Published

Coq au Vin (Chicken Casserole in Red Wine)

5

Perhaps the most popular classic French chicken recipe is Coq au Vin. Originally made with the Coq (cock or rooster), these days it’s made with chicken.

Like the Blanquette de Veau, this is my best go-to recipe as it’s authentic and approved by my French family. The secret is in the long marinade time in red wine to intensify the flavours – an extra bonus, as it cuts down the final cooking time.

oval dish with chicken in red wine and vegetables with a French baguette

What Does Coq au Vin Mean in French?

Coq in French is simply the Cock (also known as Rooster in America), which is a male chicken. So, quite literally, it’s Cock or Rooster in Wine.

As the cock or rooster is a much tougher version than the smaller, more tender female chicken, the recipe calls for marinating in wine to tenderise the meat. However, these days it’s not that easy to find a cock/rooster. Even in France it requires ordering in advance as it’s a much bigger bird (at least 3kg compared with the biggest chicken of 2.5kg). William Frechon uses Coq in his starred restaurant in Dijon and even after marinating 24 hours, it needs to be cooked for 3 hours.

As a result, it’s more popular to make this recipe at home with chicken. Here, we are lucky to have top quality chickens, especially the famous Poulet de Bresse. Since 1957, this top quality French chicken has had AOC status (Appellation d’Origine Contrôlée) and it’s normal to see them at the market complete with head and feet on (I cut that part out of this photo, as not everyone likes to see this!). They have a thin skin and are particularly tender.

Whatever chicken you use for the recipe, just ensure it’s a good quality organic or free-range chicken.

famous French Bresse chicken

How do you pronounce it?

Coq au Vin in French is quite simply pronounced as Cock-oh-vahgn.

bunch of carrots, bacon, chicken, herbs, bacon, wine on chopping board

some ingredients for classic Coq au Vin

Why is Coq au Vin Popular?

It’s really strange, as Coq au Vin isn’t something that used to be on many French restaurant menus. Instead it was considered as peasant food; typical family food enjoyed without any fancy frills.

Jings – not even Alexandre Dumas mentions it in his culinary dictionary (perhaps because it doesn’t include truffles? Although side-note, you could replace mushrooms with morels for something spectacular). Neither does Auguste Escoffier in his monumental Gourmet French Guide Culinaire.

Escoffier does, however, cite Boeuf Bourguignon, which is made in much the same way but with beef. As we’re not beef eaters in our family, we prefer this marinaded chicken in red wine version instead.

The rustic dish instead became popular more recently, it seems, thanks to Julia Child in America. As a result, it’s now seen on more French restaurant menus and for entertaining family and friends at home.

Why Was it Created in France?

Many people refer to King Henri IV (1367-1413) having told the French that “.. a chicken should be in every French pot” but generally, this refers to the classic, Poule au Pot dish which is much simpler and doesn’t require wine. To be honest, I can’t find much associated with the history of this dish, as it could go to Julius Cesar.

As so many regions in France also claim this dish, it’s difficult to pick! If you have any historical documents on this that you can share, please let us know in the comments below.

Can I Make Coq au Vin Ahead?

This is one of my favourite make-ahead recipes since it needs up to 24 hours to marinade the chicken. I have 2 suggestions.
Either

  • prepare the dish 2 days in advance: marinade day 1, day 2 cook then cool and chill until day 3 reheat and serve; or
  • prepare the marinade then, once cool and chilled, transfer it in a sealed container in the freezer (up to 2 months) and defrost the day before or the day you are ready to cook and serve.

coq au vin French dish with baguette and red wine

Which Wine is Best for the Recipe?

Can you use any red wine to make Coq au Vin? Essentially yes, although I stress the age-old French home cook’s mantra that if you can’t drink it, don’t cook with it. So ensure your wine is good quality and not something that we could sprinkle on thick British chips! (UK chips are not like crispy, thin French fries and traditionally served sprinkled with vinegar – but that’s worthy of another post).

Many recipes use white wine, but red wine makes this dish far more lush..

According to French food critic, Gilles Pudlowski (France, The Beautiful Cookbook), this dish was originally made with Chanturgues red wine from the Auvergne. Gradually over time it was generally replaced by Bourgogne (Burgundy) red wine. Now that every region in France just about claims this dish as their own (including Alsace, Champagne), almost anything goes!  I’d personally go for a Burgundy if you can or a good quality Pinot Noir (as that’s the varietal red of the region).

