My grandmother used to make a coq au vin in which she braised pieces of rooster or chicken with wine, shallots, mushrooms, and pancetta. Her version was delicious, but it wasn't until I was working alongside the great chef Georges Blanc that I truly understood just how sublime this French country classic could be. This was early in Blanc's career, before he transformed his family's inn, La Mère Blanc, located in the village of Vonnas in the foothills of Burgundy, into one of France's most beautiful restaurants. At the time I worked there, the local farmers' market and slaughterhouse were directly across the street. Very fresh!
At 10 a.m. the farmers would march in, take their seats at the bar, and order plates of coq au vin. For them it was a snack, or a casse-croute, as we called it. Blanc's variation of the dish had an intensity of flavor and color that resulted from reducing the wine before using it to marinate the poultry. In France, the recipe calls for a rooster, as per its name, but I often substitute a good-?quality farm-raised chicken. Pasta is the usual accompaniment, but at DB Bistro Moderne our former chef Olivier Muller, who is from the Alsace region of France, liked to pair it with spaetzle. Sauté the pasta dumplings in a nonstick pan; they'll take on a crunchiness that marries perfectly with the rich and concentrated red wine sauce.
WHAT TO DRINK
"For this Burgundian dish, there's no better pairing than a Burgundian wine," says Daniel Johnnes, wine director of Daniel Boulud's restaurants. Johnnes recommends David Duband Côtes de Nuits Village 2011 ($30). "The bright flavor of cherry, the wonderful spice aroma, and the silky texture of this Pinot Noir cut through the rich, wine-based sauce," he says. As an alternative, he suggests the fuller-bodied Clos de la Roilette Fleurie Cuvée Tardive 2011 ($25), which he describes as "a cru Beaujolais with a dark fruit taste and a crystalline mineral quality."
Classic coc au vin gets an update when paired with spaetzle. The flatware is by Arte Italica.
COQ AU VIN
2 750-ml. bottles dry, full-bodied red wine
2 3 ½-lb. chickens, cut into 4 breasts, 4 thighs, and 4 legs
4 celery stalks, peeled and cut into 2" batons
2 heads garlic, sliced in half
2 lbs. button mushrooms, cleaned and trimmed
1 lb. pearl onions, peeled
½ lb. slab bacon, cut into ¼" batons
1 sachet of 8 sprigs thyme, 1 fresh bay leaf, 2 tsp. coriander seed, and 1 tsp. cracked white pepper, tied in cheesecloth with twine
4 T flour
4 cups unsalted chicken stock
½ bunch fresh parsley, leaves picked
Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
In a large saucepan, reduce the wine by half, then set aside to cool. Place the chicken in a large container with the celery, garlic, mushrooms, onions, bacon, and sachet. Cover all ingredients with the reduced wine and marinate in the refrigerator overnight.
Preheat the oven to 325°F. Drain the marinated ingredients; reserve the wine. Pat the ingredients dry, and season the chicken with salt and pepper. Place a large Dutch oven over medium heat and add the bacon. Cook, stirring until crisp, and then remove with a slotted spoon and reserve. Sear the chicken on all sides in the bacon fat (you may need to do this in batches). Remove the chicken; add the vegetables and sachet, and cook, stirring occasionally, about 5 minutes. Add the flour and cook, stirring, for another 4 minutes.
Add the wine, crisped bacon, chicken, and chicken stock. Bring to a simmer, cover with a round of parchment, and transfer to the oven. Cook, stirring and basting the chicken at least three times, until the chicken is tender at the bone, 1 to 1½ hours.
If the sauce seems too thin, remove the chicken and vegetables, return the sauce to the heat, and reduce until it reaches the desired consistency (it should coat the back of a spoon). Incorporate all the ingredients back together, season to taste, and serve, garnished with the parsley.
¾ cup whole milk
3 eggs 1 yolk
½ cup crème fraîche (or sour cream)
2 ¼ cups flour
½ tsp. salt, more to taste
1/8 tsp. ground white pepper, more to taste
1/8 tsp. ground nutmeg
2 tsp. olive oil
2 T butter
3 T chopped parsley
Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. In a small bowl, whisk the milk, eggs, yolk, and crème fraîche until smooth. In a large bowl, whisk to combine the flour, ½ teaspoon salt, 1/8 tsp. pepper, and nutmeg, and make a well in the center. Pour the egg mixture into the well, and, using a spoon, stir from the middle outward, slowly pulling the dry ingredients into the wet. Once fully incorporated, stir for a few seconds more until the batter looks sticky. The batter should be fairly wet, but with a consistency thick enough to sit on top of a spaetzle maker, food mill, or colander. Press the batter through the spaetzle maker or colander into the boiling water. Once all the spaetzle rise to the surface, strain them, rinse in cold water, and toss in the olive oil to prevent sticking.
Brown half of the butter in a large non-stick sauté pan. Add half of the spaetzle, toss until lightly browned, and then toss in half of the parsley. Transfer the browned spaetzle to a bowl, and repeat the process with the re maining ingredients. If needed, season to taste with more salt and pepper.