Braising 101: Coq au Vin

We're getting into some more in depth techniques in class and I'll be highlighting the recipes we've made to demonstrate techniques we've learned. This week we learned more about braising and stewing poultry. One dish that applies techniques we've learned about is Coq au Vin. It's a classic French dish in which chicken is braised in wine...

Here are some notes on braising:

Braised or stewed poultry should be moist and fork tender. The poultry is always served with teh liquid in which it was cooked. Ducks and geese are braised or stewed in much the same way as red meats. Coq au vin is an example of braised or stewed chicken dish.

Selecting Poultry to Braise or Stew
Braising and stewing, being slow, moist cooking processes, are often thought of as a means to tenderize tough meats. Although they can be used to tenderize older, tougher birds, these cooking meathos are more often selected as a means of adding moisture and flavor to poultry that is inherently tender, such as young ducks and chickens. Typically, the birds are disjointed and cooked bone-in, just until done, so that they retain their juiciness.

Seasoning Poultry to be Braised or Stewed
Braised or stewed items obtain much of their flavor from the cooking liquid and other ingredients added during the cooking process. The main item and the cooking liquid should be well seasoned. If other seasonings such as an onion, sachet, bouquet garni or dried herbs and spices are required, they should be added at the beginning of the cooking process rather than the end. This allows the flavors to blend and penetrate the larger pieces of poultry. If the poultry is dredged in flour before browning, seasonings may be added directly to the flour. As with all dishes using combination cooking methods, the finished dish should have the flavor of the poultry in the sauce and the moisture and flavor of the sauce in the poultry.

Cooking Temperatures
Some recipes, such as coq au vin, require the main item to be thoroughly browned during the initial stages, where as some other recipes do not. In either case, after the liquid is added, it is important to maintain a slow simmer rather than a rapid boil. This can be done on the stove top or in the oven. Low temperatures control the cooking and produce a tender, juice finished product.

Determining Doneness
Tenderness is teh key to determining doneness. It can be determined by inserting a kitchen fork into the poultry. There should be little resistance and teh poulgrt should freely fall off the fork. The pieces should retain their shape, however; if they fall apart, they are overdone. Small boneless pieces can be tested by cutting into them with a fork.

Accompaniments to Braised and Stewed Poultry
All braises and stews are cooked in a liquid that results in a sauce or broth sefved as part of the finished dish. Rice, pasta, and boiled potatoes are natural accompaniments to almost any braised or stewed dish, as are boiled vegetables.

Procedure for Braising or Stewing Poultry

  • Sear the main item in butter or oil, developing color as desired.
  • Add vegetables and other ingredients as called for in teh recipe and sauté
  • Add flour or roux if if used.
  • Add the appropriate liquid.
  • Cover and simmer on the stove top or in the oven until done.
  • Add seasonings and garnishes at the appropriate times during the cooking process.
  • Finish the dish by adding cream or a liason to the sauce or by adjusting the consistency. Adjust the seasonings.
  • Serve a portion of the poultry with the sauce and appropriate garnish.
Coq au Vin

2-3 pounds frying chickens, each cut into 8 pieces
flour as needed for dredging
salt & pepper to taste
4 tablespoons clarified butter
1/4 cup brandy
Bouquet Garni:
- 1 4 inch carrot stick
- 1 4 inch leek, split & cleaned
- 1 spring fresh thyme
- bay leaf
6 garlic cloves, peeled & crushed
3 cups red wine
2 cups chicken stock
1/2 cup bacon lardons
18 pearl onions
10 white button mushrooms, quarted
Beurre manié as needed *

*A beurre manié is a dough, consisting of equal parts of soft butter and flour, used to thicken soups and sauces. By kneading the flour and butter together, the flour particles are coated in butter. When the beurre manié is whisked into a hot or warm liquid, the butter melts, releasing the flour particles without creating lumps.

Mise en place

Cut each chicken into eight pieces and dredge in flour seasoned with salt and pepper.

Heat the clarified butter in as 12 inch braiser; brown the chicken in two or three batches.

Add the brandy and ignite. When the flame dies, add the bouquet garni, garlic wine and stock. Bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer. Cover the pan and simmer until the chicken is tender, approximately 40 minutes.

In a separate pan, sauté the bacon until the fat begins to render. Add teh onions and sauté until they begin to brown. Cook the bacon and onions covered, over low heat, until the onions are tender. Add the mushrooms and cooking them until tender.

Remove the chicken from the pan and adjust the sauce's consistency with the beurre manié. Strain the sauce through a china cap and adjust the seasonings.

Spoon the bacon, onions and mushrooms onto a serving platter, place the chicken over them and ladle the sauce over the finished dish.

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