However, less expensive are the neighbouring regions of Côte du Rhône with grape varietals such as Shiraz (Syrah), Grenache and Beaujolais with Gamay.

cutting through red wine marinaded chicken to show it is fluffy white inside

Does it taste like wine?

It does in that it’s fruity, rustic and lush. The important first step is to boil the wine before marinading. So, by the time it is cooked, the alcohol has disappeared from the sauce. What’s left is an intense and rich sauced that coats the chicken and vegetables. I particularly love the carrots in the marinade, as it adds a subtle sweet touch.

The mushrooms and bacon added at the end just at the final fabulous flavours, since they have been cooked separately to again bring out all the flavours.

Although it’s marinaded and cooked in the red wine, when cutting through the tender chicken, it still remains a fluffy white (see photo).

Step-by-Step Recipe

Printable recipe below.

  • First get your butcher to cut the whole chicken into pieces or, if you have a good knife, do this at home. As a result, you have a mixture of on and off-bone chicken. I like to keep the skin on just for the thighs and remove the rest to cut down on the fat but this is personal. If you prefer it all with the skin, then go ahead but it will make the sauce even richer.
  • Boil the red wine in a saucepan until reduced by a third then cool. This not only removes the alcohol but also intensifies the colour and flavours.
  • In a large bowl with the chicken bits, add carrots, bay leaf, thyme (I like to add parsley stalks too), peppercorns, chopped garlic and small pearl onions (I also use spring onions, chopped in 4) and pour over the cooled wine.
    Note: please don’t use dried herbs – fresh thyme is not an option. For more, see the market page on bouquet garni and aromatic herbs.

pouring red wine onto poultry, vegetables and herbs

  • Cover and leave to marinate in the fridge for 24 hours.

red wine, vegetable and herb marinade

  • Next day, drain the marinade into a colander over a bowl to separate the juices.

Draining the red wine marinade for chicken

  • Dry the chicken pieces with kitchen paper.
  • Then, over a high heat in a heavy-based casserole dish, fry the chicken in olive oil on all sides for about 10 minutes or until cooked through.
  • Flambé with a couple of tablespoons of Cognac.

cooking the marinaded chicken in the pot first

How do you Thicken Coq au Vin?

  • Sprinkle over the chicken with the flour and toss around the pan to coat it all evenly. Gradually add the marinade liquid while tossing the chicken around (this will stop any lumps from forming).
  • Boil up the sauce until it’s bubbling and thickened.

thickening sauce for coq au vin by adding flour before the marinade

  • Add the marinade vegetables minus the bouquet garni. Lower the heat and leave to simmer with the lid on for about and hour (more or less, depending on the size of your chicken pieces).

cooking mushrooms and bacon separately from the chicken stew

  • Dry fry the bacon bits and sliced mushrooms (there’s enough fat in the bacon already) and add a few pearl onions. Then add to the dish.
  • Leave to reduce further for another 20 minutes.

finished dish of coq au vin with freshly chopped parsley

  • Serve with chopped, fresh parsley and a good baguette or two.
bowl of spiral pasta shapes with dark meat sauce

reheated leftovers are fabulous tossed in pasta

Can You Reheat Coq au Vin?

You can certainly reheat it, no problem.  Just ensure that if you have leftovers to cool it down first then cover and chill in the fridge for up to 2 days. When ready to serve just gently reheat with the lid on to recapture these beautiful flavours.

I often find that, if we do have any leftovers to reheat, there’s not much left. So the best way to serve is toss what’s left into cooked pasta.

What is Traditionally Served with Coq au Vin?

The French normally indicate to serve this with crusty bread, so grab a good baguette to mop up that luscious sauce.

Julia Child apparently served her recipe version with mashed potatoes, which is a great possibility. Depending on the size of family or friends to entertain, potatoes are a great side dish. For a creamy side-dish, serve with Gratin Dauphinois. Alternatively, if you prefer without the cream and just with succulent layered potatoes cooked in onions and stock, then serve with a Gratin Savoyard.

pot of coq au vin French chicken dish with red wine and baguette

oval dish with chicken in red wine and vegetables with a French baguette
5 from 3 votes

French Coq au Vin Recipe

Author: Jill Colonna
Prep Time40 mins
Cook Time1 hr 20 mins
Marinating Time1 d
Total Time1 d 2 hrs
Course : Main
Cuisine : French
Keyword : coq au vin, French chicken recipe, chicken casserole in red wine, chicken stew
Servings : 5 people
Calories : 782kcal

Description

Authentic French casserole with chicken in red wine. Recipe has a long marinade time to intensify flavours which cuts down final cooking time.

