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Coq Au Vin: History & A Note from Sarah

With the change of each season comes the change in what grows, and in what we eat. Spring brings foods that pop, such as peas, mint, chives, and mushrooms. As summer approaches we lighten up and move into more herbs, greens, & tomatoes. 

Upon the arrival of fall, we start to root down and gravitate toward squash, sage, apples, pomegranates, and oh I could go on! As we enter Winter, we move into my favorite foods-comfort food. Dishes that are warming and rich, dishes that cook all day and are served in a giant bowl with a really big spoon-I can see myself hovering over bowls of short ribs with polenta, ragu over pasta, (winter never really seems to bring too many greens to my table like spring and summer) and of course, my favorite, a big bowl of Coq au Vin. 

So what is Coq au Vin anyway?

By translation, it means “rooster in wine.” That doesn’t sound that appetizing when you put it that way, I know, but historically speaking this stew required a low and slow braising time to make that tough rooster meat, well, edible. Coq, in French, means rooster. When applied to Coq au Vin then, we are referring to a peasant dish that today would be better translated to “poulet au vin.” Again, taking a rooster and available root vegetables and braising them in wine for hours to achieve a tender, nourishing, and comforting dish that we can share with a crowd. Chicken is now the most traditional centerpiece for this dish, allowing us to shorten that braising time and still have the same outcome. There are plenty of stories around the origin of this dish and I won’t downplay its history, but today the focus is on two things: the chicken and the wine. 

The Wine: 

Classically, a Burgundy (Pinot Noir) wine is used as a braising liquid but any wine can be used-varying our translations just a bit. For example, poulet au vin blanc may use a Reisling, Sauvignon Blanc or any nice dry/crisp white wine which will shift the outcome 

a bit. Either way, when it’s all said and done, you will have a most elegant dish. 

The Chicken: 

For chicken, I like to use a whole chicken that I break down myself- which has a variety of benefits. First and foremost, picking up a whole chicken will guarantee that you get the SAME chicken! When we pick up that package of chicken pieces at the market, there is zero guarantee that the wings are from the same chicken as the legs or the breast. This creates an issue with uniformity, thus, varying cook times, flavor, and so forth. 

We feature this recipe in our Fall & Winter France cooking class, and for times sake, we use bone in thighs. When selecting thighs for class, our chefs do look for thighs that are uniform in size, and bone in will always lend a ton more flavor to the dish. 

We teach our Coq Au Vin with chicken thighs, pearl onions, mushrooms, and carrots that are braised 

in the oven while we complete a few other French classics. When I make this dish at

home or for friends, I typically serve it with a turnip puree or mashed potatoes. Any way you swing it, you will build & braise a dish that will comfort, nourish, and no doubt, please a crowd! 

For more info and to book your French cooking class, visit us at: 


2 tablespoons good olive oil
4 ounces good bacon or pancetta, diced
1 (3 to 4-pound) chicken, cut in 8ths
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
1/2 pound carrots, cut diagonally in 1-inch pieces
1 yellow onion, sliced
1 teaspoon chopped garlic
1/4 cup Cognac or good brandy
1/2 bottle (375 ml) good dry red wine such as Burgundy
1 cup good chicken stock, preferably homemade
10 fresh thyme sprigs
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature, divided
1 1/2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1/2 pound frozen small whole onions
1/2 pound cremini mushrooms, stems removed and thickly sliced


Preheat the oven to 250 degrees F.

Heat the olive oil in a large Dutch oven. Add the bacon and cook over medium heat for 8 to 10 minutes, until lightly browned. Remove the bacon to a plate with a slotted spoon.

Meanwhile, lay the chicken out on paper towels and pat dry. Liberally sprinkle the chicken on both sides with salt and pepper. When the bacon is removed, brown the chicken pieces in batches in a single layer for about 5 minutes, turning to brown evenly. Remove the chicken to the plate with the bacon and continue to brown until all the chicken is done. Set aside.

Add the carrots, onions, 2 teaspoons salt, and 1 teaspoon pepper to the pan and cook over medium heat for 10 to 12 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the onions are lightly browned. Add the garlic and cook for 1 more minute. Add the Cognac and put the bacon, chicken, and any juices that collected on the plate into the pot. Add the wine, chicken stock, and thyme and bring to a simmer. Cover the pot with a tight fitting lid and place in the oven for 30 to 40 minutes, until the chicken is just not pink. Remove from the oven and place on top of the stove.

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