Cook’s Illustrated “Modern” Coq Au Vin

This coq au vin recipe, featured in a recent issue of Cook’s Illustrated (September, 2006), is very good. I was wary of the boneless, skinless thighs it called for (sacré bleu!), but they surprisingly worked in this dish. I added a shot of cognac after sauteeing the vegetables, and — as I’m wont to do out of laziness — substituted frozen pearl onions instead of blanching, scoring, and peeling 24 fresh onions. I also pretty much doubled the mushrooms (and garlic) the recipe called for. I served the results with egg noodles and was quite happy with the results.

Modern Coq au Vin

  • 1 bottle red wine (or more if you are drinking while cooking)
  • 2 cups chicken broth
  • 10 sprigs fresh parsley (what the hell is a sprig? I just used half a bunch)
  • 1/2 bunch parsley, stems removed, chopped
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 3 slices thick-bacon, cut into “lardons” (fancy way (and a misnomer) to say “slice the bacon into strips”)
  • 2 1/2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken thighs, cut lengthwise. My thighs were smallish, so I didn’t cut all of them, and I didn’t really bother trimming the fat. Fat makes the world a better place.
  • 5 tablespoons unsalted butter. My butter had salt in it. Don’t hate me.
  • 24 frozen pearl onions, thawed, drained, and dried. I used 27.
  • 8 ounces cremini mushrooms, stems removed, halved (or quartered). I also used white button mushrooms, and kept the stems. For button/cremini mushrooms, I like the stems. I think they taste good. There, I said it.
  • 2 medium garlic cloves, pressed through a garlic press. 2? Try more like 7.
  • 1 tablespoon tomato paste
  • 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 1 shot (1 1/2 ounces) of cognac

In a non-reactive saucepan, combine wine, broth, 1/2 bunch parsley, stems and all, and bay leaves. Bring to a boil, reduce, and simmer until reduced in half, prolly around 1/2 hour or so. If you’re drinking, pour a glass of wine for yourself, and put on some music.


My mise en place, including an iPod shuffle connected to my Tivoli iPal speaker. Set List: “Guided by Voices’ Under the Bushes Under the Stars”, The Selecter’s “Too Much Pressure”, The Thermals “The Body, the Blood, the Machine”, Golden Smog’s “Another Fine Day”, Okkervil River’s “Black Sheep Boy”, Stephen Malkmus and the Jicks’ “Face The Truth”, and enough assorted singles from Paul Westerberg to properly fill out 512 megabytes.


Salt and pepper the chicken thighs. In a hot Dutch oven or huge ass sautee pan (i.e. deep and wide), swirl a tablespoon of butter and brown the thighs in two batches. Remove from pan and place on plate. Add bacon to the pan and render, then add two tablespoons of butter and sautee mushrooms for a few minutes, and then add the pearl onions.


After a minute or so, turn up the heat, then hit the vegetables with a shot of cognac. If you’re the dramatic type, you can light it on fire for a flambé, but if you’re like me and have an annoyingly sensitive indoor fire alarm, you can simply pour yourself another glass of wine and lament on what could have been. Add garlic, sautee for a few more seconds, salt and pepper the vegetables, and hit them with some of the chopped parsley.


In the meantime, you’ve already (in the past) reduced the wine/broth mixture, and strained it, right? I sure hope so. Return the chicken thighs the pan, and pour the liquid reduction over it, add tomato paste and flour, and stir. Bring to a simmer and reduce heat.


Go watch The Office and after a half hour or so check the seasoning and adjust the salt level. Continue to simmer and reduce on low heat until your coq soaks up more of the vin, and reduces to a stew, about another half hour or so. Once finished, swirl in last two tablespoons butter and remove from heat.


Serve with egg noodles, garnish with chopped parsley. There you have it, the ultimate French comfort food. The chicken thighs take on a wonderfuly complex, meaty flavor and the texture is just perfect, almost belying that it is ordinary poultry. Sit down in front of a fire with a glass of wine and enjoy your “modern” coq au vin, and if you want to complete the “modern” theme put on some “modern” French pop like Air or Phoenix and then ride the Max and pretend you’re on the Metro and then go on strike.

8 thoughts on “Cook’s Illustrated “Modern” Coq Au Vin”

  1. That looks really good. I saw that too and wanted to try it. Glad to know it works well. The color on the finished dish is so rich looking and beautiful.

    Although, I am still intrigued by the Alton Brown version where you soak the chicken pieces in two bottles of red wine overnight to start (then bake it the next day).

    But, the CI one does sound easier and quicker! Hmmm, we even have a Paris Combo CD in the house somewhere….

  2. I haven’t made Coq Au Vin in a couple of years, but you’ve enticed me to do it either this Sunday or next. Thanks. But I’m curious (blue) why were you not on board about the boneless skinless chicken thighs? Unless I’m using a whole chicken for various sundry reasons, the only part of the chicken that I buy for making soups and stews *is* the thighs. I think they’re the only part that truely has good flavor, as I find chicken overall and especially chicken breast to be fairly bland.


  3. Cat I was wary about the boneless part, just knowing how much flavor bone-in chicken imparts, particularly in a stew-like/braised dish. Growing up, my mom’s ginger chicken and lemongrass chicken stews really hit the spot because she would start with a whole chicken and cleaver it up into 30 pieces, and bones would be broken mid-part (i.e. a leg or thigh split in three). I agree with you on the thighs – when I’m making chicken satay skewers, thighs are definitely the way to go.

    Michelle – I’m going to search for the Alton Brown version, though, as with many of the things he does, generally I am loath to put that much effort into it. You ever see the show where he makes his own jerky using HVAC air filters, a $20 window fan and some bungie cords?

  4. Oh, yeah, I hear you. I have not seen the jerky show but I saw the one where he dried his own herbs using much the same set-up. Most of the time, although I love watching the show, like you, I wouldn’t spend the time doing some of the stuff he does.

    The thing I liked about his coq au vin, though, (from what i remember seeing on the ep) is that you basically pop the chicken/wine in the fridge overnight, go to sleep and then finish cooking the next day. And I can truly appreciate a recipe that includes an 8-hour sleep break :)

    fyi: According to the food network site, the Good Eats coq au vin episode is set to re-air 12/13 at 11 pm…

  5. Thanks! The pictures help. I made this today and it was sooo good. Both of my children (very picky eaters) loved it! They wouldn’t touch the mushrooms or onions but they ate around that.

  6. This looks delicious. Wish I would have seen this before I made mine yesterday. I do like doing my cooking in the oven though. I remember I used to leave my chicken in wine overnight to get that nice burgandy color. Forgot yesterday but as you said it is the ultimate winter comfort food.

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