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Coq Au Vin

  • Apr 06, 2020
  • David Wilhelm
Cassoulet style presentation Cassoulet style presentation

When I opened my first restaurant PAVE in Corona Del Mar in the early 80’s it was in the midst of my early fascination with French cuisine. After that I moved on to dabble in Southwestern (El Torito Grille & Kachina) American (Bistro 201) and Italian (Sorrento Grille).

Years later my love affair with French food surfaced again with the opening of French 75 in Laguna Beach, but, while the menu did include some haute cuisine delicacies such as Foie Gras and Chocolate Soufflé, most of what I served were classic French Bistro dishes, albeit with a little flair. These dishes were considered comfort food in France, so I guess I always have been partial to simple, robust and rustic comfort foods no matter what their ethnic origin.

While this dish might not seem likely to show up at the Tavern House, it should as it’s one of my winter favorites... the iconic ‘Coq au Vin’.

The literal translation is ‘chicken cooked in wine’ but there is much more than wine that goes into the making of this rich dish that delivers multiple layers of flavor. The original French version is typically made with whole frying chickens cut into pieces but given the aversion to having to deal with bones by many, along with the unequal cook times for different parts of the bird, I use boneless, skinless chicken thighs.

When I cook any chicken dish, this cut is always my favorite since it includes some extra fat (fat=flavor) that breasts do not have. The fat cooks out in the process, so you are left with very lean and moist chicken meat but the small amount of rendered fat adds so much to the flavor of the finished dish. Also, the thighs continue to become more tender the longer they are cooked in contrast to breasts which can become tough and dry.

One great thing about this dish is that it can be served both rustic ‘Sunday Supper’ family style in an oversized bowl or plate with buttery mashed potatoes and a medley of vegetables cooked separately, or you can take it upscale for an intimate dinner by baking it in individual casserole dishes topped with puff pastry which creates an impressive presentation A la Chicken Pot Pie. When prepared this way, truth be told, I’ve gone completely off the rails and added a few cubes of foie gras into the dish prior to baking… That is, before the great California ban.

Like most braises, this dish is arguably better the day after making it as all the flavors meld together overnight. The recipe below should yield enough to where you will have leftovers which can be kept several days in the fridge or frozen to eat later.

I hope you enjoy this French classic comfort food dish as much as I and my friends do... Bon Appetit!



  • As needed Kosher Salt & Black Pepper
  • 3 pounds Boneless, skinless chicken thighs
  • 8 ounces Applewood smoked Bacon, thick-cut, ¼ pieces
  • 2 each Medium onions, diced ¼ inch
  • ½ cup Finely Diced Carrots
  • 1 each Large shallot, peeled and minced
  • 2 TBS Fresh garlic, chopped
  • 1/3 cup Brandy (not cooking Brandy) OPTIONAL
  • 2/3 bottle Good quality, full bodied red wine – no cheap stuff!
  • 6 cups Chicken stock
  • 1 TBS Tomato Paste (optional)
  • 1/8 cup Honey
  • 2 TBS Chopped fresh thyme (Sub 2 tsp dried thyme)
  • 5 (TBS Cornstarch & 5 TBS Water) Cornstarch slurry
  • 1 TBS Olive oil
  • 1 TBS Unsalted Butter
  • As needed Kosher salt
  • 2 cups Frozen pearl onions, defrosted
  • 12 ounces Cremini Mushrooms, stemmed, cut into 1” pieces



Cut chicken thighs into thirds, place in baking pan and sprinkle both sides with a generous amount of salt and freshly ground pepper. Cover and place in fridge for one hour.


A large, heavy bottomed Dutch oven works best for this dish. Place the bacon in the pot and cook over medium-low heat until bacon has rendered most of the fat out. Remove bacon from pot and reserve.


Don't crowd or worry about the botom of the pan

Turn heat on pot to high and sear chicken until well-browned and crusty on both sides. This will have to be done in several batches as it is important not to crowd the chicken in the bottom of the pan, in fact, the pieces should barely touch each other. Add additional bacon fat or olive oil as needed to brown all the chicken.

Good and Browned on all sides...


Set chicken aside. Add onions, carrots, shallots and garlic to pot and cook, stirring frequently for 10 minutes over low heat. Add brandy and ignite. Cook for 2 minutes stirring with a wooden spoon, scraping up the caramelized pieces from the bottom of the pan.


Simmering French goodness

Next add wine, chicken, chicken stock, bacon, honey, tomato paste and thyme, bring to a boil and then cook, covered on stove top for 45-60 minutes or until chicken is cooked through and tender. Add slurry and thicken slightly and cook for 2-3 minutes. Hold warm.


Well browned shrooms...

Heat sauté pan over high heat and add olive oil and butter to sauté pan and swirl to combine. When oil/butter mix is very hot, add the mushrooms and pearl onions and salt very lightly.

Continue to cook over medium high heat stirring or tossing until well browned. Stir into the pot with the chicken. Adjust seasonings to taste.


Cassoulet style presentation

Serve with mashed potatoes and medley of your favorite vegetables.


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