There are times that call for Julia Child’s Coq au Vin: Holidays. Birthdays. Someone special coming over. (I always knew my mom liked her dinner guests when I saw Mastering the Art of French Cooking splayed on our mustard-colored formica counter.) And there are times that call for the abbreviated version. Like two weeks after coming home from the hospital with our firstborn. Thanks to casserole-bearing well-wishers, we hadn’t cooked for ourselves for what seemed like years, but it was a cold Sunday night and we had some red wine begging to be put to use, and so we did what we’d do about eight thousand times in the next ten years: We took some shortcuts. We used chicken thighs instead of hacking up a whole chicken. We skipped the igniting of the cognac (and the cognac itself); Instead of making separate recipes for brown-braised onions and sauteed mushrooms, we just threw both into the pot with the chicken. The recipe we came up with and still make ten years later — unless someone special is coming over, in which case we stick with Julia’s — isn’t quite fast enough for a weeknight meal. But it’s just right for an easy Sunday family dinner. Especially the kind of Sunday family dinner when you forgot that soccer practice ends at 6:00 so you won’t be able to start browning or simmering anything until 6:30. The kind of Sunday dinner where you have to go back and forth from the stovetop to your eight-year-old’s bedroom in 10-minute stints because all day you promised you’d play school with her but never got around to it. In other words, the normal kinds of Sunday dinner.
Quick-ish Coq au Vin
We ate this with a green salad and a fresh baguette, but you’d probably be better off listening to Julia’s advice for sides. She recommends serving with buttered peas and parsley potatoes.
1 piece good quality bacon
3/4 cup flour
1 tablespoon mustard powder
salt and pepper
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 3/4 pounds chicken thighs
1 onion, chunked
2 garlic cloves, smushed, but still whole
1 tablespoon tomato paste
1 cup chicken broth
3/4 cup red or white wine
1 cup sliced carrots (or more if your kids love these as much as mine)
1 bunch thyme, tied with string as shown
handful mushrooms, sliced
In a Dutch oven or large enamel pot, fry bacon over medium heat. Remove when crispy and chop into smallish pieces.
Add flour, mustard powder, salt and pepper to a large dinner plate and mix up with your fingers or a fork.
Add oil to the bacon fat in the Dutch oven. Raise heat to medium-high. Dredge* chicken in flour mixture then add to the pot and brown, in batches if necessary, about 3-4 minutes a side. (They do not have to be cooked through.) Remove to a plate and set aside.
Decrease heat to medium. Add onions and garlic to the pot and a little more salt and pepper. Stir until onions are slightly wilted, 3 minutes. Smush in tomato paste, then add chicken broth and wine and whisk until integrated.
Add chicken back to the pot along with bacon, carrots, thyme, and mushrooms. Chicken should be mostly immersed. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer 30 minutes until liquid cooks down a bit. (We probably only waited about 15 minutes because we were all so hungry and it was still delicious, if a little brothy.) Remove thyme and garlic cloves and serve.
*Dredge = Using your fingers or a fork, press chicken pieces into flour mixture until covered all over. Lift and shake off any excess flour.