Coq Au Vin

Coq au vin is a classic French braised chicken recipe that calls for a liquid especially wine for the braising purpose. In French pronunciation, coq au vin literally means the ‘a male chicken (rooster) in wine’. Mushroom, pearl onion and lardon are the additional flavoring ingredients that make the dish extremely appetizing.




Since the origin of coq au vin is still mystifying, there are a couple of stories or myths that are popular in regard to its origin. First myth is related to “Napoleon the Great”. It is believed that during the Napoleonic wars, the great ruler once stopped in an inn. The Inn owner had nothing good to serve to him apart from an old rooster and some inferior wine (perhaps due to less food supply during wars). To his anxiety, the inn owner cooked the rooster with wine and some vegetables. The resultant dish was surprisingly tasty and since then it became the part of traditional French cuisine.


Another myth that is quite popular in reference to coq au vin is based on the Caesar’s conquest on the area afterward named as France. The local residents of that area presented an old rooster to the Roman General, but that was an insult to the great Caesar, as the meat of an old chicken is quite tough and was considered as inferior. To make the chicken useful and edible, the Caesar’s chef cooked the meat in wine (extremely popular among Romans) and the end dish was highly liked by the General as well his associates.


However, both the amusing tales related to this classic dish have no historical evidences, hence defeated by the several facts and hold no importance in the history of the dish. 


The only fact that matters is that until 20th century the roosters and chickens were used by the peasants as a means of getting eggs and meats. A rooster was kept alive till the time it was able to deliver its required services in the farms. After which the rooster was killed and hard meat of an old male chicken was cooked slowly in wine with flavors. Slow cooking with wine is assumed to soften the meat and it even makes the meat more palatable. Hence the dish was most popularly known as ‘poor people’s food’ or ‘peasant food’.  The recipe is also said to be 400 years old (may be more than that).



Preparation Overview

According to the traditional method of cooking, the coq au vin is simply a recipe that calls for chicken cooked in wine. However, there are several variants of the dish that particularly make use of different ingredients:


Bourgogne or Burgundy region of France, the red wine is typically used in Coq au vin recipe and this is perhaps the most famous wine used in the preparation of this dish. However, in some variations white wine is included instead (particularly in French-Comte). Although white wine is not the traditional ingredient for the dish, this wine is suitable for enhancing the chicken’s flavor without over-powering the flavor of wine.


Riesling wine is also popularly used especially in Alsace region, due to the fact that German border is quite near to this region and therefore the food and wine in Alsace truly reflects the German culture. Morel and Cream mushrooms are the other additions of Coq au vin here.


Champagne is also widely used in many French regions that even complement the flavor of chicken.


In addition to wine, a standard coq au vin recipe suggests the inclusion of onion, garlic (optional), mushrooms and bouquet garni (thyme, bay leaf, parsley, salt and pepper). To being with the preparation, the chicken is marinated in wine followed by searing of meat in fat and then simmering with seasonings and vegetables until tough meat turns soft.


The cooking liquid is thickened in the end either by traditional roux (mixture of flour and clarified butter) in the beginning or by adding blood (act as thickener) in the end. The blood even adds color to the dish.




Coq au vin is typically served as supper or a main dish. Boiled and seasoned flat noodles is the best accompaniment for this dish, but steamed potatoes can also go well as they may be squashed inside the chicken gravy for more fuller taste. Rice can also be served on side.


Ginger ale and fruits punch are some of the suggested drinks that can be sipped with the flavored chicken.



Nutritional Facts

Chicken is indeed a protein-rich food that makes the dish extremely beneficial and even slow-cooking allows all the nutrients to remain within the sauce.


As wine is concerned, it is very less in sodium, cholesterol and saturated fats; hence make a good ingredient for all kind of dishes. But being an alcohol, it contains high sugar that increases the calorie count of coq au vin.