Wait, Isn’t It a White with Chicken?

A red wine with red meat and a white vintage is reserved for lighter-colored dishes, right?  Maybe, though if anyone is qualified to exceed that guideline it’s the French, and if one dish can make it work, Coq au Vin will do it.  Besides, after marinating in wine for a whole day, as this chicken has, rules lose their importance.

The recipe appears in the December 2016 edition of Bon Appetit, and the opportunity was irresistible to make a go at a genuine classic, as well as to use up an entire bottle of wine.  Plus, adding chocolate to the sauce intrigued (the full title is “Coq au Vin with Cocoa Powder”).  Perhaps this will be the French version of Chicken Mole?

Not at all.  Coq au vin is lighter and subtler, and derives much of its identity from the mushrooms that accompany the chicken.  The main difference, though, is the wine.  A whole bottle of red in the Côtes du Rhône class marinates the bird for an entire day, imparting a grapy succulence and giving the chicken a dark purple hue, as seen above.

 One day earlier, though, as the fowl started its soak, the wine hadn’t had a chance yet to work its magic…marinating coq au vin

After twenty-four hours, the chicken is retrieved from the bath, and the marinade is strained.  By now, the wine has taken on the flavors that developed in it, and consequently is a lighter purple.  Cocoa powder, bacon and vinegar, among other ingredients, are added, and the mixture thickens as it’s heated.

The bird is then cooked in the sauce, contributing another savory layer, then the baste is filtered again, sautéed mushrooms and onions are added, and the entire thing is served up alongside the poultry.  It’s smooth, it’s silky, it’s savory, and it’s so-perfectly French.

Perhaps a red wine is more substantive than is a white, and is more suited to the task of infusing its essence over an entire day.  Could be, though whatever the reason for it, a red wine works magnificently here.  Even if does rewrite the “rules” of wine pairing.  Just when things were starting to make sense…


Coq au Vin with Cocoa Powder

  • 1 3-to-4-pound chicken, cut into eight pieces (*1)
  • salt and freshly-ground pepper, to taste
  • 1 large yellow onion, chopped (*2)
  • 1 large carrot, peeled and chopped
  • 1 bunch fresh thyme
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 bottle of red wine (*3)
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil, divided
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, divided
  • 5 ounces thick-cut bacon, cut into 1/4-inch pieces
  • 8 ounces button mushrooms, halved
  • 1 tablespoon flour
  • 8 ounces pearl onions, peeled (*4)
  • 1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon unsweetened cocoa powder

Season chicken with salt and pepper.  Place it in a large bowl and add the yellow onion, carrot, bay leaves, thyme and wine.  Cover and chill for a day, turning chicken once or twice.

Remove the chicken from the marinade, returning to the sauce anything that adheres to the bird.  Pat dry the chicken with paper towels and set it aside.

Meanwhile, strain the marinade through a cheesecloth.  Reserve the solids that remain behind in the strainer.

In a stockpot set over medium flame, melt a tablespoon of the butter and a tablespoon of the olive oil.  Add the bacon and cook, stirring frequently, until the bacon is crisp, about eight minutes.  Using a slotted spoon, transfer the bacon to a medium bowl.

Put the chicken, skin side down, in a single layer in the pot.  Cook until the skin is browned, about ten minutes.  Transfer the chicken to a separate plate.

Pour off all but a tablespoon of the oil, reserving the remainder for now.  Add mushrooms and a couple tablespoons of the reserved wine to the pot and cook, stirring frequently, until mushrooms are lightly browned, about five minutes.  Transfer the mushrooms to the bowl that already holds the bacon.

Add to the pot the aromatics you strained earlier from the marinade, adding a tablespoon of the oil you poured off from the pot before.  Cook, stirring frequently, until the vegetables are soft and browned slightly, about ten minutes.  Sprinkle the flour over the vegetables and stir until the flour is no longer visible.  Return the chicken to the pot, along with the strained wine.  The wine should just cover the chicken.  If not, add water until it does.  Bring liquid to a gentle simmer, partially cover pot and cook for 40 minutes.

Meanwhile, in a skillet set over medium flame, heat the remaining tablespoon of butter and the remaining two tablespoons of olive oil.  Add the pearl onions, season with salt, and cook, stirring frequently, until the onions are lightly browned, about ten minutes.  Add water to just cover the onions, cover skillet partially, and bring to a boil.  Reduce heat partially and cook until onions are cooked through, about twenty minutes.  Turn off heat.

Going back to the stockpot, remove the chicken to a separate plate and cover loosely with aluminum foil.  Strain the sauce through a cheesecloth once again, this time discarding the solids.  Return the sauce to the pot and set the flame to medium.

In a small bowl, whisk together three tablespoons of the sauce, the red wine vinegar and the cocoa powder.  Stir this into the braising liquid.  Bring to a simmer and cook, stirring occasionally, until the sauce thickens slightly, about ten minutes.

Add the pearl onions, along with their broth.  Also add the bacon and mushrooms you set aside earlier.  Cook until just heated through.  Arrange the chicken on a platter and pour the sauce over it.


1 – Create eight pieces by cutting each breast in half.  Along with a pair of drumsticks and thighs, this will get you to eight pieces.  By halving the largest parts, this will let the bird cook more evenly.

2 – Instead, I used two large shallots.  Of course I did.

3 – Something from the Côtes du Rhône variety is best for this purpose.  If you can’t find it, any red wine, even burgundy, would work.

4 – The market carried pearl onions for months, then the week I needed them, that strain disappeared.  Naturally…and maddening.  Oh well; in their place I used broiler onions, quartered.  Even regular onions would work, if they’re cut into thumbnail-sized pieces.


