“Life for the Italians was what it was, no more and no less, an interlude between meals.” -Abraham Verghese, Cutting for Stone
When I was a kid, my mom taught me that you dress up to show respect for an occasion. No, this isn’t a post about my visceral reaction to leaving the house in sweatpants, but rather how this lesson has translated to my meals. Odds are, when you’re spending time with friends or family, you’re sharing a meal together. And if that meal is on a holiday, hours and hours were probably spent planning, prepping and cooking that meal. Those meals are the bookmarks of our lives. So when it comes time to preparing meals for loved ones, spending time thinking about what I’m going to cook and cooking that meal (usually biting off more than I can chew, no pun intended), is a way of showing respect for the fact that someone is taking time out of their busy life to spend time together. I put love in to that meal.
Last friday, my husband and I had his sister and her boyfriend over for dinner. It’s not every day we get to spend time together, her boyfriend had never seen our new house, and hell it was a Friday, so I wanted to make something special. And since I’ve become obsessed with all things Parisian after our trip to Paris last spring, coq au vin, chicken braised in red wine sauce, seemed like the logical choice. I spent hours prepping and braising this delicious dish, listening to my Edith Piaf Pandora station, putting love in to this meal. I had a great time, and we had a wonderful evening.
As I said, this meal is not a weeknight meal. But if you’re willing to put in the time, the effort is well worth it. Note: Make sure the bacon you choose isn’t overly smoky, or it will overwhelm the red wine sauce you spent so much time making!
Adapted from Bon Appetit
- 6 skin-on, bone-in whole chicken legs (thigh & drumstick)
- 12 oz. bacon, cut in to 1/2” pieces
- 4 carrots, peeled, finely chopped
- 4 celery ribs, finely chopped
- 1 yellow onion, diced
- 1 bottle red wine, such as Burgundy (I used a Côtes du Rhone)
- 1/2 cup tomato paste
- 2 cups low-sodium chicken stock
- Small bunch of fresh thyme & a few sprigs of fresh rosemary tied together with butcher’s twine
- 1 lb. assorted mushrooms chopped in to bite sized pieces (I used mostly baby oyster mushrooms & a few cremini mushrooms because that what was available but you could go wild here)
Preheat the oven to 350˚. Liberally season your chicken legs with kosher salt and freshly ground pepper.
Heat a couple tablespoons of olive olive over medium-high heat in a Dutch oven (or other large ovenproof pot). Brown your chicken legs on both sides, two at a time, until golden brown, about 5-7 minutes per side. Transfer the browned chicken to a plate.
After you finish browning the chicken, add the bacon to the pot and cook until rendered. Add celery, carrots and onion and cook until soft and the onion is translucent, about 7 minutes. Add 1/4 of the bottle of red wine and the tomato paste, stir to release all the browned goodness from the bottom of the bot and simmer for about 2 minutes. Add the remainder of your bottle of red wine and simmer until the red wine is reduced by about half, 15-20 minutes.
Returned browned chicken to the pot, add your fresh herbs, and add chicken broth. Cover and bring to boil. Transfer the pot to the oven and braise for 1 1/4 hours.
When your chicken is almost done braising, bring a large sauté pan to medium heat. I can’t remember where I learned this now, but someone taught me to add your mushrooms to a dry pan, allow them to release a little of their own moisture first and then add olive oil. They get less greasy when cooking, I swear, no one knows why or maybe I just can’t remember. Cook the mushrooms until browned, about 10 minutes.
Remove your Dutch oven from the oven (be careful, it’s HOT!). Add the mushrooms to the chicken, and simmer the sauce until reduced by about 1/3, about 20 minutes. Season with salt and pepper if needed. Be careful not season the sauce before it reduces, or it could get overly salty and peppery. Bon appétit!