Coq au vin by Valentine Warner

Try this hearty, boozy, slow-cooked chicken stew, as imagined by Valentine Warner in his cookbook, The Good Table.

Serves: 8


600g button onions
350g smoked bacon lardons or unsliced streaky smoked bacon
3 tablespoons plain flour
2 teaspoons flaked sea salt
50g butter
olive oil
8 free-range chicken legs - drumsticks and thighs
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
1 tablespoon caster sugar
2 finely chopped celery sticks
6 finely sliced garlic cloves
2 teaspoons dried thyme
2 bay leaves
300g small chestnut mushrooms
black pepper
750ml red wine
125ml brandy
small pieces, to serve, of fried bread (optional)


Make this with the thighs and legs of good birds. This dish would originally have been made with a tougher cockerel, stewed with intense wine, bacon and mushroom flavours to turn it into something deep and inky in flavour. These birds are hard to come by, and the nearest comparison (in the UK) would be a boiler. If you find one, cut it into eight pieces and use instead of just the chicken legs. See if the butcher will give you unsliced bacon or lardons, as these bigger bits of bacon won’t collapse after cooking. Coq au vin is best prepared the day before eating to make it even more delicious.

Preheat the oven to 180°C fan/200°C/Gas 6. Pour hot water over the onions in a large mixing bowl and leave them for 10 minutes, then drain and peel. Snip only the smallest bit of root end off with a knife, as you want them to stay intact. De-rind the bacon, if necessary, or cut the lardons about the length and twice the thickness of the two short pins on a household plug, or chop up thickly if using rashers.

Sprinkle the flour over a large plate, scatter in a good amount of salt and mix it all together with your fingertips. Melt the butter in a large frying pan over a medium heat with a splash of oil. Roll the chicken legs in the flour until very well covered. When the butter is foaming, lower in half the chicken legs skin-side down to sizzle. Brown them on both sides, turning them over after approximately 5 minutes. Remove them and brown the remaining half. Adjust the heat when necessary to avoid burning the butter. Add the peeled onions and cook until they are a deep hazelnut colour. Pour the vinegar in and burn it off completely before scattering in the sugar and swirling the onions around until the sugar has caramelised. Put the onions aside with the chicken legs, without any residual fat.

Put a little oil in a large, heavy flameproof casserole and get the bacon frying over a medium heat to colour it. This should take about 10 minutes. Add the celery, garlic, thyme and bay leaves to the pan and cook until the celery has softened. Lift the bacon and celery out and keep to the side, leaving the bacon fat and herbs in the pan.

Take the pan off the heat and wipe the mushroom caps to remove any grit. Return the pan to the heat and, when hot, throw in batches of the mushrooms to colour. Any liquid must totally evaporate. When all the mushrooms are coloured, leave a few in the bottom of the pan and put the rest to the side.

Scatter some bacon, celery and onions over the mushrooms in the casserole dish and place about half of the chicken legs inside. Scatter in more onions, celery and bacon, as well as the mushrooms, and then add the rest of the chicken. Season heavily with black pepper. Pour the wine and brandy over the chicken and bring the pot to a gentle simmer before placing the lid on and putting it in the oven. Cook for 1¼ hours. Ideally, let the dish cool and place it in the fridge overnight, then reheat for serving the next day.

Recipe courtesy of Valentine Warner’s The Good Tablepublished by Mitchell Beazley.

Leave a comment

Promoted Restaurants