Richard Till's Quick and Easy Coq Au Vin

Richard Till’s Quick and Easy Coq Au Vin

Richard Till’s Quick and Easy Coq Au Vin.

BY JOHN CORBETT. 11 July, 2014: Here in the north of New Zealand, in the middle of the southern hemisphere winter, the weather has been atrocious for three weeks. A ten-day stretch of cold, damp weather was followed – after a one-day respite of watery sunshine – by a stalled low-pressure weather system that has brought days of high winds and lashing rain. It is far from over.

At this time of year, one’s thoughts turn to how accurately our European forebears described New Zealand as “another England”. The winters in these oceanic islands, set squarely across the wind belt of the Roaring Forties, are as bleak as those in another cold and rainy archipelago on the other side of the world. The genetic inheritance of many here also predisposes them to seasonal gloom.

I try to look on the brighter side. Cold weather is a time for warm and comforting food, and for the complementary activity of fortifying oneself against the chill and greyness by cooking in a cosy kitchen. Coq au vin isn’t of course an Anglo-Saxon dish like a roast leg of lamb or Lancashire Hot Pot (it is in fact a very old French rustic dish), but its heartening tastes of garlic and herbs and mushrooms and red wine are perfect winter fare, and since the mid-20th century it has become more familiar here.

Like many traditional recipes its preparation can demand the best part of a day (the eponymous coq, or rooster, from which it was originally made needed long slow braising to make it tender) – but few of us in the age of the Instagram have that amount of time. That’s why I like this quick and easy version of coq au vin by the well-known Christchurch food writer, Richard Till.

When Richard Till wrote a cookery column for the Sunday Star-Times, I collected a big clippings pile of his recipes – and I wish he would produce a book of them. A highly intelligent cook with decades of hands-on experience in café and restaurant kitchens, he has a deep knowledge of New Zealand food and an understanding of what Kiwis like to eat. Richard contributed this recipe to a food industry calendar that I helped to produce last year. It will definitely drive the cold and greyness away.

Quick and Easy Coq au Vin
Serves 4-6

100g thick-cut bacon, cut into small strips
4 chicken thigh portions (or a whole chicken cut into serving pieces)
2 Tbsp flour mixed with 1½ tsp salt and a few grinds of black pepper
16-20 small picking onions, peeled
10 cloves of garlic, peeled
2 cups chicken stock
2 cups red wine
2 bay leaves
A few sprigs of fresh thyme
A few sprigs of fresh parsley
200g tiny button mushrooms
Salt and pepper

Brown the bacon in a heavy frying pan over a moderate heat. When nicely browned, remove the bacon and set aside. Leave the bacon fat in the pan.

Coat the chicken pieces in the seasoned flour, shake off excess.

Working in batches so as to not overcrowd the pan, brown the chicken pieces on all sides over a low to moderate heat. As the pieces are browned, place them in a large casserole or baking dish.

Brown the onions lightly in the frying pan. Add the browned onions and the cloves of garlic to the casserole with the chicken.

Deglaze the pan with the chicken stock and wine. Take care to scrape all the browning from the pan into the liquid. Add the liquid from the pan along with the mushrooms and herbs to the casserole dish.

Cover and cook in a preheated 190C oven for 50 minutes to 1 hour, or until the chicken is tender and cooked through.

Take the casserole from the oven when cooked. Gently lift the chicken, mushrooms and onions from the sauce with a slotted spoon and place on a warmed serving dish or platter. Keep warm.

Bring the liquid in the casserole to a rolling boil and reduce until it is roughly 1 cup of sauce.

Spoon the sauce over the chicken and serve, or if not serving immediately, return the chicken to the sauce and keep warm until ready to serve.

Chef’s tip: The pickling onions peel very easily if you plunge them in boiling water, simmer for 2 minutes then drain and cool.

Recipe and Photo: Richard Till