Ingredients

  • 1.5 kg (3lb 5oz) Organic/free range chicken cut into 8-10 pieces

Red Wine Marinade

  • 75 cl (1 bottle) red wine e.g. Pinot Noir, Shiraz, Grenache
  • 4 medium carrots peeled and cut into large chunks
  • 2 cloves garlic finely chopped
  • 2 Spring onions cut into 4 (or 15 baby pearl onions)
  • 1 bouquet garni (2 bay leaves, large sprig fresh thyme and parsley stalks)
  • 1/2 tsp whole black peppercorns

Rest of the Sauce

  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 2 tbsp Cognac (if none, use Whisky)
  • 400 g (about 15) mushrooms sliced in half or quartered
  • 75 g (3oz) pearl onions
  • 200 g (7oz/½ cup) bacon bits or lardons smoked
  • 30 g (2 tbsp) plain flour or 1 tbsp cornflour/cornstarch
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 15 g (1 tbsp) fresh flat-leaf parsley chopped (to garnish)

Instructions

Marinade

  • First get your butcher to cut the whole chicken into pieces or, if you have a good knife, do this at home. As a result, you have a mixture of on and off-bone chicken. (I like to keep the skin on just for the thighs and remove the rest to cut down on the fat but this is personal. If you prefer it all with the skin, then go ahead but it will make the sauce even richer.)
  • Boil the red wine in a saucepan until reduced by a third then cool. (This removes the alcohol and intensifies the colour and flavours.)
    In a large bowl with the chicken bits, add the carrots, bay leaf, thyme, garlic, peppercorns and onions and pour over the cooled wine.
  • Cover and leave to marinate in the fridge for 24 hours.

Preparing the Chicken & Sauce

  • Next day, drain the marinade into a colander over a bowl to separate the juices.
  • Dry the chicken pieces with kitchen paper. Then, over a high heat in a heavy-based casserole dish, fry the chicken in olive oil on all sides for about 10 minutes or until cooked through. Flambé with the Cognac.
  • Sprinkle over the chicken with the flour and toss around the pan to coat it all evenly. Gradually add the marinade liquid while tossing the chicken around (this will stop any lumps from forming). Boil up the sauce until it's bubbling and thickened.
  • Add the marinade vegetables minus the bouquet garni. Lower the heat and leave to simmer with the lid on for about an hour (or more, depending on the sizes of your chicken pieces)*.
  • Dry fry the bacon bits (there's enough fat in the bacon already), mushrooms and pearl onions in a separate pan. Then add to the dish. Leave to reduce together for a further 15-20 minutes.

Notes

Note: please don't use dried herbs - fresh thyme and parsley are not an option. For more, see the market page on bouquet garni and aromatic herbs.
Serve with good, crusty fresh baguettes. Alternatively serve with sautéd potatoes or a gratin dauphinois.
* The kind of chicken used does change the cooking time. If you do use a coq, then cooking time will be another hour. If chicken is already soft and tender, cooking time can  be about an hour to 2 hours. 
Nutritional Information: 782 calories for 5 portions (74g protein)

From the market

From the kitchen

6 responses to “Coq au Vin (Chicken Casserole in Red Wine)”

  1. 5 stars
    I made your Coq au Vin not long ago and it was a hit. Had everyone singing C’est Si Bon.
    Thank you for a wonderful recipe Jill

  2. 5 stars
    A beautifully inspiring Coq au Vin recipe vs some tasteless ones I have tried; Coq au Vin is the perfect rustic dish but does not mean has to be mediocre and this recipe gives it justice – with a great Burgundy wine. Le bonheur !

    • So thrilled to hear this, Véronique. Thank you! I tried so many different approaches and loved this one with the long marinade time.

  3. 5 stars
    Pass the bread, no potatoes for me on this dish! Looks absolutely fabulous, Jill! A wee bit like cacciatore in Italy.

    • Aye, no tatties in this one. Interesting on the Cacciatore – makes me think of Corsica’s equivalents too. Didn’t think of that – thanks, Christina.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Recipe Rating