Coq au Vin Blanc

This week, I've failed to come up with any sort of pre-planned meals and it's sent me into a bit of a tizzy because I'm too indecisive to come up with anything good quickly. I find myself debating what kind of meat I should be taking out of the freezer, what the sides should be, what the flavor should be...and if I don't remember to take the meat out the night before or in the morning before work, then we're really screwed; that's when I default to pasta...generally the same pasta over and over again :)

So, Monday night I took out two chicken thighs, figuring I'd come up with a recipe, Tuesday, on my lunch break...which I did not. When I got home, I decided I felt like Coq au Vin, but I hate making the same meal over and over and I'm supposed to make it with Megan soon, so I really didn't want to end up eating it three times in a three week period. That's the whole point of planning an entire week's meals ahead; I can make something completely different all the time.

I thought that if I switched out the red wine for white and then ignored the traditional Coq au Vin mix-ins (like tomato and mushrooms), it would be changed up enough for me to feel like I was still getting some kind of variety. So, I pretty much came up with this dish on the fly. I took a look at two Coq au Vin recipes, simply to determine liquid-to-meat proportions and cooking times. Then, I thought about what would taste good with chicken and white wine.

That's what I love about cooking. You can take almost any dish and simply use it as a base to translate it into something completely different! This is only the second dish I've come up with on my own using Coq au Vin as a base; the first was chicken curry and I already have so many more in my head. With Coq au Vin, you basically sauté your foundation flavors (onion and garlic), brown some chicken, then throw it all in a pot along with other flavor enhancers (like herbs, mushrooms, and tomato) and some liquid (chicken stock, wine, and brandy). Then you just let the meat cook in the liquid, remove it, and reduce the liquid to become a thicker sauce. That's it! It's the simplest thing in the world and there are so many choices to change it.

The Coq au Vin Blanc sauce with vegetables.

With my chicken curry, for example, I sautéed onions, garlic, and peppers, browned my chicken, then threw it all in a pot with coconut milk, curry paste, and some other flavor enhancers like ground ginger and mirin. Once the chicken was cooked, I removed everything but the liquid, cooked it down to a sauce, and then put the whole thing over a bed of coconut jasmine rice laced with salty chopped peanuts. It was delicious!

Other ideas I've had are using the same method to cook chicken or beef in a chili sauce (much like a sauce you'd get over an enchilada), a sweet rum soy sauce (with sweet potatoes), and an apple cider sauce. You can pick out almost any vegetable to cook with it...any side dish like rice, potatoes, or pasta. The options are pretty much endless; you just have to think about what flavors you like, what you think would taste great together, and then you have a brand new meal! All cooked in the same pot...all superbly delicious.

So, with this meal, I sautéed onion and garlic, browned some chicken thighs, and then cooked it all with chicken stock, white wine, chopped herbs, and root vegetables. Once everything was finished, I served it over a simple bed of jasmine rice (my go-to rice!) seasoned with salt, pepper, a tiny bit of garlic powder, and a combination of extra virgin olive oil and butter. It ended up, literally, being one of my favorite meals of all time. I couldn't believe how well it turned out and I'm so excited. Thank goodness, for me, that I actually paid pretty good attention to the amounts I was using and the ingredients! Now, I'll be able to replicate it any time I like :)

And so can you.

Coq au Vin Blanc

Since I made up this recipe as I went along, a lot of the amounts are approximations, which is why you'll often see "about x amount." If you use a minimum of the amounts I give, you'll be fine. If you prefer even more flavor, simply add more herbs at the end, when you're thickening up the sauce. I doubt you'll need it, though!

  • 2 chicken thighs, bone-in, skin on (you'll remove it after cooking, but it helps flavor!), dried thoroughly (necessary for true browning)
  • about 1/4 of a big, sweet yellow onion -- roughly chopped (you want big chunks)
  • 3 average-sized cloves of garlic -- finely chopped
  • 1 1/2 cups chicken stock
  • 1/2 cup white wine
  • root vegetables (for two people, I used about 2 medium-sized carrots and equivalent parsnips)
  • 1 bay leaf (preferably fresh)
  • about 6 decent sized leaves fresh sage (chopped)
  • about 3 sprigs fresh thyme
  • 1 1/2 tsp cornstarch, mixed with 1 1/2 tsp cold water

In a dutch oven, set on the stove to medium/medium-high heat, sauté the onions in extra virgin olive oil. You want to get them at least translucent, if not caramelized, so they should sauté for several minutes; if they start to brown, lower the heat accordingly. Toward the end of the sauté (maybe after about 5 minutes) add the garlic and move the mixture around the pot constantly, ensuring the garlic doesn't burn. When the garlic looks nice and golden, remove the mixture to a bowl and set aside.

Add a little more oil to the pot (just to coat the bottom--you're sautéing, not frying) and, when it's just started to smoke, add the chicken, skin side down. You just want to brown the chicken, which brings out its flavor more, so you should only be cooking it for a few minutes--until it's a nice golden walnut color. Turn the chicken often while it's browning, though, to ensure it doesn't burn. This isn't necessary if you're well-versed in browning chicken, but I always burn it, so turning often helps a lot. Once a piece is ready, remove it to a plate. 

When all pieces have been removed, add the wine and chicken stock, scraping the bottom of the pot with a wooden spoon to scrape up any browned bits, which also flavor the dish. Season the browned pieces of chicken with salt and pepper and add them back to the pot. Also add the onion/garlic, vegetables, bay leaf, sage, and thyme (leaves pulled off the stems! Just scrape your fingernails along the stem and the leaves will slide right off into the pot). Make sure everything's immersed well in the liquid and turn up the heat to bring it to a slight boil; reduce the heat to a simmer (the lowest heat should suffice), cover it with the lid, and let it cook for 15-20 minutes, until the meat feels tender when pressed (careful not to burn your fingers, haha).

When the chicken's fully cooked, remove it from the pot and set aside on a dish. Discard the bay leaf (you never want to eat it, you just want to use its flavor) Leave the lid off the pot and turn it up to high, allowing it to boil and reduce by about half its volume; this should take about 6 minutes. If you've multiplied the recipe at all, make sure you reduce for that much longer. Add the cornstarch and water mixture to the liquid and stir to combine; it'll quickly thicken. Once the sauce is thickened to your liking, add the chicken back to re-warm. 

For presentation purposes, you may want to lay a bed of white rice on a serving dish, cover it with the vegetables and sauce, then top it with the chicken, skin side up. If you don't really care about presentation, though (I only did for the photograph), you may want to remove the skin before adding it back to the pot or serving it. After browning, it will have crisped up nicely, but once cooked in the bath of liquid, the skin softens, which (to me) is not very appetizing. 

For me, the sauce makes the dish; it's really the most delicious part. So, I recommend mixing it really well throughout the rice on your plate :)

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