The Cheater coq au vin recipe caught my eye as a great dish to prepare for Mother’s Day. The picture looked lovely and any recipe with a French name has to be good. Think about it, you know I’m right. Plus, the word ‘cheater’ in the title meant two things to me: 1) that there was something about the original non-cheater recipe that increased its level of preparation difficulty and that 2) this level of difficulty had been removed in the ‘cheater’ version and, likely, the consumer of the dish would be none the wiser.
Real coq au vin (originally ‘rooster in wine sauce’ but now a popular chicken dish) includes a step where you must ignite the cognac or brandy. Thankfully, this step is excluded from the Chatelaine version of the recipe. I have difficulty lighting a candle without burning the tip of my thumb so I can just imagine the state of my eyebrows if I were to light a pan of alcohol.
I was excited to make this French dish for a few reasons, one of which was that my generous and thoughtful colleagues had thrown me a surprise baby shower before my last day at work and given me, among other things, a beautiful new deep frying pan with a lid, which looked to be the perfect size for this recipe. I washed it up and admired its pristine finish and hoped that I wouldn’t ruin it my first time using it.
In Step 1, I browned the bacon and watched as the shiny mirror-like surface of my new pan faded and darkened before my eyes. Once the bacon was removed and the mushrooms were added to the bacon fat in the pan, the bottom got increasingly browner. When the mushrooms were cooked, I removed them and coated the pan with oil so that I could brown the chicken. I removed the chicken then melted the butter to sauté the onions.
I was concerned that my pan was tarnished forever. But when I got to the step of pouring in the wine and stirring in ‘any brown bits from pan bottom’, I was amazed and relieved to see that the two cups of red wine lifted everything from the bottom of the pan! I added the rest of the ingredients (broth, cognac, Dijon and thyme) and smiled knowing that, this time at least, I had not ruined my newest and now most-prized cooking equipment. I added the bacon, mushrooms and chicken to the sauce and once it reached boiling, I turned it down to simmer for 25 minutes. This gave me time to prepare the potatoes and a green salad.
This meal took about an hour to prepare and it was an hour well spent. I took one bite and proclaimed, “It tastes like France”! I had visions of being in Bourgogne, sitting by candlelight at a centuries-old wooden table, eating with generations of family, taking generous sips of red wine and engaging in boisterous conversation. It was just a vision, not a memory. My family tree is comprised of a multitude of Anglophones and though I did live in France for a year in my twenties, it was in the south and I don’t think I have ever had coq au vin, a northern dish, before. Nor have I ever been to Bourgogne.
We really enjoyed this meal: all three adults and one toddler. Our two-year-old joined us in dipping crusty bread into the flavourful sauce. Although I won’t be spending Mother’s Day with my mother, as we live in different provinces, perhaps I can make this for her as a belated Mother’s Day meal when she comes to visit in a few weeks to meet our soon-to-be-born baby. In the meantime, we have enough leftovers to feed us all tomorrow night!