Notes: This traditional French stew is proof that red wine and chicken make a great match. Our recipe was inspired by the version served at Absinthe Brasserie and Bar in San Francisco by executive chef Ross Browne. Buy the chicken already cut into pieces or have your butcher cut it. To peel onions easily, trim root ends, cut an X in each, drop into boiling water, and cook just until skins begin to loosen, 5 to 10 seconds. Drain, rinse in cold water until cool enough to handle, then squeeze each onion from its peel. For toast triangles, trim crusts from four slices of firm white bread; toast the slices, then cut in half diagonally.
1 bottle (750 ml.) Pinot Noir or other dry red wine
2 ounces bacon (2 to 3 slices), diced
1 chicken (4 to 4 1/2 lb.), cut into 8 pieces (see notes)
Salt and pepper
About 1/3 cup all-purpose flour
1 1/2 tablespoons minced garlic
2 carrots (about 6 oz. total), peeled and cut diagonally into 1/2-inch-thick slices
5 ounces pearl onions (about 1 in. wide), peeled (see notes), or frozen pearl onions, thawed
1/4 pound crimini or common mushrooms (caps about 2 in. wide), rinsed and quartered
8 sprigs (about 4 in.) parsley, rinsed
6 sprigs (3 to 4 in.) fresh thyme, rinsed
2 fresh or dried bay leaves
8 black peppercorns
2 tablespoons cognac or brandy
3 cups fat-skimmed low-sodium chicken broth
2 tablespoons minced parsley
8 toast triangles (see notes)
How to Make It
In a 2- to 3-quart pan over high heat, boil wine, uncovered, until reduced to 1 1/2 cups, 12 to 15 minutes.
Meanwhile, in a 12-inch frying pan or 6- to 8-quart pan (with sides at least 3 in. high) over medium-high heat, stir bacon often until browned and crisp, 8 to 10 minutes. With a slotted spoon, transfer to paper towels to drain. Discard all but 2 tablespoons fat in pan.
Rinse chicken and pat dry; trim off and discard any excess fat. Sprinkle pieces lightly all over with salt and pepper. Put 1/3 cup flour in a shallow bowl. Press pieces into flour, turning to coat all sides; shake off excess (discard any remaining flour). Add half the chicken to pan over medium-high heat and turn as needed until well browned on all sides, 4 to 6 minutes total. As chicken is browned, transfer to a large bowl and add remaining chicken to pan to brown.
Add 1 tablespoon garlic, carrots, onions, and mushrooms to pan. Stir often until lightly browned, 10 to 12 minutes. While vegetables brown, wrap parsley and thyme sprigs, bay leaves, and peppercorns in a double layer of cheesecloth, 10 inches square; tie closed with heavy cotton string. Add cognac to pan and stir to scrape browned bits free. Return all chicken except breast pieces, plus any accumulated juices, to pan and add reduced wine, bacon, herb bundle, and broth.
Bring mixture to a boil over high heat, then reduce heat, cover, and simmer for 20 minutes. Add breast pieces and simmer, turning pieces over in liquid occasionally, until meat is very tender when pierced, 25 to 30 minutes longer. With a slotted spoon, lift chicken and vegetables from pan, and divide equally among four wide, shallow bowls; keep warm in a 200° oven. Skim and discard fat from liquid. Boil over high heat, uncovered, until reduced to about 2 cups, 10 to 12 minutes. Pour equally over chicken and vegetables.
Sprinkle remaining 1/2 tablespoon garlic and the minced parsley evenly over portions of coq au vin, and set two toast triangles alongside.