One of the most classic dishes of French cuisine is coq au vin, that famous stew of rooster braised in red Burgundy wine. Really it does not have to be made from rooster, capon or chicken are just as much called for in traditional recipes. The practice of stewing meat in wine is very much ancient. Coq au vin traces its history back to Roman times when France was a part of Gaul, which combined most of western Europe. This dish doesn't rely on one type of wine. It can be made with any wine, and regions throughout France do make it with their local wines. The two best-known versions are made with Pinot Noir or Riesling.
The region of Alsace specializes in coq au Riesling. Food from this area has a slight German slant, since the province once belonged to Germany. Alsace is a very important wine-producing region, specializing in Riesling, recognized as some of the best all over the world. The wine is used in many traditional dishes such as baeckeoffe and of course coq au Riesling. Braising the meat in wine for a long period not only thoroughly flavors the meat, but it also helps make it particularly tender, especially if your using a tough old rooster.
Instead of using a rooster or even a whole chicken, I simply make this stew with thighs, which provide lots of flavor and hold up during the long cooking time. Classic versions of this recipe often start with rendering bacon for flavor and richness. I chose to skip that step to keep the dish a bit more light. There will, however, be lots of flavor and richness from the crème fraîche. The sauce is thickened with a traditional French technique of stirring in a butter-flour paste called beurre manié. It gives the finished sauce a wonderful thick viscosity. Serve the chicken over egg noddles, white rice, or the more traditional spätzle. Whichever you choose, you will be thoroughly pleased with this comforting meal.
Coq au Riesling
8 chicken thighs, skin on, trimmed of fat
fine sea salt
freshly ground black pepper
1 tablespoon olive oil
3 tablespoons butter, divided
3 shallots, finely chopped
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 tablespoons Cognac or brandy
1 cup dry Riesling
1 cup chicken stock
8 ounces cremini mushrooms, stemmed, cut into eights
1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
1/2 cup crème fraîche or sour cream
1/4 cup finely chopped parsley, for garnish
Liberally season chicken with salt and pepper. Warm oil and 1 tablespoon butter in a large deep pan or Dutch oven set over medium-high heat. Sear the chicken in batches until browned all over. Remove to a plate.
To the hot pan add shallots and garlic; sauté until soft, about 3 minutes. Deglaze pan with Cognac. Place the chicken back in the pan. Pour in wine and stock. Bring to a gentle boil. Lower to a fast simmer and cook, covered, until chicken is tender, about 45 minutes. Turn chicken once during cooking time.
Meanwhile, warm 1 tablespoon butter in a skillet set over medium heat. Add mushrooms and sauté until lightly browned.
Remove chicken to a plate and keep warm. Increase heat to high to reduce the sauce by a third. To thicken the sauce, knead the remaining 1 tablespoon butter and flour into a paste. Add to pan and stir constantly until the sauce thickens. Stir in crème fraîche and mushrooms. Check seasoning. Return chicken to pan and reheat. Serve over buttered egg noodles. Garnish with parsley. Yield: 4 to 6 servings.