I have a particularly soft spot for this popular French dish because it was the first proper meal I could afford many years back during my first visit to Paris and I had to first ask the owner-chef-waiter of the tiny backstreet bistro to explain what the dish is all about.
In a gabbling mixture of my virtually non-existent French and his struggle to find English words I eventually worked out that it was a popular peasant dish made up of chicken, lots of red wine and garlic by the ton!
As I was probably the last (and maybe the only diner) that cold and rainy evening he dished up a particularly generous helping of coq au vin and I hungrily finished the lot, wiping my plate clean with the last of the bread as I sipped the last few drops of cheap French wine left in my carafe.
To me that was a meal fit for a king and I enjoy it to this day, particularly on a cold winter’s evening. Those of you brave enough to venture outside at this chilly time of the year will be pleased to hear that this dish is also perfect for a potjie.
To serve four portions of coq au vin you need:
1 large free range chicken or eight chicken pieces
6 rashers of fatty bacon or a cup or two of smoked pork rashers or pork neck
A packet of large brown mushrooms, quartered
15 garlic cloves, lightly squashed with the flat of a knife, but not peeled or chopped
2 onions, peeled and coarsely chopped
1/3 cup brandy
750ml red wine
1 tablespoon fresh thyme
1/3 cup fresh basil, roughly ripped
½ cup flour, flavoured with a teaspoon of Portuguese chicken spice
3 tablespoons butter
Oil for frying
Dip the chicken pieces or the whole chicken in flour, shake off excess and set aside.
In a large pot heat the oil.
Over fairly high heat, lightly brown the chicken pieces or the whole chicken (I prefer a whole chicken).
Remove chicken from the pot and place on kitchen to absorb excess oil.
Discard the oil and wipe the pot clean and return to the stove.
Melt the butter in the pot and add the bacon or pork pieces and the onion and cook until onions soften and pork starts to brown.
Add the garlic cloves and stir for two minutes, then add all the ingredients, but not the basil, brandy, wine or chicken.
Warm through then add the chicken bandy and wine.
Over medium heat simmer the chicken until done and the sauce thickens.
Season with salt and black pepper to taste.
Stir in the fresh basil and serve immediately.
Serve this dish with basmati rice, couscous or mashed potatoes and chunks of crusty warm bread – and lots of red wine!
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Delightful Pinot packed with strawberry aromas and flavours which finishes with fresh acidity making it a great food partner.
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