How to Make Classic Coq Au Vin

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  • Whole chicken
  • Salt, pepper
  • Flour
  • Canola or other neutral oil
  • Onions, diced
  • Carrots, cut into chunks
  • Pearl onions
  • Button mushrooms, whole or chopped if large
  • Hearty red wine
  • Stock, preferably veal
  • Slab bacon

Translated as chicken in wine, coq au vin is one of the few dishes best known by its French moniker. The two main ingredients—chicken and wine—must be of good quality, says Ken Frank, owner and executive chef of La Toque in Napa, California.

He uses free-range organic chicken, but it doesn’t have to be organic—just good quality, he says. Traditionally the chicken is marinated in red wine but he finds it makes the dish too “winey” so he skips that part.

The wine itself should be of decent quality and preferably French, says Frank. “The wine needs to have character, be hearty and be absolutely dry. Just a hearty French country wine. Something average priced—you don’t even need to spend $10 a bottle.”

  1. Cut chicken into pieces. Salt, pepper, and flour it then brown it off in a pan with a neutral flavored oil—Frank uses canola.
  2. Add onions, carrots, pearl onions and button mushrooms and cook for one or two minutes.
  3. Deglaze with a good amount of wine to almost cover the chicken then bring to a boil.
  4. Add stock. Simmer for about 45 minutes to cook the chicken. Leave uncovered so the stock and wine reduce and the sauce thickens a little. “The flour coating of the chicken makes the sauce thick enough and rich enough without it being heavy,” Frank says.
  5. Make lardons, which are small bacon bits made from slab bacon. Coq au vin is not complete without them, he says. 
  6. To make them, cut the slab bacon into one-inch cubes. Boil them in water for five minutes then drain them and put them in a sauté pan with no oil over medium-low heat for 10 to 12 minutes. Let them brown, shaking frequently so they brown on all sides. They render enough fat on their own to do this. “You’ll have lardons that are crunchy, chewy and soft all at the same time,” Frank says. “That is a particularly sexy bite of pork.”
  7. Serve over fresh noodles like fettuccine, which is Frank’s preferred style, or over rice or mashed potatoes. Toss the noodles in a little butter. “Put a piece of chicken on top and spoon some beautiful sauce over it, then sprinkle some lardons on top,” Frank says. “It’s really simple and has always been one of my favorite dishes.”

Ken Frank began his culinary career as a dishwasher in the kitchens of France, but it was then that his love of cooking was cemented. He moved back to the U.S. and at the age of 23 opened the first La Toque on Sunset Boulevard in Los Angeles. He’s run the current incarnation of La Toque in Napa since 2008 and in 2009 it was awarded a Michelin star.