Julia’s Coq au Vin or Peasant Food is Happy Food

Romantic Coq Au Vin

So, here is the finished product…Julia Child’s Coq Au Vin – Chicken with Wine and pearl onions and tomatoes and mushrooms and wonderful wine. Yes!Chef! also made roasted potatoes and simple buttery broccoli.  We love chicken around the Schmautzhaus and we also love slow food, so this was the perfect food for Yes!Chef to cook.  He started making it in the morning, before the chickens were up .

Chicken warily eyes me.

Ha!  JK (just kidding). No, there are no live chickens at the Schmautzhaus, although I think Yes!Chef would love to have fresh eggs every day. And, he didn’t start this until about 10:00 a.m. when he had some free time. I saw this chicken and few others at a friends house and couldn’t resist taking some photos.

Yes!Chef! wanted to make the Coq Au Vin early in the day so the flavors could have a chance to “get to know each other” by the time dinner rolled around.

Pearl Onion

Although there aren’t a lot of ingredients in the recipe, it does take some time to prepare.  You don’t just throw everything into the pot and shout, “Everybody into the pool!” as I happily suggested to Yes!Chef!.  Yes!Chef! didn’t  even acknowledge my lame attempt at humor. He chopped up fresh tomatoes and mushrooms.

Fresh tomatoes

Then he prepared some luscious little pearl onions, which BTW I love more than the other types of onions. I think the flavor of these onions are sweeter than Vidalia Onions and they are much prettier in the pot. He put them in a skillet and browned them until they had some nice caramelization (and caramelization equals flavor, as Yes!Chef! always says.)

Pearl Onions with caramelization

Next he tackled the mushrooms.

Tossing Mushrooms and Shallots in a hot skillet

When I first started cooking many years ago, mushrooms were one of my favorite things to cook.  But, I cooked them all wrong.  I didn’t put them in a steaming hot skillet, like Yes!Chef! does so that they become nicely caramelized.  I put them in a cold pan with some butter and sherry and onions and basically steamed them.  All the water came out of them requiring me to cook them until the water was evaporated before they began to turn brown.  Then, the mushrooms were really quite rubbery, but they tasted like butter and sherry. (As I’m writing this, it doesn’t sound all that appetizing and I’m a little embarrassed by it. ) But, if you put the mushrooms in a very hot skillet with a little oil and/or butter they don’t get all sweaty and gray, but they turn a wonderful brown.  They also do not lose their texture  and become rubbery.  In this case, Yes!Chef! sauteed them with some wonderful shallots.

At this point, Yes!Chef had also put some cut up bacon pieces in a large pot to brown.

Browning Bacon

He had first put these pieces of bacon (lardon) in a pot of water and simmered them for a few minutes to remove the salt and smokiness.  By this time,  the house smelled so delicious that I could barely stand to be inside.

Browning Chicken

Soon after the bacon was browned, the chicken went in the pot to brown up. After that, I went outside with my camera to see what I could find to shoot for my Project 366 .  So, I probably missed some parts of the cooking process but you can find it in the recipe below.

The aroma from the open front door drew me back inside again and Yes!Chef! had added the wine and some herbs and garlic and some other things (see recipe.)  He cooked it a little bit and then removed the chicken. The chicken had a great reddish purple color from the wine.

Wine infused chicken

Yes!Chef! says layering in seasoning during each cooking process is very important to the final flavor.

He put in the fresh and cooked veggies along with some fresh herbs.

Stirred in browned mushrooms and onions (by mistake)

He stirred in some magic thickener that he had made with butter and flour and stirred everything around until is was a little thickened.  He put the chicken back in the pot and set it aside to cool so that he could store it in the fridge until dinner time. A side note.  Yes!Chef! added the onions and mushrooms to the pot at this point.  The recipe calls for serving them as a side dish (reheating them) after everything is cooked. He says he wished he hadn’t mistakenly added them to the pot because he thought they may have been a little overcooked.  I thought they were tasty and never would have noticed if he hadn’t said something about it.

While you are waiting, here are some springtime photos…

Newly Leafed out trees
Spring Iris

Dinner is served!

I know that brown food doesn’t photograph very well, and I did not really do this dish justice in my photography.  The chicken was totally infused with flavor…wine, thyme, onion, garlic, shallot…and so very tender. I thought it was well worth the effort.    He also served roasted potatoes that had been tossed with olive oil, salt and pepper and tender broccoli that was perfectly seasoned and lightly buttered.

Yes!Chef! calls this peasant food because it is not expensive but it is a little time consuming in the preparation.  In this economy a lot of us have more time than money, so this is a great meal to have. Yes!Chef! says that good food takes time.  I would have to agree. And, this was a terribly romantic meal.  Serve it with a great glass of red wine.  It is a little slice of heaven.

