In this delicious version, the wine tastes as good in the pot as it does in the glass
4-pound chicken, cut into 8 pieces
10 ounces pearl onions
6 ounces sliced bacon, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
2 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
1 medium yellow onion, halved and cut into thin slivers
4 large carrots, thinly sliced
2 teaspoons salt
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
1/3 cup Cognac
6 parsley stems
1 teaspoon herbes de Provence
1 bay leaf
3 1/2 cups fruity red wine (preferably California Pinot Noir)
3/4 stick (6 tablespoons) unsalted butter
1 teaspoon sugar
1 pound small cultivated mushrooms (fresh button mushrooms), wiped clean and quartered
2 tablespoons flour
1/4 cup chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
1. Wash and dry the chicken pieces. Leave the breasts on the bone, and split each half breast in half; you will now have 4 breast pieces, 2 wings, 2 thighs, and 2 drumsticks.
2. Drop pearl onions into a small pan of boiling water for 1 minute. Remove and, when onions are cool enough to handle, peel off the skins. Set aside.
3. In a deep skillet, large enough to hold all the chicken, sauté bacon over moderately high heat until well browned and crispy, about 7 to 8 minutes. Remove bacon and set aside on paper towels to drain. Leave fat in pan. Pat chicken pieces dry and sauté until golden brown, about 3 to 4 minutes per side. Remove chicken and set aside. Discard all but 3 tablespoons of fat and return pan to the heat.
4. Add the garlic, yellow onion, 1 cup of sliced carrots, 1 teaspoon of salt, and the pepper. Sauté vegetables, stirring occasionally, until nicely browned, about 8 minutes. Reduce heat to low and then, using a bulb baster, remove as much fat as possible from the bottom of the pan. Put chicken back in pan and pour in the Cognac. Carefully light the Cognac with a match, then gently shake pan so that the flaming Cognac coats all the chicken.
5. When the flames have subsided, add parsley stems, herbes de Provence, bay leaf, cloves, remaining salt, and red wine. Bring to a boil, scrape bottom of pan to deglaze it, cover pan, and reduce heat. Simmer gently for about 12 minutes, until chicken breasts are cooked through but still tender. Remove them and cover with foil. Continue cooking dark meat, covered, for another 8 to 10 minutes. Then remove it and reserve with chicken breasts.
6. Strain the liquid, pressing down on the solids to extract as much sauce as possible. Degrease the liquid and return to the pan. Over high heat reduce the liquid for 10 minutes, until thickened slightly. Turn off heat.
7. In another pan, melt 2 tablespoons of the butter over moderately high heat. Add pearl onions, remaining carrots, sugar, and enough water to just cover the vegetables. Cook until water is evaporated and vegetables are tender, about 20 minutes. (The vegetables should be coated with a light buttery glaze.)
8. Melt 2 tablespoons butter over high heat in a large skillet. When butter is hot, sauté the mushrooms, until nice and golden, about 5 minutes total. (Do not overcrowd pan or mushrooms will steam and not brown properly.) Set aside.
9. Knead remaining butter together with flour, forming a smooth paste. Bring the reduced wine sauce up to the boil and slowly whisk in the paste, a little at a time. Continue cooking over high heat, stirring constantly, until the sauce has reached a desirable thickness, about 5 minutes. Reduce the heat to moderate and return chicken, bacon, and onions, carrots, and mushrooms to the sauce. Reheat for 5 minutes.
10. Arrange chicken pieces and vegetables on a large serving platter. Cover with sauce. Sprinkle with chopped parsley. Serve immediately.
When Americans began to familiarize themselves with French cooking, coq au vin -- the ancient, long-cooked chicken stew of France's Burgundy region -- was one of the first dishes they took to. The delicious version here makes sense today for two reasons. First, the cooking time is considerably cut down -- yielding chicken pieces with more texture, and a dish that can be prepared at the end of the day. Second, no longer do we have to spend money on expensive red Burgundy to make an authentic coq au vin; these days, delicious young wine is being produced in California from the red grape of Burgundy, Pinot Noir. The wine is as good in the stew pot as it is in the glass. Serves 4