A lighter twist on a classic French dish!
I remember the first time I made coq au vin, the rustic, hearty French dish that became wildly popular in North America thanks to Julia Child. I recreated the recipe found in her excellent cookbook Mastering the Art of French Cooking and thought myself a very talented pseudo-adult to be dishing up fare much fancier than we university students normally ate. I’ve made coq au vin many times since then, but must confess that sometimes the rich red wine sauce just doesn’t appeal to me, either visually or from a taste perspective. I decided to swap in white wine and cream instead, and the results were absolutely delicious. It’s a great make-ahead meal that can be reheated easily. Serve this over rice, buttered egg noodles or mashed potatoes with a salad and a loaf of crusty bread for mopping up all the delicious sauce. The instructions below are for conventional cooking but you can definitely make this dish in a crock pot or Instant Pot – just be sure to sear the chicken and cook the mushrooms on direct heat before simmering in your favourite slow cooker!
- 8 – 10 bone-in, skin on chicken thighs *
- 4 cloves of garlic, each halved lengthwise
- 2 bay leaves
- 4 sprigs of fresh thyme
- 2 cups (500 mL) medium-dry white wine (Riesling, Chardonnay, Semillon or Sauvignon Blanc)
- 4 slices bacon, cut in 1/2 inch (1.25 cm) squares
- 2 – 3 tablespoons (30 – 45 mL) olive oil
- 4 tablespoons (60 mL) butter, divided
- 1 cup (250 mL) good-quality chicken stock
- 2 dozen pearl onions, peeled
- 2 cups (500 mL) button mushrooms, quartered halved if medium or large
- 1 tablespoon (15 mL) all-purpose flour
- 3/4 cup (185 mL) 35% cream
- 1 egg yolk
- 2 teaspoons (10 mL) Dijon mustard
- 1/2 lemon, juiced
- Additional thyme sprigs or fresh parsley to garnish
* You can also use boneless, skinless chicken thighs. The dish will not be quite as flavourful (though still very delicious) but it will be faster and easier to prepare as you won’t have to take the skin and bones off before serving.
- Put the chicken in a sturdy ziplock bag along with the halved garlic, thyme sprigs, salt and white wine. Seal and refrigerate for 4 – 12 hours.
- After marinating, remove the chicken from the wine (reserving the wine and garlic). Pat the chicken pieces dry with paper towel, season both sides with salt and pepper and set aside.
- Cook the chopped bacon in a large, heavy-duty stovetop and oven-safe pot (a Dutch or French oven is ideal) until uniformly crispy. Transfer cooked bacon to a small bowl and set aside.
- Add chicken pieces, skin side down, to the hot pan, making sure not to crowd them (otherwise they will not brown well). You will likely need to cook them in batches. Add a little bit of the olive oil if needed to keep the chicken from sticking. Cook until the skin is golden and crispy then flip the chicken over and cook on the other side for 2 minutes then remove from pan and set aside. Repeat with remaining chicken, adding oil as needed to the pot.
- Once all the chicken has been seared and set aside, in the same large pot, melt 2 tablespoons of the butter over medium heat. Add the flour and cook, stirring often, for 2 minutes. Slowly add in the reserved wine and garlic from the marinade, whisking into the flour and butter mixture. Bring to a boil, scraping up any delicious bits stuck to the bottom of the pan.
- Preheat the oven to 350F. Add the chicken stock to the cooking pot along with the browned chicken pieces and peeled pearl onions, adding additional wine, stock or water as needed so the liquid is just barely covering the meat. Bring to a simmer, then cover and transfer the pot to the oven. Cook for 90 minutes, or until the meat is falling off the bones.
- While chicken cooks, melt remaining butter in a large skillet and over medium-high heat, cook mushrooms, stirring often, until they are browned and have stopped releasing moisture. Transfer to a bowl and set aside.
- Transfer the pot from the oven back to the stovetop. With a slotted spoon, remove the cooked chicken pieces and pearl onions from the sauce. With a sharp knife, remove the skin if you wish for a more elegant presentation (I often choose to remove the bones at this point as well). Remove the thyme sprigs and discard. Cover and keep the chicken and onions warm.
- Whisk together the cream and egg yolk, then whisk this mixture into the sauce along with the Dijon. Put in on medium-low heat and gently bring it to a simmer, stirring often. Within 2 – 3 minutes, the sauce should thicken to the point where it coats the back of a metal spoon.
- Add lemon juice. Taste and adjust seasoning if needed, then add the cooked bacon, sautéed mushrooms, cooked chicken pieces and pearl onions to the pan. Reheat for 2 minutes then serve, garnishing with tiny sprigs of fresh thyme.
- Note that you can transfer the chicken, mushrooms, bacon and onions to a serving platter if you like, then fill a small jug with some of the sauce from the pan and pass it at the table.
Makes 6 – 8 servings.