Debra Ponzek’s Coq au Riesling

Preparation info

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Appears in

Lighter, Quicker, Better: Cooking for the Way We Eat Today

Lighter, Quicker, Better

By Richard Sax and Marie Simmons

Published 2000

  • About

This recipe is from the chef of Montrachet in New York City, a gifted woman whose food is at once light and earthy. It is a free, lightened adaptation of the delicious Alsatian dish, which is traditionally enriched with egg yolks and cream. Note how Debra has eliminated the egg yolks and cream entirely, using reduced stock as the liquid, and flavoring it with just a touch of bacon, aromatic vegetables, and a generous sprinkling of fresh tarragon.


  • 2 or 3 Cornish hens, each cut in 6 serving pieces (legs, thighs, 2 breast halves)
  • Salt and Freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 tablespoons coarsely chopped shallots
  • 2 fresh thyme sprigs, or ¼ teaspoon dried thyme
  • 1 cup Riesling wine, Alsatian or American
  • 1 slice thick-cut bacon, preferably lightly smoked
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 8 white pearl onions
  • 2 carrots, peeled, trimmed, and cut into ½-inch cubes or chunks
  • 3 turnips, peeled, trimmed, and cut into ½-inch cubes or chunks
  • 4 large white mushrooms, quartered
  • cup defatted chicken broth, preferably unsalted
  • 1 tablespoon minced tarragon leaves, plus 4 tarragon sprigs, for garnish


    1. Season the hen pieces with salt and pepper. Layer them in a bowl with the shallots and thyme; add the wine. Marinate, covered, in the refrigerator overnight, or for at least 2 hours.
    2. Remove the hen pieces from the marinade; strain and reserve the marinade. Pat the hen pieces dry. Brown the bacon in a large (12-inch) skillet, preferably nonstick; drain bacon on a paper towel-lined plate. Discard the fat; wipe out the skillet. Cut the bacon in ¼-inch pieces and set aside.
    3. Add the olive oil to the skillet; heat over medium heat. Add the hen pieces, skin side down, and cook until browned on both sides, about 5 to 7 minutes per side.
    4. Meanwhile, bring a saucepan half filled with water to a boil. Add the onions; boil for 5 minutes. Add the carrots and turnips; cook 5 minutes longer. Drain the vegetables.
    5. Scatter the vegetables, mushrooms, and reserved bacon around the hen pieces in the skillet. Cook, over medium heat, stirring gently, until the vegetables are lightly browned, 3 or 4 minutes. Cover and cook over medium-low heat for 10 minutes, or until the hens are just cooked through.
    6. Using tongs, arrange the hen pieces on a warmed serving platter; remove the vegetables with a slotted spoon and arrange them around the hen pieces. Cover with foil to keep warm.
    7. Add the reserved strained marinade and the chicken broth to the skillet; bring to a boil. Boil over high heat until the liquids are slightly thickened and reduced to about ¾ cup. Taste and correct seasonings. Stir in the tarragon; then spoon the juices over the hen pieces and vegetables. Garnish with tarragon sprigs and serve hot.