Coq au Vin de Cahors

We were served a dish similar to this by my friend Michèle, who lives in a small hamlet in Languedoc, where her neighbours’ chickens and cockerels run around her yard.

Ingredients

  • 5–6 lb / 2.30–2.70 kg cockerel (or hen, which changes the dish to Poule au Vin de Cahors)
  • 6 oz / 170 g belly pork
  • 12 small onions or 1 large onion
  • 2 leeks
  • 2 carrots
  • small glass of cognac
  • 2 bottles Cahors red wine
  • 1 bay leaf sprig of thyme
  • 2–3 parsley stalks
  • 3–4 garlic cloves, peeled
  • 2 tsp black peppercorns
  • 2 cloves
  • piece of pork skin, cut into 2 in / 5 cm squares
  • salt

Method

Joint the bird into eight pieces, and chop the remaining carcass into two or three. These pieces can be cooked with the casserole to add extra flavour. Remove the rind from the belly pork, and cut it into matchsticks. Fry gently in a large frying pan until the fat runs. Meanwhile, peel the onions, and if using a large one, slice it. Trim the leeks, and slice the white parts only, discarding the green tops. Peel and slice the carrots. Fry the vegetables with the pork, and when just beginning to brown, transfer to a large flameproof casserole. In the fat remaining in the pan, brown the chicken pieces on both sides, and transfer to the casserole. Pour on the cognac and light it. In another large saucepan, bring the wine to the boil, light it, and let it flame for a minute. Cover with a lid to extinguish the flames. Pour a little into the frying pan to deglaze it, scraping up all the cooking residues. Pour over the chicken, together with the rest of the wine. Tie the herbs, garlic and spices in a piece of muslin (or put them in a coffee filter paper, fold over and staple to keep it closed), and put this in the casserole, together with the squares of pork skin. Bring to the boil, cover, and cook in a preheated oven at 150°C / 300°F / Mark 2 for about 3 hours, or cook it on the hob on a heat diffusing mat, until tender.

When almost ready, strain the cooking juices into a frying pan, and reduce over a high heat until you have the consistency and flavour you like. Salt it only at this stage. (The sauce can also be thickened by stirring in a small amount of flour mixed with equal quantities of softened butter.) Arrange the pieces of meat in a serving dish, and pour the sauce over it. The coq au vin can be garnished with fresh or fried parsley and triangles of bread fried in duck or chicken fat or olive oil.

Variation

Coq au Riesling is an Alsace dish, which is quite delicious and based on the above recipe without the belly pork, and with white wine replacing the dark red wine of Cahors. Serve it with sauerkraut and noodles.

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