Here is the recipe:

Julia Child’s Coq au Vin Recipe

Yields: 4 to 6 servings
Prep time: 45 min
Cook time: 30 minutes
Total time: 1 hour 40 minutes


2 1/2 to 3 pounds cut-up frying chicken, skin on and thoroughly dried (I used skinless boneless breasts and thighs instead)*
4 ounces lean thick-cut bacon
2 tablespoons olive oil
Salt and pepper
1/4 cup cognac
2 cups red wine (Pinot Noir, Burgundy, Beaujolais or Chianti)**
2 cups homemade chicken stock or low-sodium chicken stock or broth
1 tablespoon tomato paste
2 cloves garlic, mashed or minced
1 bay leaf
1/4 teaspoon thyme
Brown-Braised Onions (see recipe below)
Mushrooms (see recipe below)
3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons butter, softened
Parsley sprigs

** Avoid bold, heavily-oaked red wine varietals like Cabernet.

Dry chicken thoroughly in a towel. Season chicken with salt and pepper; set aside.

Remove any rind off the bacon and cut the bacon into lardons (rectangles 1/4-inch across and 1-inch long). In a saucepan, simmer the bacon sticks in 2 quarts of water for 10 minutes; remove from heat, drain, rinse in cold water, and pat dry.

In a large heavy frying pan, casserole dish, or electric skillet over medium heat, heat olive oil until moderately hot. Add the bacon and saute slowly until they are lightly browned. Remove bacon to a side dish. Place chicken pieces into the hot oil (not crowding pan), and brown on all sides. Return bacon to the pan, cover pan, and cook slowly for 10 minutes, turning chicken once.

After browning the chicken, uncover pan, pour in the cognac. Flambé by igniting with a lighted match. Let flame a minute, swirling pan by its handle to burn off alcohol; extinguish with pan cover.

Pour the red wine into the pan and add just enough chicken broth to completely cover the chicken pieces. Stir in tomato paste, garlic, bay leaf, and thyme. Bring the liquid to a simmer, then cover pan, and simmer slowly for about 30 minutes or until the chicken meat is tender when pierced with a fork or an instant-read meat thermometerregisters an internal temperatureof165 degrees F.

While the chicken is cooking, prepare the Brown-Braised Onions and the Mushrooms.

When the chicken is done cooking, remove from the pan to a platter, leaving the cooking liquid in the pan. Increase heat to high and boil the cooking liquid rapidly until approximately 2 cups of liquid remains.

While the liquid is boiling, in a small bowl, blend the 3 tablespoons flour and 2 tablespoons softened butter into a smooth paste; beat the flour/butter mixture into the approximately 2 cups hot cooking liquid with a whisk. Simmer and stir for a minute or two until the sauce has thickened (the result will be a sauce thick enough to lightly coat a spoon – just thick enough to coat the chicken and vegetables lightly). If sauce is too thin, boil down rapidly to concentrate; if sauce is too thick, thin out with additional spoonfuls of chicken stock. Taste the final sauce, adding more salt and pepper if necessary.

Before serving, reheat the onions and mushrooms (if necessary).

Storing:  Chicken is now ready for final reheating, but can be set aside in the sauce until cool, then covered and refrigerated for 1 to 2 days. To reheat, simmer slowly, covered, over low heat. Baste and turn chicken every 2 minutes until thoroughly warmed through (6 to 8 minutes). NOTE: Do not overcook chicken at this point.

To serve immediately:  Shortly before serving, bring the sauce and the cooked chicken to a simmer, cover and simmer slowly for 4 to 5 minutes, until chicken is hot through. NOTE: Do not overcook chicken at this point.

To serve:  Either serve from the casserole dish or arrange the chicken on a large platter. Pour the sauce over the chicken. Arrange the Brown-Braised Onions on one side of the chicken and the Mushrooms on the other side. Decorate with sprigs of parsley. Accompany with parsley potatoes, rice, or noodles; buttered green peas or a green salad; hot French bread; and the same red wine you used for cooking the chicken. 

Makes 4 to 6 servings.


Published by

Karen Schmautz


6 thoughts on “Julia’s Coq au Vin or Peasant Food is Happy Food

    1. Thank you! I wouldn’t want someone to make the same mistakes we did. Yes!Chef! is all about coaxing the most flavor possible out of any dish he makes, so if he does it wrong, he is quick to mention it. I, on the other hand, am quick to admit I did something right…ha! I’m glad you can learn from our mistakes.

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