Long before I worked in commercial kitchens I taught myself at home (as a child and teenager) to cook. To do this I searched and experimented and settled on a couple of classic cookbooks, one of the most important of which for me, was The French Kitchen by Diane Holuigue. The pages of that book became well worn as the writing and instructions of the author were an intrinsic part of my cookery education, my life long love of French cookery and my understanding the French cuisine. You’ll see why in the recipe for Coq au Vin below.
Perhaps Diane Holuigue’s talent for recipe writing was in part due to the fact that she also taught cookery. Her award winning cookery school – The French Kitchen – has taught more than 64,000 students.
As my original copy of The French Kitchen was lost during a move I was really excited to read about her new book: A Lifetime of Cooking, Teaching and Writing from The French Kitchen. Perhaps more aptly named than she realises when Diane Holuigue has given the gift of a lifetime of cooking to so many including me.
The book is the culmination of 40 years’ devotion to food captured in more than 750 pages and 1000 recipes. It comprises elements of three of Di’s beast-selling books The French Kitchen, The Clever Cook and Postcards from Kitchens Abroad, as well as 230 never-before published recipes. With notes on planning menus, tips for the hurried cook and a list of essential tools, A Lifetime of Cooking, Teaching and Writing from the French Kitchen is the complete cookbook and I encourage you to pursue your own copy.
A Lifetime of Cooking, Teaching and Writing from The French Kitchen, The Slattery Media Group ($89.95, 2012)
Coq Au Vin
Chicken in red wine, the great French classic dish from Burgundy, is a perennial favourite in the winter months.
If you’ve correctly noted its similarity to beef Bourguignon, what you are observing is regionalism at work—this is
the products of the area on the table of its housewives, and there are few greater products than Burgundian wine,
local free-range chickens and pigs, and nearby Limousin beef. Names like coq au Chambertin, coq au Meursault,
often seen on restaurant menus in France, serve only to indicate the exact wine used in cooking the chicken, and
thus are less modest versions of the same dish.
60g (2¼oz) margarine or butter, but the latter can burn before the chicken browns well
1.8kg (3½lb) chicken cut into
8 pieces, plus 2 extra thighs
1 onion, chopped
1 heaped tablespoon plain (all-purpose) flour
500ml (17 fl oz) red wine
300ml (½ pint) beef stock
1 beef cube (to reinforce the punchy flavour; notice you are still using beef stock)
1 heaped teaspoon tomato paste
3 shallots, finely chopped
1 large clove garlic, finely chopped
salt, black pepper
12-15 small pickling or baby onions
or whole shallots
butter, to fry
60g (2oz) continental streaky bacon, cut into pieces (lardons)
150g (5oz) champignons
1 teaspoon sugar
2 tablespoons chopped parsley
In a large casserole or deep frying pan with a lid, heat the margarine or butter and fry the chicken pieces until well-browned. Add the onion and brown well also.
Sprinkle the flour over all and stir to the bottom of the pan to form a roux. Add the liquids, the bouquet garni, beef cube, tomato paste, chopped shallots and garlic; season lightly at first with salt and pepper. Place the lid on the casserole and simmer gently for about 45 minutes, turning the pieces once.
During the cooking, boil the pickling onions in salted water until softened; drain and set aside. When the chicken is cooked, heat some butter in a small frying pan and fry the lardons until crisp and rendered. Add to the chicken. In the rendered bacon fat plus more butter if necessary, fry the champignons—whole if tiny or cut in chunky pieces. When fried, add to the casserole. Fry the cooked onions in the sugar to caramelise them a little, then add to the chicken.
To serve Transfer the chicken pieces to a serving platter. Boil down the casserole to sauce consistency. Discard the bouquet garni, check seasoning, and coat the chicken with the sauce and garnish. Sprinkle with chopped parsley.
Coq au riesling is the common name for chicken casserole dishes cooked in white wine. It is a variation of coq au vin, changing the red wine to white wine. In this case, the beef stock changes to chicken stock, for the orientation is towards a lighter casserole. The typical bacon/onion/champignon garnish is thus too strong, and button champignons on their own are more typical. The dish is usually, although not necessarily, finished with cream. When finishing with cream, reduce he sauce down to half to condense flavours before thinning it back to sauce consistency with the cream.