Put a Little Wine in Your Dinner with Coq au Vin

Just because I don’t drink doesn’t mean I am averse to putting alcoholic substances in the foods I eat. Surely one of the best French dishes on Earth is coq au vin, made with tender chicken and savory mushrooms and the most wonderful red wine sauce ever…But I’m getting a little ahead of myself. If you’re thinking that coq au vin sounds like the perfect thing to make for a romantic dinner, you’re right. If you want to make it the authentic French way, though, you might be marinating chicken and letting spices simmer and flavors develop for literally hours—if not days—on end. Trust me, you can get results that are very nearly as good just by using your slow cooker.
If you don’t have a slow cooker, I seriously recommend leaving the room this instant and going directly to a place where you can buy one. They’re inexpensive and they will save you loads of time on busy days (or any kind of days, really). Unbelievably amazing casseroles, soups, stews, and meat so tender that it falls off the bone all become everyday realities with the help of your friend the slow cooker. I have even heard about slow cookers making fantastic cobblers and cookies.
Moving on from the sales pitch, let’s get back to the coq au vin. To make enough for you and your special beau, you need:
• 4 chicken thighs
• 4-5 pieces of bacon
• 1 small onion
• 1 garlic clove
• 8 oz white or baby bella mushrooms (one non-huge package of mushrooms)
• 1 tsp rosemary (if using fresh, which is best, use 2 tsp)
• 1 tsp thyme (ditto as the rosemary)
• 1 bay leaf
• 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
• ½ to ¾ bottle dry red wine
The prep takes about 15 minutes, and here’s what you need to do.
First, fry the bacon in a pan until it’s crisp. Take it out and let it dry on paper towels, but leave the grease in the pan. Brown the chicken thighs in the same pan until they have a nice golden color on both sides. Remove the chicken thighs and set them aside.
Slice up the onion and garlic clove, and slice the mushrooms into halves. Still in the same pan, sauté the onion and garlic until translucent and just beginning to brown. If you need more oil, add a little olive oil. When the onion becomes translucent, add the mushroom pieces. Stir them until they release their liquids and also start to brown a little.
Now for the fun part: your prep is done, and you get to dump everything in the slow cooker. Break the bacon into small pieces and put it in there. Add the chicken thighs, the onion, the garlic, the mushrooms, the spices and bay leaf, the butter, and the red wine (basically, everything).
Then follow the directions for your slow cooker. Most are similar—if you want to eat in 6-8 hours, set the heat on low. If you want to eat in 3-4 hours, set it on high.
You may need to check it periodically to make sure that it hasn’t boiled away all the liquid (if so, add more wine), but slow cookers are pretty self-sufficient.
You won’t believe the amazing smell when it’s finally done… the only thing better is the taste!
[Photo courtesy of Flickr.com]

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