February is finally here, and that means love is in the air – Valentines day is just two weeks away. If you haven’t made that overpriced, prefix-menu restaurant reservation yet and you’re starting to panic, have no fear – The Homemade Chef is here! Instead of a stuffy restaurant with an overpriced “special” menu, why not make a fabulous and delicious meal for your lover at home? Set a beautiful table – either sit next to one another or go full beauty and the beast style like Andrew and I do, light some candles, turn down the lights and have some quiet music in the background. For less than the price of one persons prefix meal at a restaurant, you can make a fabulous homemade meal and spend those extra dollars on a nicer gift, some flowers, or perhaps a nicer bottle of wine.
When it comes to romantic dining, I don’t think it gets any better than French cuisine. There’s just something elegant and fabulous when you make French food. Coq au Vin sounds fancy, but it’s really just chicken cooked with wonderful French flavors in red wine (ironically Italian wine)! Inspired by Geoffrey Zakarian, I use chicken thighs in my Coq au Vin since I think they are a littler juicer; I also marinate the chicken in the wine with the vegetables for several hours to really infuse the flavor. Served over a bed of buttered egg noodles with fresh parsley, this dish will have your lover googly-eyed all night! Bon appetit!
6-8 chicken thighs (normally I do bone-in, skin on, but whatever you have or prefer will work)
1 yellow onion, diced
3 large carrots, diced
4 stalks celery, diced
2 bay leaves
3 cloves garlic, peeled and smashed
10 sprigs of thyme, tied
1/2 cup chopped Italian parsley, more to garnish
1 bottle Chianti Wine (something you would drink)
4 oz thick cut bacon, cut in lardons (matchsticks)
4 oz crimini mushrooms, cleaned and quartered
1/2 cup frozen pearl onions
2 tbps vegetable oil
4 tbsp unsalted butter at room temperature
4 tbsp all purpose flour
Salt & Pepper
In a large plastic container, place the onions, celery, carrots, garlic, thyme and parsley. Add 1 tsp salt and 1 tsp freshly ground black pepper, and mix to combine. Nestle the chicken into the vegetables and pour in the entire bottle of wine, making sure all the veggies and chicken are coated with wine. Cover and refrigerate at least 3 hours, up to overnight.
In a large dutch oven, quickly cook the bacon until it’s sightly browned and cooked through, but not crispy. Remove the bacon and set aside. Heat the canola oil in the same dutch oven. Meanwhile, separate the chicken, vegetables and wine – do not discard the wine!
Gently pat the chicken dry with paper towels, and a brown on both sides, working in batches a few pieces at a time. Season with salt and pepper. When the chicken is all browned, set aside and add the vegetables to the pot, along with the thyme bunch and bay leaves. Cook the vegetables 5-8 minutes until they start to cook but are still firm. Add the chicken back to the pot and carefully pour in all the wine and any salt/pepper and parsley bits. Add the bacon, pearl onions and mushrooms and stir to combine. Bring the whole mixture to a simmer and cook 25-30 minutes at a simmer, partially covered, stirring occasionally.
Meanwhile, boil heavily salted water for the noodles. When the chicken is cooked through (and the whole house smells amazing), gently remove the chicken from the pot, set aside and cover to keep warm. Next, using a slotted spoon or “spider” tool, remove the vegetables, onions and bacon, and set aside. In a small bowl, combine the softened butter and flour, mashing them together with a fork to form a paste (called a beurre meuniere). Turn the remaining wine mixture to medium-high heat and bring to a boil. Let the sauce reduce slightly for 2-3 minutes, and carefully whisk in the butter and flour mixture. The sauce will immediately start to thicken. Reduce the heat when the sauce thickens, and cook for 3-5 more minutes, until glossy and the sauce coats the back of a spoon. Cook the noodles during this time, drain, add butter and some additional parsley.
To assemble the dish, in a large bowl or serving platter, place the noodles on the bottom. Next, arrange the chicken and top with the bacon/vegetable mixture. Finally, ladle sauce all over the dish so the chicken, vegetables and noodles are coated with sauce; the dish should not be “soupy,” but make sure there is enough sauce – that’s where all that delicious flavor is! Sprinkle the top with fresh parsley and serve a bowl of additional sauce on the side. Enjoy!