Jan’s Fresno friends come to San Jose every year for the Quilt Festival and we feed and put them up every year. Pat likes chicken and Barb does not eat tomato, so a coq au vin came to mind as a dish that they would both would like. In my mind, red wine never seemed to go with chicken, I prefer a coq au vin with a nice white wine.
The original coq au vin is a stew of vegetables and chicken braised in wine—originally preferably a cock. Rosters tend to be tough old birds that needed a long cooking time to become tender. One of the challenges of such a stew—using a regular commercial chicken—is that if you add the bird at the beginning of the stewing process you may come out with a flavorful broth, but you will be left with tough, stringy, and tasteless meat.
The last time I made a dish similar to this, I cut the chicken into small pieces, spiced them, formed them into a patty, and then fried it. This is a America’s Test Kitchen trick to get the good flavor of the Maillard reaction without drying out your meat. While browned chicken added their flavor to the the stew, the texture of the chicken suffered by the time the dish was finished cooking.
In my experiments with Asian soups, I discovered that poaching chicken pieces until just short of cooked through produced moist, tender, and flavorful morsels when they were added back to the soup just before you finished the dish. While this trick might produce good chicken, the broth would suffer. To get the flavor of the Maillard reaction I decided to start with bone-in and skin-on chicken thighs. Roasting the skin and bones gave me back the flavor for my broth.
Many people serve coq au vin with noodles, potatoes, or rice. Wife Jan really likes chicken and dumplings. Today, I decided to herb them up by adding chives.
Karl’s Coq au Vin Blanc with Chive Butter Dumplings
1½ lb. chicken thighs, skin-on, bone-in
750 ml. sauvone blanc, multiple uses
1 tsp. chervil
1 tsp. tarragon
1 tsp. thyme
1 tsp. kosher salt, separate uses
¼ tsp. black pepper
4 cloves garlic, separate uses
1 yellow onion, separate uses
3 large stalks celery, separate uses
1 medium carrot, sliced
1 bay leaf
3 Tbs. butter, softened
3 Tbs. AP flour
1 cup AP flour
2 tsp. baking powder
½ tsp. black pepper
½ tsp. Kosher salt
4 Tbs. butter
¼ cup chives, sliced finely
⅔ cup milk
¼ cup flat-leafed parsley, minced
1. Remove the bones and skin from the thighs.
Tip: Reserve the bones and skin to make your stock.
2. Cut the thighs into one inch pieces and place them in a bowl.
3. Add ½ cup of the wine, the chervil, tarragon, thyme, ½ tsp. salt, pepper to the chicken.
4. Use a garlic press to add one clove of garlic to the chicken.
5. Stir to coat the chicken with the wine and herbs.
6. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 4 hours.
Tip: Overnight is better.
7. Lay the chicken skins and thigh bones on a lipped baking sheet and broil them 2 inches from the heating element.
Tip: Rotate the pan and flip the chicken pieces after 10 minutes. Continue broiling until the pieces are well darkened. Check often towards the end and remove any pieces that are endanger of burning. Transfer finished pieces to a bowl.
Note: If some of the chicken bits burn, especially pieces of the skin, discard the burnt bits—well-browned, not black.
8. When the chicken bits are done, spoon 3 Tbs. of the chicken fat into a large soup pot.
9. Cut half of the onion and one stalk of celery into a fine dice.
Tip: Cut the other half of the onion and the remaining celery into a coarse chop.
Note: Reserve the coarsely chopped vegetables for later.
10. Sauté the onions with a half teaspoon of salt until they start to pick up some color, 5-7 minutes.
Tip: While the onions are cooking, mince two of the garlic cloves.
11. Add the celery and continue sautéing until the vegetables have softened, another four minutes.
12. Pull the vegetables to the sides of the pot and sauté the minced garlic in the hole in the center until fragrant, about one minute.
Tip: You may add a little more chicken fat or butter, if necessary.
13. Deglaze the pot with a splash of whine and then add a cup of the wine to the pot.
14. Cover the pot and simmer for 15-20 minutes to soften the vegetables.
15. Remove the pot form the heat and blend the soup until smooth.
Tip: Let the soup cool slightly and use a standing blender.
Note: Use some more of the wine to rinse out the blender.
16. Bring the soup to a simmer and add the chicken pieces to the pot.
Tip: Scrape any remaining marinade into the pot.
Note: You will be removing the chicken after poaching, but the short simmer rinses some of the herbs and spices into the soup.
17. After the chicken has simmered for 5 minutes, remove the pieces to the bowl.
Tip: Rinse the chicken bowl while the pieces are simmering.
Note: The bowl does not need to be super clean, you will be cooking the chicken more later.
18. Add the bay leaf and the chopped onions, celery, and carrots to the pot.
19. Stir in the rest of the wine, bring the pot to a boil, reduce the heat, and cover the pot.
20. Simmer the stew for 10-15 minutes.
21. While the stew is simmering, mix the softened butter and flour together into a paste.
Tip: You will be adding this thickener just before you add the dumplings to the stew.
Note: This paste is called a Beurre manié.
22. Put the flour, baking powder, pepper, and salt into a medium bowl.
23. Whisk to mix the dry ingredients.
Tip: You may run the flour through a sifter several times to get an even blending.
24. Grate the butter into the flour.
Tip: Fluff the flour with a spatula to coat the strands of butter.
Note: Use a pastry cutter to chop the butter into small bits.
25. Stir the chives into the dry ingredients.
26. Stir in the milk and let the dough rest for 3-4 minutes.
Note: Your dough should become light and fluffy, as the baking powder begins to act. Do not continues to mix the dough at this point or you will knock out the gasses that have formed.
Finishing the stew
27. Whisk the flour paste—the Beurre manié—into the stew.
Tip: While you want the butter thickener evenly distributed throughout the stew, you are not going to continue cooking it now until it actually thickens the broth.
Note: The final thickening will take place as you cook your dumplings.
28. Stir in the chicken pieces into the stew.
Tip: Taste the stew and adjust the seasoning by adding more salt and/or pepper, if necessary.
29. Spoon large scoops of the dough around the top of the stew.
Tip: When you are done you should have most of the stew covered with floating lumps of dough.
Note: It is OK if there are gaps between the dumplings, they will expand as they cook to cover the stew.
30. Simmer the stew uncovered for 10 minutes.
31. Cover the pot and continue simmering for another 10-15 minutes, until the dumplings are cooked through.
Tip: If you have an instant read thermometer, simmer until the dumplings have an internal temperature of 200º F.
32. Serve the chicken and dumplings directly from the pot.
Tip: You may provide some minced flat leafed parsley to garnish the individual bowls.