Coq au vin is thought of as a fancy pants specialty by American standards, but like many French recipes, it comes from a very modest background. Coq au vin – literal translation: rooster with wine – is a rustic, poor-man’s recipe born from the agitated and exhausted farmer who, tired of early wake up calls, chopped the roosters right in their garbling necks and then had to find a use for its meat.
Only the rooster meat wasn’t tender. When roosters spend their waking hours chasing plump-breasted hens, fighting dogs and generally being farmhouse terrors, their meat toughens. If you’ve never spent time on a farm, let me lay it out flat for you: roosters are assholes, and hens are hardly any better, which is why when I eat them, I laugh. I laugh for the time a chicken jumped in my face when I was a preteen and got its claw caught in my golden hair, and also for the time when, unprovoked and out of absolutely nowhere, a rooster flew at me and clawed my arm deep. The Amish farmer shrugged, probably thinking, “what did you expect from an asshole?” I laugh now because the tables have turned, chickens.
Roosters, as high-energy bros with a taste for blood, build tough, fibrous rooster muscles that aren’t really good for roasting, so other methods were employed.
The time-strained farmers of yore would throw the rooster in a stock pot with a bottle of burgundy, lardons or bacon, spring onions, carrots, celery and some herbs – or whatever they had on hand, really – and set it on low to cook while they worked their bones throughout the day.
Time and the alcohol in the wine would break down the muscle and connective tissues, tenderizing it while the scent of braising rooster and wine travels through the airway sending a cautionary message to nearby cockerels: watch out. A finishing touch of rooster blood would then be added to the sauce to thicken it and give it a morbidly rich flavor. If you don’t have rooster blood on hand — and who doesn’t? — you can substitute it with a roux.
If you live in America, and don’t happen to live in an area close to chicken farms, then rooster might be hard to come by. There isn’t much of a market for them in the States, so a regular broiler hen would work, but if you can get your hands on a capon (a castrated rooster with tender, flavorful meat) then that’s your best bet.
Traditionally, the ingredients are thrown together in a big pot and the rooster or hen is slow braised in wine, which can result in greasy, flabby skin. To instead come out with a chicken that has crispy skin, I spatchcock the bird (you’re confused already, but I’ll explain in a minute) and roast it, preparing the sauce separately on stove. Also, instead of browning whole mushrooms, I just stuff the skin with a mushroom duxelles. Because it’s fancier.
Now this spatchcocking business: It’s a real word, I promise. Even if my spell checker says it isn’t. And more than being a fun word to say, it’s a pretty efficient way of roasting (or grilling!) a whole chicken. To spatchcock (see images below), you cut out the backbone and flatten the carcass across the roasting pan so all of the skin is facing up. This ensures all the skin gets browned evenly and the roasting time is shortened.
Just like the lives of loudmouthed, little-boy-abusing roosters.
How to Spatchcock a Bird
OVEN ROASTED COQ au VIN with MUSHROOM DUXELLES
Note: To keep the process organized and quick, prepare and set out all ingredients prior to starting. The directions look long, but it really is not very difficult or labor intensive. Preparation time: 30 minute(s) Cooking time: 1 hour(s) 10 minute(s) Number of servings (yield): 6 To make the mushroom duxelles To spatchcock the chicken (refer to images in post): To prepare sauce (prepare after putting bird in the oven to roast) To prepare/finish chicken.
Note: To keep the process organized and quick, prepare and set out all ingredients prior to starting. The directions look long, but it really is not very difficult or labor intensive.
Preparation time: 30 minute(s)
Cooking time: 1 hour(s) 10 minute(s)
Number of servings (yield): 6
To make the mushroom duxelles
To spatchcock the chicken (refer to images in post):
To prepare sauce (prepare after putting bird in the oven to roast)
To prepare/finish chicken.