40 thoughts on “Wait, Isn’t It a White with Chicken?

    1. Many thanks, Tamara! A bit gratuitous, perhaps, to feature chicken so soon after “Turkey Day,” but I am a poultry fiend, no? Must remain true to my calling.

      Besides, the long weekend was the perfect time for something a little more involved. Usually, I cook and photograph Saturday morning and early afternoon, then post about it on Sunday. If Friday allows a head start, though, why not?

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Actually, that’s just the cover story. You should know that. It’s basic stuff, Espionage 101.

        Come on, Tamara, you’ll never become a Counterintelligence Operative if you actually fell for that story.

        There might be a place for you at State or (shudder) Defense, but I don’t think the clandestine war is for you. Just as well, as you only went to Dartmouth.

        Liked by 1 person

    1. Merci beaucoup, bonne Kate!

      French, yes, as well as Moroccan, Thai, Colombian, Persian…Any place responsible for inspiring the grub before me.

      A catholic palate. A less charitable description is “weird.” Whatever. One thing is for sure, my tastes, they do roam.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. “Oooh, I’m sorry, the answer is ‘Quirky.’

        ‘What is ‘Quirky?’ is what we were looking for,

        The board is still yours, though, so what’s the next category?”

        “I’ll take ‘Potpourri’ for $500, Alex.”


      2. your palate is ‘quirky’ not ‘weird’ … altho I am concerned about anyone who would pay $500 for potpourri … surely you don’t use that in your cooking?!?!
        You can forget that food parcel thanks … 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

      3. Sorry, Kate, I forget my place, in that certain references are lost on those outside North America. Good conversation will do that.

        In short, a clumsy reference to “Jeopardy,” a trivia game show wherein contestants select a category and wager an amount.

        $500 for potpourri? I like the stuff, but not anywhere near that much. Though I have been known to spend $2000 a pound on saffron. Fortunately, as you know, only a few threads at a time are required, and the investment is amply returned in the final dish!

        Liked by 1 person

      4. For sure. Aren’t odd movies the best? I especially like that one, I’m sure you’ve seen it, wherein that Hawaiian guy plays chess with a coughing raccoon. Pretty standard so far, except they’re in bowling alley, and all the waiters are speaking Finnish.

        Liked by 1 person

      5. Free? I wish, Kate!

        You do realize I have to pay people to watch the blasted thing?

        Enough of this ceaseless minuet – what’s your price? What do you require to release the two hours of your life you’ll never see again?

        Liked by 1 person

      1. I wouldn’t be able to eat purple food, but it’s super duper awesome how it works – now you know what to do if you’re serving a purple meal!
        My friend really liked this 🙂 (it’s similar to his fruit salad recipe – pour wine on the salad, marinate, except that then drink the fruit cocktail and leave the fruits..)

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Two for one – fruit salad, plus sangria!

        The food doesn’t have to be purple, Eliza. Just wear sunglasses. – everything will be gray. In fact, you can pretend it’s 40 years ago and you’re living behind the Iron Curtain. How fun is that? Tell me you didn’t play “Hide from the KGB” when you were a kid.

        Liked by 2 people

  1. My fav wine is red wine and my fav food is seafood so I can’t still enjoy the combination fully because I feel I’m breaking the wine rules LOL. I’m glad someone decide to break the “wine color rule” with this one. It looks fantastic. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Oh yes, Daniela, the reds! Give a me good Rioja… There are some great Malbecs out there too.

      By the way, you might want to check out the “Halloween” post a few weeks back. Stuffed mushrooms, which should be kind to your currently-reformed diet. Much to delight the palate, though they taste much more “sinful” than they actually are.

      Liked by 1 person

    1. Much appreciated, Crystal!

      Would you believe I hadn’t tried it either, until I put together this entry? I had heard of it numerous times, of course, including frequent mention during two years of university French. but its reputation intimidated. Until, that is, I actually looked at a recipe and realized it was quite approachable, actually.

      Two surprises. One, of course, is how relatively easy the recipe is, and the other? How deeply the wine would dye the bird. You saw the photo. We started with a normal fowl, then it got all coq au vin’ed.


      1. I was surprised about the cocoa. I guess I shouldn’t have been with a name like coq au (vin). JK. But back to mole, holy! I digress, but we have some nice moles in these parts.

        After high school French, I signed up for my first semester of French at OU, which I immediately dropped. The professor spoke only French the entire first day. Merde! C’est la vie.

        Un jour—coq au vin.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Well, Crystal, the speculation could be way off, but I rather think the French got the idea of spiking their coq au vin with cocoa from the Mexicans, or at least from the Spanish, who got it from the Mexicans. After all, the Aztecs had been making moles for millennia before Cortez. In fact, chocolate is a New World crop, meaning the French, and everyone else outside the Americas, wouldn’t have heard of chocolate until the 16th century.

        Think about that for minute. Ancestors of the master chocolatiers at Godiva, Barry Callebault, etc. would’ve been baffled to hear their descendants a dozen or so generations hence would be chocolatiers. What-a-tiers? Huh? What manner of sorcery is this?


      3. Why, thank you, Crystal! What a special compliment from a teacher, particularly from one as adept as are you at enhancing her students’ experiences.

        Similar to chocolate’s centrality to French/Belgian/Swiss sweet making, where would Italian cuisine be without the tomato? Yet, just like cacao, the red globes didn’t hit the boot until decades after Columbus sailed.

        Eh, Luigi, what’s up with this pizza without red sauce? Ah, madone!


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