Coq Au Vin: Julia Child’s Signature Dish on a Budget
Updated: Oct 27, 2022
The world is rediscovering Julia Child and Coq au vin is one of the easiest and most beloved dishes from her classic Cookbook and TV series. This version is easier than the original and costs around $16.
As a young woman and university student, I bought my first copy of Julia Child's "Mastering the Art of French Cooking," and wore it out, cooking French classic dishes for my classmates. It was a difficult task, since so many of the ingredients were hard to find or expensive. Fast forward a few (ahem) years and I'm still cooking classic French food, but there are so many more options for finding ingredients at reasonable prices. Further, many recipes have been updated with simpler instructions.
In this post, I am referencing not only the classic recipe but also modifications made at SeriousEats.com. I invite you to look at this post, and although it is a long one, it is worth your time.
The first handful of times I made the classic Julia Child version of this dish, I followed the instructions in her cookbook religiously. These involved preparing the onions and mushrooms separately, so they are perfect in appearance and adding them to the chicken and wine at the last moment. It also involves igniting the dish with expensive cognac, and boiling lardons of pork. None of this is really necessary for a first-rate dish at home. The Serious Eats method advocates leaving the chicken marinating in the wine overnight (nice enhancement, but not necessary if you don't have the time) and browning everything in an oven safe pot and using only 2 cups of wine in the sauce. I have found this method to really work with the type of chicken that I typically use - it is not necessary to boil the chicken at length unless you are cooking a very old and very tough bird.
Wine In terms of wine, I always use a Pinot Noir for best flavor, but it is not necessary to use a high-quality Pinot in order to produce a nice dish. I went to Trader Joes yesterday to buy the 2017 Charles Shaw Pinot Noir, which at $4/bottle is a steal. They did not have it in stock, but they did have a perfectly wonderful Pinot (Cherry Blossum) for $5.99/bottle. It is always possible to find some great options for wine there or at your local wine store for well under $10 bottle. A bottle of wine is 750ml, or 3 and 1/4 c. of wine. You will need 2/3 of a bottle to make this recipe, but you can serve the leavings in your bottle at dinner if you or your guest(s) drink wine.
Now a word on the chicken: I always make this dish with leg quarters. If you love chicken breast, by all means make it with a whole bird cut into quarters, but I find the leg quarters are tastier and cheaper. Also, if you are making this dish for a dinner party, they look so elegant. I can find 4 pounds of superior leg quarters for under $4. (Try wildforkfoods.com or Aldi or Walmart - all have good options around $1/pound.) If you decide to include the chicken breasts, make sure and check out the information on the seriouseats.com recipe - the author advocates marinating the breasts in wine overnight and putting the breasts in the pot midway through cooking the other pieces in order to limit the dryness of the breast pieces, which are more prone to overcooking. I see no reason to cook the more expensive breast portions of the bird, since it is so hard to cook them properly in this dish. So, I’m including directions for leg quarters only.
In terms of the vegetables, the most expensive will be the pearl onions. I found a fresh option for $2.99 and another for $3.99 at local markets. In a pinch if you cannot find reasonable (or any) pearl onions, you can find a frozen pack of pearl onions at Walmart for $2. Thaw it ahead of time and dry the onions well, so they will brown. Julia Child did not put carrots in her recipe, but seriouseats.com does. That is up to you. I do not put carrots in my Coq Au Vin.
Please Note: Although I try to keep all the recipes here until $12, the addition of wine put this recipe a few dollars higher in cost.
4-5 leg quarters, with the back removed and retained for stock. ($4, wildforkfoods.com)
4 oz. salt pork, cut into 1/4-inch strips (Walmart, $2)
8 oz. mushrooms, quartered (Aldi, $2)
7 oz pearl onions, either fresh or frozen (Walmart, $2)
4 cloves of garlic, pressed (Aldi, $0.100)
2 c. Pinot Noir wine or other dry red wine (Trader Joes, $3.99)
2 c. homemade chicken stock, or low sodium purchased broth (Walmart, $0.70)
1/2 t. dried thyme
2 bay leaves
salt and pepper
1 package gelatin ($0.25)
3 T. butter, cold and cubed ($0.40)
1/4 c. flat leaf parsley ($ 0.50)
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Prepare the chicken - remove back area from leg quarter, if necessary.
Slice salt pork into 1/4-inch strips.
4. Place a large Dutch oven or heavy oven safe kettle on top the stove on medium heat. Brown the salt pork strips until crisp and set aside
5. Brown the chicken in the fat rendered out of the salt pork. Place the leg quarters fat side down for 7 minutes, then turn and brown an additional 5 minutes. Set aside the browned leg quarters and continuing browning the leg quarters until complete - set the cooked chicken aside on a plate.
6. Brown the mushrooms in the same pot, adding a little oil, if necessary. Brown the mushrooms until they crisp up, for 10 minutes or so. Add the peeled pearl onions (If using fresh onions, slice off the ends drop them boiling water for a minute or two, then lift them out in a bowl and pull off the skin. If using frozen, thaw and proceed as above.). After a couple minutes add the pressed garlic.
7. At this point, add the wine to the pot and start scraping the brown bits off the bottom of the pan. Cook for 5 minutes, add thyme and bay leaf and bring contents to a simmer.
8. Stir in the stock. (Note: this recipe is better with low-salt homemade broth. If you don't have any homemade broth, use purchased low sodium broth. While the seriouseats.com instructions advocate making a gelatinous broth, I have had little success doing this. If you use purchased sauce, you will need to add gelatin or use flour or cornstarch to thicken the sauce.)
9. Add the chicken legs so that they are only partially submerged, so that the skin on the legs will remain crisp.
10. Transfer the pot to the oven, and cook, uncovered, for an hour and 20 minutes.
11. Take the pot out of the oven. Lift the chicken pieces out of the pot and place on a plate. Put the pot on medium heat and continue to simmer the sauce until it thickens. If necessary, thicken with the addition of dissolved gelatin in a couple tablespoons of water. (Mix an envelope of gelatin with a small amount of water and slowly add the sauce. Be sure to do this slowly until the sauce reaches the desired consistency.)
12. Once the sauce is the desired consistency, whisk in the butter. Add chopped parsley. Serve with new potatoes or rice, and peas.