Along side Boeuf Bourguignon, Coq au Vin might be one of the most iconic recipes of all French cooking. Very similar in preparation, both the chicken and the beef slow cook in the most delicious of French vin rouge. Julia Child once said "I enjoy cooking with wine, sometimes I even put it in the food..." You need almost an entire bottle for this recipe, so you should buy 2 bottles of wonderful French wine, one for cooking, one for you. This is Julia Child's recipe, which you can't go wrong with, and unlike Boeuf Bourguignon, Coq au Vin can be made in under 2 hours.
A 3-to 4-ounce chunk of lean bacon
2 ½ lbs. 3 lbs. cut-up frying chicken
½ tsp salt
1/8 tsp pepper
¼ cup cognac
3 cups Burgundy or Bordeaux French wine, don't play around here, it has the be French for the love of god, it's Coq au Vin!
1 to 2 cups beef stock or bouillon
1 Tb tomato paste
2 cloves mashed garlic
¼ tsp thyme
1 bay leaf
12 to 24 small white onions
Salt to taste
1 to 2 Tb cooking oil
½ lb. fresh cremini mushrooms
1 Tb butter
½ Tb cooking oil
3 Tb flour
2 Tb softened butter
Remove rind and cut bacon into sticks 1 inch long and ¼ inch across. Simmer for 10 minutes in 2 quarts of water, drain, rinse in cold water, and dry. Sauté slowly in the casserole (260 degrees for the electric skillet) with the oil. When bacon is very lightly browned, remove to a side dish, leaving fat in pan.
Dry chicken thoroughly in a towel. Brown on all sides in the hot fat (360 degrees). Season chicken with salt and pepper, return bacon to pan, cover pan, and cook slowly (300 degrees) for 10 minutes, turning chicken once. Then uncover, pour in cognac, ignite with a lighted match, shake pan back and forth for several seconds until flames subside.
Pour wine into pan, and add just enough bouillon to cover the chicken. Stir in tomato paste, garlic, and herbs. Bring to the simmer, then cover and simmer slowly for about 30 minutes, or until chicken meat is tender when pierced with a fork.
While chicken is cooking, drop onions into boiling water, bring water back to the boil, and let boil for 1 minute. Drain, shave off to ends of onions, peel carefully, and pierce a deep cross in the root end with a small knife (to keep onions whole during cooking). Heat oil in a frying pan, add onions, and toss for several minutes until lightly browned (this will be a patchy brown). Add water to halfway up onions and ¼ to ½ teaspoon salt, cover pan, and simmer slowly for 25 to 30 minutes, or until onions are tender when pierced with a knife.
Trim base of mushroom stems, remove base from stems, wash stems and caps rapidly in cold water and dry in a towel. Cut caps into quarters, stems into bias chunks (to resemble, roughly, the cut caps). Heat butter and oil in frying pan; when bubbling hot, toss in mushrooms and sauté over high heat for 4 to 5 minutes until lightly browned.
When chicken is done, drain out cooking liquid into a saucepan. Skim off fat and boil down liquid, if necessary, to concentrate flavor. You should have about 2 ¼ cups. Remove from heat. Blend butter and flour together in a saucer; beat into the cooking liquid with wire whip. Bring to the simmer, stirring, and simmer for a minute or two until sauce has thickened. Scrape onions and mushrooms into sauce and simmer a minute to blend flavors. Carefully taste sauce, adding more sat and pepper if you feel it necessary. Then pour sauce over chicken. (Chicken is now ready for final reheating, but can be set aside until cool, then covered and refrigerated for a day or two.)
Shortly before serving, bring to the simmer, basting chicken with sauce. Cover and simmer slowly for 4 to 5 minutes, until chicken is hot through. (Do not overcook at this point!)