There is so much debate around the best food dishes in France and I have to say there are just too many to choose from.
That being the case I’ve set myself a challenge. I’ve made a list of all the famous French dishes I can think of, and I’m going to work my way through them.
I’m starting off with Coq au Vin, chicken (rooster) in wine, a French staple and one I’ve tasted many times. And of course I do live in Chez le Coq, so it seems only fitting.
However, this recipe has a twist. Usually this dish is made with red wine, but I’m using white. So it’s Coq au Vin Blanc.
My French neighbour and friend Anne is an amazing cook and she told me to never be afraid to experiment. Her Coq au Vin is absolutely delicious.
The last time I had it, it was made with mushrooms foraged from the forest nearby. There’s a whole story behind how the French love to forage in my post about what it’s like to live in France.
I recently watched a new show about the fabulous cook Julia Child called Julia. It really was brilliant and starred Sarah Lancashire and David Hyde Pierce.
But it made me realise it’s never too late to develop a love of cooking.
Julia herself said “I was 32 when I started cooking; up until then, I just ate.”
I love that. So I’m taking a leaf out of Julia’s book and at the age of 51 am developing my new found passion for cooking.
Where did Coq au Vin originate from?
We all love to know the origins behind a dish and the French have plenty of stories to tell when it comes to food.
This dish is a peasant dish made with leftovers originating from the Burgundy region of France. Legend has it that it goes as far back as the Gauls and Julius Caesar.
The rooster itself was seen as a symbol of valour to the Gauls. The story goes that the leader of the Gauls sent a rooster to Julius Caesar as a show of strength. Basically saying that they’d never be beaten. A bit of a fingers up.
The rooster was promptly sent back by the Romans, but cooked in wine to show they weren’t intimidated by this. And they promptly defeated the Gauls.
How true this is we’ll never know but it’s a great story and one I’m happy to go with. However, the first recorded recipe was around 1864 in the book ‘Cookery for English Households’.
It mirrored Coq au Vin although it was called ‘Poulet au Vin Blanc’.
What ingredients go into this dish?
Good question. Coq au Vin Blanc doesn’t have lots of complicated ingredients. If you’re sticking with the traditional recipe then you’ll use mushrooms along with the chicken, bacon, onions, garlic, cream and wine.
However, I popped a carrot in with mine to add some colour. Plus I’d just received some carrots straight from the garden of my next door neighbour, Claud the farmer.
“ "You don't have to cook fancy or complicated masterpieces—just good food from fresh ingredients."”
What cut of chicken should you use?
Really you can use any cut of chicken for this dish. I tend to favour chicken thighs but I’ve made it with breast and legs too.
Remember with many French dishes it’s about being able to use whatever you have available. Expensive cuts of meat aren’t usually the order of the day.
In fact, another story I heard around this dish was that it used only meat that was too tough to roast.
Anne told me the main thing to remember with the meat is to keep the skin on the chicken. This helps with the flavour because you brown the skin first before leaving it to cook in the pot.
Which wine is best for Coq au Vin Blanc?
One of the things I loved about making this dish was how easy the sauce was. There was no constant stirring and not too many ingredients.
You don’t need to go really expensive with the wine either. And as we all know, you can get a good bottle of wine in France for very little money.
I used a crisp Sauvignon Blanc for this recipe as hubby loves a glass of white. That way, as the recipe only calls for half a bottle, he could enjoy a glass or two with his meal.
I’m not a white wine fan I’m afraid. It’s red or rose for me.
How to make the creamy white wine sauce
The base ingredient for the sauce is bacon. Quick side note, I substituted bacon for Chorizo as that’s what I had in the fridge. It has a slightly more overpowering taste, but still worked well.
The first step is to crisp up the bacon to really get the flavours going. Then remove the bacon from the pan and add the chicken browning on both sides.
Once you’ve removed the chicken then it’s time to add the onion and garlic. When they’re translucent add a swig of white wine to the pan.
This will help you to scrape up the bacon bits stuck to the bottom of the pan. It all adds the flavour.
Once you’ve deglazed the pot, pop in half a bottle of wine, add the bacon and chicken back in, along with the carrot and mushrooms, cover and simmer for around 35 minutes.
It’s that simple. The cream isn’t added till the end when you leave the lid off and it all starts to reduce.
You’re then left with a thick and creamy white wine sauce that is simply delicious.
The only way to mop it up is with a nice crispy baguette.
6 pieces of Chicken on the bone with the skin on (cuisse de poulet)
125gm of Lardons (bacon)
3 Cloves of Garlic chopped (ail)
1 x Onion Diced (oignon)
125gm Mushrooms (champignons)
1 Carrot Sliced – optional (carotte)
200 ml of Single Cream (La Crème légère épaisse en poche de Normandie)
½ Bottle of White Wine – (vin blanc)
Salt & Pepper
Asparagus or Green Beans (asperges or haricots vert)
Step 1 – As always, do your prep first so you’re ready to cook. Pull out a good size pan or dutch oven to cook everything in. Dice the onions, chop up the garlic, peel and dice your carrot, if using, and halve your mushrooms. If you’re not using lardons then roughly chop your bacon. Open your bottle of wine and you’re all set.
Step 2 – Add a dash of olive oil to the pan and fry up your lardons till they’re nice and crispy. Remove them from the pan with a slotted spoon and set them aside in a fairly large dish that has enough room for the chicken.
Step 3 – If needed add another spoon of olive oil and fry up your onions till they’re translucent. Pop in the garlic and sauté for around 60 seconds or so. Add a glug of wine to scrape everything off the bottom then put everything else back, including your veg, into the pot.
Step 4 – Pour about half the bottle of wine into the pot but don’t completely submerge your chicken. Make sure the top of the chicken is still visible. Put the lid on and cook on a medium heat for around 30-35 minutes.
Step 5 – Add the cream and stir it in and leave it to simmer for ten minutes. Do a quick taste test and add more salt & pepper if needed.
Step 6 – Serve with a side dish of asparagus and french beans and of course, a fresh crusty baguette.
Don’t forget to check out all my other recipes >>>
Bon appétit et merci beaucoup!