LE coq au vin is a celebrated French chicken dish. I was introduced to it in the 1960s when it was popular in London bistros, but I've not seen it on many menus in recent years. A pity as it's a great dish.

Coq au vin literally translates as 'rooster in wine'. It's one of the most famous of all French chicken dishes. It's easy to make and delightful to eat.

The origin of the dish is lost in history. Some say it was originally made for Julius Caesar himself. Seems his chef needed to create something edible after the Gauls presented Caesar with a tough old rooster as a tribute for his conquering them.

The dish was once considered French peasant food as farmers would make do with whatever old barnyard fowl, roosters or old laying hens they had on hand. But over time, the dish in its various regional forms became a recipe for chicken.

Many regions of France have variants of Le coq au vin using the local wine of the area. But the bottom line is that any decent dry red wine from anywhere in the world is suitable.

This is a good and easy to follow recipe.



(serves six)

1 large chicken, cut into 8 joints

1 bottle red wine (750 mL)

25 g butter

1 Tbsp softened butter and 1 level Tbsp plain flour combined to make a paste

1 Tbsp oil

225 g bacon

2 carrots, sliced

2 cloves garlic, crushed

250 g pearl (or small) onions

225 g mushrooms

1/2 tsp dried thyme

2 bay leaves

Salt and pepper

Chopped parsley


1. Melt the butter with the oil in a frying pan and fry the chicken joints, skin side down, until they are nicely golden; then turn them and color the other side. You may have to do this in three or four batches – don't overcrowd the pan.

2. Remove the joints from the pan with a draining spoon and place them in a large saucepan. This should be large enough for the joints to be arranged in one layer yet deep enough so that they can be completely covered with liquid later.

3. Cut the bacon into small cubes, brown them also in the frying pan and add them to the chicken, then finally brown the onions a little and add them.

4. Place the carrots, the crushed cloves of garlic and the thyme among the chicken pieces, season with black pepper and a little salt and add the bay leaves.

5. Pour in the wine, put a lid on the pot and simmer gently for 45-60 minutes or until the chicken is tender. During the last 15 minutes of cooking, add the mushrooms and stir them into the liquid.

6. Remove the chicken, bacon, onions and mushrooms and place them on a warmed serving dish and keep warm (discard the bay leaves at this stage). Now bring the liquid to a fast boil and reduce it by about one third.

7. Add the butter and flour paste to the liquid. Bring it to the boil, whisking all the time until the sauce has thickened. Then serve the chicken with the sauce poured over. Garnish with parsley.

When I lived in Tokyo in the 1990s, Marie Hennekinne, wife of the former French ambassador to Japan, used to serve Le coq au vin with rice. That works well, but it can also be served with boiled potatoes.

She also suggested we prepare the dish one day ahead as it "tastes even better if the meat is allowed to absorb more wine after cooking."

For dessert, Mme. Hennekinne frequently served her guests with La Tarte Tatin. I'll be featuring a recipe for this tasty dessert next week.*