coqauvin

Coq Au Vin and Cru Beaujolais, A Pairing

I’ve embarked on a new wine studies journey with the goal of becoming a certified sommelier. The task involves a heavy amount of studying, tasting wine {perks!} and learning the harmonious art of food and wine pairing. For me, each step requires a sensorial activity where I can experience what the books tell me. Luckily, wine, itself, is a sensory experience, especially when paired with food. This is a journey I can’t tackle alone, fortunate for me, Scott has been in the wine industry for more than a decade and I take advantage of his expertise each step of the way. 

When I told Scott that I had finally made the decision to pursue a certification in wine studies his eyes lit up, he has nagged me for years about it but I didn’t see the need as I wasn’t working with wine or intended to do so. This year I started working at a wine-focused restaurant in the guest-serving side of the spectrum rather than the kitchen, which is a shift in mentally, but also un uphill battle of information and new knowledge. Wine is now a part of my everyday life, at work or at home.  

As part of this journey, on the weekends Scott and I are going to prepare a dish and pair it with a wine, using regionality, flavor profiles and intensity to create a rewarding meal with an educational angle. This week we cooked coq au vin, a traditional French dish, and paired it with a Cru Beaujolais from Château du Moulin-À-Vent, both from the Burgundy region in France. 

The Dish
Coq au vin is chicken stewed in wine, most notably red wine, although it can be cooked in any wine. Coq au vin’s history had a male chicken or rooster as its star in French country fare, and the recipe was first published in L’Art du bien manger, by Richardin Edmond in 1913. Because the rooster’s meat is tough it isn’t a highly priced protein as it requires long cooking for little meat, nowadays recipes use chicken, which is tender in comparison and takes 30-40 minutes to stew. 



As always when it comes to traditional French food I resourced to Julia Child’s Mastering the Art of French Cooking, whose directions are precise and well-researched. And as always Julia uses butter to cook everything, including the bacon to help render the fat to brown the chicken. The main ingredient in the recipe, beside the chicken, is the wine, and it’s here where the first decision on the pairing begins. Julia suggests using either a red Burgundy, a Beaujolais, or a Chianti, wines which are naturally high in acid, to cook the bird and to drink. Because the flavors of the wine concentrate as it cooks, yielding a deeply flavored sauce with a good balance of acid from the wine and fat from the butter and the bacon, we started with a vibrant Cru Beaujolais with cherry and dark berry notes, great for drinking as well as cooking. 



One of the surprisingly delicious elements of this dish are the pearl or small yellow onions, which are first browned in butter and then cooked in wine, stock and herbs until tender. Their sweetness intensifies as they cook, plus the sweetness and acidity of the wine make them a delightful addition to this and any dish. Mushrooms are also browned in butter and set aside. The chicken simmers slowly in the wine until tender then taken out of the sauce and arranged with the onions and mushrooms in a casserole; then the sauce cooks down, sans poulet, until reduced by about 1/3. It is here where a good French cooking trick comes into play – beurre manié – or kneaded flour in butter, the best thickening agent you’ll ever use. Whisk a couple of tablespoons into the sauce, bring it to a boil to create a silky sauce to cover the chicken casserole. 
We served it with herbed mashed potatoes and fennel and Brussel sprouts salad.

The Wine
In 2015, Scott and I visited Château du Moulin-À-Vent as part of our Burgundy wine tour. For Scott going to France meant visiting and understanding the wine regions he had studied for years, in my case, I’d have preferred to spent more time in Paris but was willing to drink my way through Burgundy to make him happy. It was our second trip to the region and I had fallen for the charming rolling hills, the deep history and the great wine. 

Château du Moulin-À-Vent is located in Beaujolais on the southern corner of the Burgundy region, where the red grape of choice is Gamay instead of Pinot Noir. Burgundy is a complex wine region divided in five sections with Chablis to the north and Beaujolais to the south. Beaujolais itself offers a variety of wines, from the light and fruity Beaujolais Nouveau, which has no comparison to more complex and elegant Cru Beaujolais. I’m still working on understanding the differences between the ten Crus of the Northern portion of the designated Beaujolais wine region through tasting and practical uses, as the region’s soils change from village to village plus winemaker’s styles also vary. 

We used Château de Poncié from the Fleurie Cru to cook the dish, an excellent wine to drink, and cook, with a light to medium body, tart berry notes, and soft tannins. For drinking, we chose from the Moulin-À-Vent Cru, a more muscular version of the same gamay grape, but with the same tart acidity that makes the Cru Beaujolais wines so great with food, and to sip while reading a book. Price was another reason for the choice of wine used for cooking and for drinking, with the more affordable, yet delicious wine used for cooking, and the higher priced wine for drinking. 

