Tuesday, May 2, 2017

Classic Coq au Riesling: Traditional Alsatian Cuisine

Coq au vin can trace its history back to Roman times when France was a part of Gaul, which at the time included most of western Europe. A classic dish, Coq au Riesling is a chicken stew with much the same ingredients as Coq au Vin, except the wine in the recipe is not red, but a fresh, mineral-rich Riesling. A rich and refined dish with a nuanced, silky sauce, Coq au Riesling comes from the Alsace, a region influenced by both French and German cuisines. Wonderfully comforting on a cold winter’s night, it is rustic, earthy and layered, and like Coq au Vin, braising the meat for a long period not only thoroughly flavours the meat, but also helps make it particularly tender, especially if using a tough old rooster. 

Both begin with sautéed onions and garlic in butter, then the browned meat, and finally mushrooms and some fatty bacon lardons before pouring in enough wine and cream to cover the meat. Then it’s a simple matter of letting it braise, low and slow. Best prepared in a Dutch oven or Le Creuset casserole, the dish can be cooked either on the stovetop or in the oven, so long as the pot is covered. The longer it cooks, the richer the flavour and the more succulent the meat. Wine of course, is the backbone of this sauce, and combined with heavy cream and mushrooms, luscious Coq au Riesling is delicious served over buttered egg noodles or spätzle and a zesty green Bibb salad.

Coq au Riesling 
Serves 4

3 tbsp unsalted butter
2 tbsp olive oil
2 onions or leeks, finely chopped
4 oz pancetta or smoked bacon, cut crosswise into 1/4-inch lardons
4 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
8 chicken thighs, skin on and trimmed of all fat
2 cups cremini mushrooms, trimmed, cleaned and quartered
2 cups Riesling
2 tbsp brandy or cognac
1 cup heavy cream
1/4 cup each of chopped parsley, dill and tarragon
salt and pepper to taste
Buttered egg noodles or spätzle, for serving

Dry off the chicken with a paper towel and let sit at room temperature for 30 minutes. Liberally season chicken with salt and pepper. Warm oil and 1 tablespoon butter in a large, enameled cast-iron casserole set over medium-high heat. Sear the chicken in batches until browned all over, then remove from the casserole and set aside on a plate.

Add the pancetta or smoked bacon and onions, and cook until the onions are soft. Add the garlic, cooking for just about 1 minute and then remove the bacon, onions and garlic from the pan and set aside. Add the mushrooms to the empty pan and cook for 5 minutes, then remove and add to pancetta and onion mixture. Add the wine and simmer for 1 minute, scraping up the browned bits from the casserole, then place the pancetta, onions, garlic and chicken back to the pan. 

Let the mixture come up to a boil, then turn down the heat, cover and set in a preheated 300°F oven for 30 minutes. Remove from the oven, add the cream, making sure to pour around the chicken not on top of it, as this helps keep the skin crisp. Cook on the stove over medium high for another 10 minutes to allow the sauce to thicken, adding a little flour if desired. Serve over buttered egg noodles or spätzle to mop up the sauce, and garnish with chopped parsley, dill and tarragon. 

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