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Balthazar's Coq au Vin

Balthazar's Coq au Vin

It might seem bizarre turning to an American cookbook for a classic French recipe but this version from the Balthazar Cookbook is hard to beat.

Though we might be inclined to use a tender young chicken, Coq au Vin was originally made by braising the meat from a sinewy old rooster in cheap red wine for a long period of time.

Serves 4

4 large stewing hen legs
1 large yellow onion, cut into 1cm dice
1 large carrot, cut into 1cm dice
2 celery stalks, cut into medium dice
1 head of garlic, halved horizontally
1 bottle of red wine*
1 bouquet garni
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
4 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons tomato paste
3 tablespoons plain flour
750ml veal stock (for which there is a recipe in the book) or homemade chicken stock
250g pearl onions, peeled
225g smoked streaky bacon in one piece, diced
450g small button mushrooms
3 tablespoons chopped flat-leaf parsley

In a large bowl, combine the legs, onion, carrot, celery, garlic, wine and bouquet garni. Cover with cling film and refrigerate for 24 to 36 hours.

Strain the legs and the vegetables from the marinade, reserving the liquid and separating the chicken and vegetables. Season the legs with salt and pepper.

Heat the olive oil in a large casserole. When it begins to smoke, add the legs, in batches if necessary, being sure not to crowd the pan. Brown evenly and deeply on all sides, about 8 minutes per side. Set the finished legs to the side and discard the oil; replenish it between batches.

When finished browning the legs, reduce the heat to medium and add the reserved vegetables to the pot. Cook until they soften and begin to brown, about 5 to 8 minutes. Stir in the tomato paste and cook for about 2 minutes, then add the flour, stirring again for about 2 minutes. Add the reserved wine marinade and, as it bubbles up, use a wooden spoon to scrape the bottom of the pot and incorporate any flavourful bits into the broth. Simmer until the liquid has reduced by half, about 20 to 25 minutes, then add the stock. As it reaches the boil, reduce the heat to low and maintain a slow and gentle simmer for 1 hour, at which point the meat should be meltingly tender.

Meanwhile, prepare the rest of the ingredients: blanch the pearl onions in boiling water for 5 to 7 minutes, until tender. Drain and set aside. Cook the bacon in a dry frying pan over a medium heat until brown, about 10 minutes, then remove with a slotted spoon. Add the mushrooms to the pan and the now very hot rendered bacon fat, cook until brown, about 5 minutes, then remove with a slotted spoon. Add the blanched pearl onions to the pan, sauting until they too are brown, about 5 minutes.

Remove the legs from the braising liquid and strain the contents of the pot, reserving the liquid and discarding the vegetables. Bring to a strong simmer and skim the surface of the sauce as it bubbles, removing any visible fat. When the sauce has reduced by half, return the legs to the pot along with the bacon, onions and mushrooms and simmer for an additional 15 minutes. Just prior to serving, add the chopped parsley.

Serve with French-style pomme purée (creamy mashed potato)

From The Balthazar Cookbook by Keith McNally, Riad Nasr & Lee Hanson, published in the UK by Absolute Press, price £25.

What to drink*:
The tradition with this types of recipe is to drink a slightly better version of the wine you've used to cook it - a Nuits-St-Georges when you've used a basic burgundy for example but a less well-known appellation like Aloxe-Corton or Fixin would be less costly and rather more interesting. Or you could perfectly well use an inexpensive southern French red

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