Beaujolais Cru wines have suffered from the wide-spread experience the public has with Beaujolais Nouveau, two wines that have nothing in common besides the Gamay grape they are made from. Because of that, one can find excellent quality wines for reasonable prices from any of the ten Beaujolais Crus as explained on this Beaujolais purchasing guide

Pointers

  • This food and wine pairing involves wine in both the plate and the glass, so keeping them in one region and grape allows for a better integration
  • Wines with higher acidity, herbal notes, and tart fruit lend a layer of enhancing flavors to the dish
  • For cooking, use a wine you would be pleased to drink, if you don’t like the flavor of the wine you won’t like the final dish as it concentrates as it cooks down. We love drinking Château Poncié Fleurie Le Pré Roi, any night of the week, so we knew it was a great choice for this dish. 
  • Personal taste preferences play a role, if you like more fruit-forward wines, like a  California Pinot Noir, you might find Burgundy and Cru Beaujolais too dry. If you have a tasting buddy, put a Cru Beaujolais, a red Burgundy, and a California Pinot Noir side by side to figure out where you taste preferences land. Make sure to report back.
  • A fruitier wine might lend richer fruit flavors to the dish, let me know if you try it and how it turns out

Coq Au Vin
From Mastering the Art of French Cooking, by Julia Child 


I made a couple of small changes to the recipe. Julia calls for a whole bird cut into pieces, however Scott and I don’t eat chicken breast and prefer the legs, so I purchased 6 whole legs instead. The weight is about the same. The recipe also asks for a chunk of bacon, or pork belly, but the store didn’t have it so I purchased an 8oz package of sliced bacon, and skipped the bacon blanching step.
This recipe cooks in about 1 hour.

4 oz bacon, diced
6 chicken legs, cut into thigh and drumsticks, and dried with paper towels 
1/2 tsp salt
1/8 tsp black pepper
1/4 cup cognac
3 cups red wine, such as Beaujolais, Burgundy, Côtes du Rhône, or Chianti
1 cup chicken stock
1/2 tbsp tomato paste
2 garlic cloves, minced
1/4 tsp thyme
1 bay leaf


Onions
24 pearl onions, pealed and kept whole
1 1/2 tbsp butter
1 1/2 tbsp oil
1/4 cup stock
1/4 white wine
4 parsley sprigs, 1/2 bay leaf, 1/4 tsp thyme 

  • In a wide shallow sauce pot, brown the onions in the oil and butter, tossing them around to avoid burning
  • Add stock, wine, and herbs, bring to a simmer, cover the pot and simmer slowly for 40-50 minutes or until knife tender.

Mushrooms
1/2 lb whole mushrooms, clean but fully dried to help them brown
2 tbsp butter
In a separate sauté pan heat the butter, working in batches if necessary, brown the mushrooms tossing them around. Set aside.


  • In a deep, heavy bottom casserole pot cook the bacon to crisp and to render the fat, remove the bacon with a slotted spoon, leaving the fat on the pot 
  • Brown the chicken in the bacon fat on all sides, do it in to batches if necessary to avoid crowding as it won’t brown well
  • Add the salt and pepper to the chicken, and return the bacon to the pot. Toss it all, cover and cook slowly for 10 minutes, turning the chicken once
  • Uncover and pour the cognac, carefully use a kitchen lighter and ignite the cognac to  burn out the alcohol, shake the casserole back and forth until the flame subsides. If this step seems unreasonable, let the cognac burn out without flames, it will take a little longer but it will eventually evaporate
  • Pour the wine into the casserole and enough stock to cover the chicken
  • Add the garlic, tomato paste, thyme and bay leaf, bring to a simmer and cook gently until the chicken is fully cooked and tender 25-35 minutes
  • While the chicken cooks, prepare the beurre mainé: with a fork blend the flour and butter to a paste
  • Remove the chicken once tender and fully cooked and bring the cooking liquid to a rapid boil for a couple of minutes. Remove the bay leaf, correct the seasoning and simmer for about five minutes to reduce it slightly 
  • Whisk in the beurre mainé and simmer for a couple of minutes, stirring constantly, the sauce should begin to thicken
  • Arrange the chicken, onions, and mushrooms in a serving casserole and bathe with the sauce
  • Serve with potatoes, of your choice, we used herbed-mashed potatoes and winter greens salad

~ Paula 

 

6 thoughts on “Coq Au Vin and Cru Beaujolais, A Pairing”

  1. Happy adventures to you, it’s a great way to keep warm. Do you come across great wines in other countries that you can find here? I remember some good ones and when I come back to the States they are not to be found…I think maybe not enough of a production to be able to distribute abroad.

    1. Yes, often we find great wines for great prices where they originate, sometimes we purchase bottles as mementos and cheers with them years later as a fond memory. Here in the USA the wine prices are actually pretty good, in South America wine is extremely expensive, even from neighboring countries like Chile or Argentina.
      we’ll continue feasting!

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