My casserole dish is seeing heavy use at the moment: with each day seeming incrementally colder and darker than the last, a blipping stew sitting on the hob feels like a defence against the encroaching winter.
This week I’ve been making a variation on coq au vin: coq au riesling. As the name would suggest, coq au vin is a French dish, made by cooking chicken in wine. Traditionally, that ‘coq’ would be a cockerel, older and tougher than the chicken, but the slow braising in the liquor-rich sauce renders it tender and flavoursome. But then, traditionally, the dish would also use blood for thickening.
Don’t worry: I’m not going to suggest you try to procure either an ageing rooster or a bag of blood. Some traditions are products of their time, and best consigned to it. Instead, I like to use bone-in, skin-on chicken thighs, as the flavour is more robust than with breast meat, and I thicken with flour, which feels distinctly less intimidating than blood.
A standard coq au vin uses red wine, but after a recent hearty, French red-wine braised dish on the Vintage Chef, I decided to ring the changes by giving you a recipe for coq au vin’s Alsatian cousin, coq au riesling. Its paler colour than the coq au vin does not, however, make it a poor relation.
In fact, I think I far prefer coq au riesling: chicken and white wine are an obvious pairing, more obvious really than dousing the light meat with a bottle of ballsy, heavy red. Dotted with silky leeks, buttery button mushrooms, and smoky pops of lardons, then enriched with cream, stirred in at almost the last moment, this rich, creamy, and fragrant dish feels perfect for cold, rainy days.
A couple of notes on the cooking process: as with our recent boeuf bourguignon recipe, it pays to sauté the leeks and mushrooms separately and drop them into the dish just before serving so that the vegetables brown but don’t stew and become slimy. If the sauce is still quite thin at the end of its cooking time, pop back on the hob over a medium-high heat and reduce a little before adding the cream so that the finished dish isn’t too soupy. Don’t worry if you can’t find a bottle of decent riesling: the dish will be just as good with another medium dry white.
Coq au Riesling
Makes: Serves four
Takes: 30 minutes
Bakes: 1 hour (on the hob)
100g smoked lardons
4 large chicken thighs, skin on bone in
1 onion, diced
1 clove garlic, chopped finely
1 tablespoon plain flour
500ml riesling, or dry white wine
300ml chicken stock (homemade or made up from a stockpot)
150g baby chestnut mushrooms
2 leeks, sliced 1cm-wide
1 large fistful of flat leaf parsley
- Put the lardons in a large casserole dish and place over a medium-high heat until the lardons are golden and crisped. Set the lardons to one side, but leave any fat that’s come from the bacon in the pan.
- Add the chicken thighs to the pan skin-side down and brown the thighs, turning them when the skin is golden. Remove the thighs, set to one side and turn the heat to low.
- Cook the onion until it is soft and translucent, but not browned. Add the garlic and cook for a further minute. Stir the flour through the onions and garlic until it sizzles, and cook for one more minute.
- Add a splash of the wine to the pan and stir, scraping the bottom of the pan. Pour in the rest of the wine and the chicken stock and return the lardons and chicken to the pan. Bring the liquid up to a boil, turn down the heat down to low and simmer for an hour. Keep an eye that the sauce doesn’t reduce too much: add a little water if it’s starting to look dry.
- Meanwhile, melt the butter in a separate frying pan. When the butter is foaming add the mushrooms and cook until they begin to colour. Add the leeks, turning to coat in the butter and cook for another minute or so. Remove from the heat and set to one side.
- When the chicken has had its cooking time, have a look at the sauce: if it’s looking a little thin, increase the heat and reduce the sauce until it’s thick and glossy. Try a little of the sauce and season to taste.
- Finally, add the cream and cook over a medium heat for ten minutes. Add the mushrooms and leeks to the dish, and sprinkle with parsley.