inspiration.

  11. This sounds pretty good to me and I have to say I have never had a problem with flaming anything in the kitchen. Yum Yum Have a good weekend Diane

  12. This looks delicious! I have flambéed a few times, Saganaki----Greek flaming cheese. Doubt if I could tell the difference if it was flamed or not. I love Ina and her recipes so have to try this. Thanks for the great recipe, Sam!

  13. I've never played with flambe in the kitchen... I have however had a few fires:@) Your meal looks wonderful Sam and man I wish I had some right now-enjoy!

  14. I would never have figured out that it is the same of BB. And, I've made both. But, you know me.
    Beautiful, Sam.

  15. This looks fabulous! Your blog is wonderful!

  16. Interesting. I think I don't flambé out of pure laziness (or sometimes I just forget to do it). I need to rethink it. I love Ina and America's Test Kitchen, so I trust them both. Funny, I've never made Coq Au Vin. I need to change that. I love how perfectly caramelized those onions are. Yum!

  17. I love Coq au Vin -- it was one of my mother's specialties. She was quite a good cook for her time (the Fifties and all that cream of mushroom soup.)

  18. I have always thought it's merely a show cooking..but now I have to test both at the same time to tell the difference. Your coq au vin looks mouthwatering!

  19. i'm afraid of huge flames=/ but this sounds really appetizing

  20. I have not flambéd in years, so I forget! LOL! You dish looks delicious & I'll bet your home smelled amazing!

  21. This coq au vin looks delicious, I have her book and have been meaning to make it BUT I'm a wimp when it comes to the flambe! I'm not nervous about much but I am nervous about that! I really must get over it!
    Mary x

  22. Hi Sam,
    Certainly an interesting question. I do flambe and use a long lighter standing as far back as possible, it is evident that I have more than a healthy respect for the flame, rather amusing to observe. In my view flambe does give the sauce a deeper flavor. It is a fantastic classic recipe that everyone always loves.

    Thank you so much for sharing this special recipe with Full Plate Thursday and enjoy your weekend.
    Come Back Soon!
    Miz Helen

  23. your so good with French recipes looks amazing

  24. I do flambé, Sam. And haven't burned my eyebrows off in years! :) I think it results in a darker, deeper flavor.
    Recently I could have sworn I heard Ina say this does NOT burn off all the alcohol, which rather surprised me.
    Your Coq au Vin looks divine. Susan posted her version and roasted the chicken at the end. Thought that was a great idea.
    PS: How are you feeling?

  25. I love the research they do at American's Test Kitchen... really interesting. Thanks for sharing yet another classic dish with us on foodie friday. You should join my French Friday's with Dorie cooking group. I think you would love the recipes:

  26. I love this and have made this. I find a great depth of flavor - without the flambe. I've had one kitchen fire. That was enough! (Although not from flambe - oil was the culprit.) I believe the findings and have decided that it was one thing my cooking could do without - thus allowing my guests to eat without suffering from smoke inhalation.

  27. Another advantage of the flambe technique is that it saves me money since I don't have to go to the salon to get my eyebrows plucked ;)

  28. Very interesting! I'm glad to know there's a real reason to flambé, and it's not just for the kitchen show off! I try to avoid flambéing because my microwave is above the stove, and I'm afraid I will scorch it.

  29. Your coq au vin looks fabulous…lovely photos! I so enjoy Ina and love her recipes…so unpretentious and always delicious!! Very interesting info from Americas Test Kitchen! I always thought flambé was just for effect!

  30. I love the idea of this dish with chicken. I always get a little nervous when I do a flambe. I did one once and it went terribly wrong. I bet the depth of flavor in this dish is amazing. I can't wait to try it.

  31. i love the addition of the chicken! it looks fantastic and simply divine

  32. Ina's recipes are always good! This looks delicious as well as the beef beef bourguignon in your prior post. I do flambe at times, but I always try to have a skillet lid nearby to smother the flame if I feel it gets out of hand. It's interesting to know it deepens the flavor of the sauce.

    Glad you are back to blogging and that you are feeling much better!

  33. Sam, thank you so much for your kind words on my blog. I appreciate your prayers SO much as I know his parents will.

    I don't flambe. I barely cook, but that is fascainting that the flavor is affected that drastically. My husband would flambe if he knew this. He likes to cook. I will be sure and show him this recipe and the advice.

    Love to you, my friend...



  34. I like the idea of using chicken...looks so rich and so tasty...I yet have to make coq au vin, and seeing this recipe I rather try this one.
    Thanks for this nice recipe Sam...have a great week :)

  35. I have always wanted to try this recipe. it looks so delicious.

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  37. Oh wow, another great French recipe! I love the incredible ingredients in this coq au vin! And I agree that one should flambe' for both the flavor enhancement and the removal of most of the alcohol . . . I'll drink mine in a glass along with this wonderful entree! Cheers and salute'!


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