Mulled wine-soaked slow-cooked chicken

“I thought coq au vin was love in a lorry.”

Victoria Wood

This lively stew has been a favourite with my family and friends over the Christmas period for many years now. Everybody always looks forward to it, with the Saucy Dressings’ Chief Taster, whose standards are hard to meet, enthusing “it’s better than coq au vin”. In fact, it’s pretty much the same as coq au vin, except that instead of burgundy it uses mulled wine. If I were in France, I would use the local hooch – in Alsace I would use Reisling; in the Jura, vin jaune; positioned just south of Burgundy, I would use Beaujolais nouveau; in Champagne…. As it happens, I am in Hampshire where my neighbours make an outstanding champenoise…. but I would not use that. I think this dish needs the heartiest of reds – hence great success with the spice and sugar laden mulled wine. 

History of coq au vin….it’s a Roman invention… not French!

It’s not surprising that this dish has been enjoyed through the ages. The story goes that, whilst campaigning in Gaul, Cæsar besieged a tribe called the Arverne. To taunt him, the chief of the tribe sent him a cockerel – a symbol (still used in France today) of their valour. Unfazed, Cæsar (or, rather, I assume, his cook) cooked the bird, but being a cock, it was a bit stringy and needed long, slow cooking. Cæsar also wanted to impress  chief with his wealth, and in those days wine was expensive, emperors could afford to use it for cooking but not many others.  The use of wine had the added advantage of further tenderising the bird.  

coq au vin recipe
Cæsar was fond of Cleopatra…. and also very partial to coq au vin.

In any case, these days it’s popular with me as well as Cæsar since you can make it ahead of time and it freezes well.

So an evening Christmas-tide dinner would simply be a matter of remembering to put the baked potatoes in and unfreezing the chicken in time – it goes well with baked potatoes (see How To Cook The Best Ever Baked Potatoes). And you need a green salad too – go here for a selection.

In January we always buy a crate of Waitrose mulled wine – it’s usually on special offer then. Don’t drink it – it’s better to make your own (go here to find out how) – but it’s perfect for making the gravy to go with a roast (it keeps quite well once you’ve opened it). With any luck you’ll have a couple of bottles left in which to gently braise this chicken.

Recipe for mulled wine soaked slow-cooked chicken

Serves 6

Ingredients

  • 1 bottle of Waitrose mulled wine (or make your own by using ordinary wine and adding a tablespoon or so of runny honey and a cinnamon stick and a couple of cloves – you’ll need to fish them out though before adding to the meat)
  • 200g/8 oz pack ready-diced lardons
  • 12 chicken thighs, skin and all
  • 6 cloves of garlic, crushed with a tsp of smoked salt
  • 25g/1 oz packet of flat leaved parsley
  • 200g/8 oz mushrooms, wiped over, peeled if necessary, and cut in half, or very roughly sliced depending on size. Either shitake or chestnut mushrooms give a bit more taste to this.
  • 2 tbsp flour
  • 300 ml/1¼ cups stock made with hot water and two chicken stock cubes, or two tsp of chicken stock powder
  • 3 onions, peeled and chopped
  • 10 grinds of Indonesian long pepper

Method

  1. Preheat the oven to 180°C.
  2. Pour the entire bottle of mulled wine into a large saucepan, add the honey, bring to the boil, and simmer for about half an hour until reduced to about a third of its original volume.
  3. In a large oven-proof casserole fry the lardons in their own fat, and when their fat has begun to run, begin to fry the chicken pieces, turning, until they are golden all over. You can pile them up at the edge of the saucepan if there’s enough room, When you’ve done about half the pieces, add the chopped onion and stir to coat with the fat and when you’ve pretty much finished frying the chicken pieces add the garlic, and stir about to coat and fry.
  4.  Sieve over the flour into the part of the casserole with the most fat, cook for a minute or two to make a kind of roux, and then slowly add the wine and stock, stirring in to avoid lumps.
  5. Bring to the boil and then cover and simmer for about an hour.
  6. Remove any easily removable, soft, gelatinous skin.
  7. At this stage you can freeze, or just keep in the fridge for a day or two. If you freeze, remind yourself to add the mushrooms and parsley on the label as you store it away.
  8. About half an hour before you are ready to eat, take off the lid and simmer gently for another half hour.
  9. Grind over the pepper and roughly scissor in the parsley.

chicken with mulled wine recipe
This post is dedicated to Micheline and Arnould Ooestock.
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