Authentic Coq Au Vin With A Rooster

How do you cook an older chicken? You make coq au vin. This traditional recipe for coq au vin uses an older rooster slowly braised to tenderness in a rich wine sauce. This makes for the most decadent, savory chicken stew. A pastured rooster that has foraged his whole life makes for the best results. You can make this with older hens, too, but whatever you do, do not attempt this recipe with the typical 6-8-week-old broiler chicken found at the grocery store.

a pot of coq au vin chicken stew on a linen table cloth

Cooking Older Roosters & Hens

My chicken groups are full of people looking to get rid of their roosters. If they knew how delicious those birds were, they just save them instead.

With the cost of meat and everything rising they may just have to discover this fact.

Coq au vin is a traditional peasant recipe from France that most people are familiar with, even if just by name. Fewer though have had the real deal as most modern recipes are adapted for the typical grocery store chicken to allow for shorter cooking times.

While a chicken stewed in wine sauce is a great meal — it is not coq au vin which has always been a recipe intended to help make a tough older bird like a rooster tender and delicious.

The wine and the long, slow cooking accomplishes this task and the end result is one of the most delicious chicken stews you can make.

If you raise chickens like we do, you’re likely to have a number of extra roosters or even older laying hens at some point.

How do you cook these older chickens?

They do make the best tasting bone broth and that’s what most people do with their spent laying hens and extra roosters — make chicken soup.

Some people also pressure can them to make the meat tender but I have never tried that myself.

Coq au vin is another perfect solution to what to do with these older birds. It’s a very impressive meal that uses an entire chicken and tastes even better the next day.

Coq au vin is also very versatile. The two most important ingredients are the chicken and the wine, everything else is adaptable to what you have on hand.

The wine is the acid that tenderizes the meat so it is pretty vital.

As it’s simmered for so long, the alcohol content is also reduced by about 95% making it a safe choice for pregnant women and children.

bresse rooster on pasture flapping his wings
Chad Thundercock, one of the MANY psychotic Bresse roosters I hatched out that spring which would become the source of inspiration and experimentation. Fittingly, he is a French bird.

Peasant Cookery

This is true peasant cookery at its best, and although this is a French dish, every culture will have some variation of something like this as everyone figured out that acidic foods like wine and long, slow cooking times results in tender meat.

We used to eat older animals much more often in the past and it’s pretty sad that this has waned in practice outside of some homesteading and farming communities.

One last thing — don’t be intimidated by this dish because it has a French name or because you think it’s complicated and involved.

Coq au vin is ridiculously simple, mostly hands off, and can be adapted to whatever you have. It’s also very forgiving. I promise that you will end up with a delicious meal at the end.

It is after all — a peasant dish.

If you like recipes like these, check out my 13 Meaty Winter Warmer Recipes and 11 Real Food Recipes High In Vitamin D.

You may also be interested in my smoked turkey recipe and in my Thanksgiving & Autumn Recipe section which is full of desserts too.

a drawing of a butcher chart showingthe different parts of a whole chicken

Ingredients

  • A whole chicken, cut into 6-8 pieces
  • Red wine
  • Cognac or brandy (optional)
  • Chicken stock (try chicken feet bone broth)
  • Lardons (or good bacon)
  • Onions
  • Mushrooms
  • Carrots
  • Celery
  • Garlic
  • Butter
  • Flour
  • Sea salt
  • By leaves
  • Thyme

See the recipe card at the end for quantities.

a pot of coq au vin chicken stew on a linen table cloth

Instructions

These instructions are also available at the bottom of the page in the form of a printable recipe card.

  1. Cut a whole chicken into six or eight pieces: 2 wings, 2 breasts, 2 drumsticks, 2 thighs. You can also keep the drumsticks and thighs attached. A bird that has been allowed to rest in the refrigerator and salted for about 24 hours (loosely covered) is best.
  2. Save the back, neck, feet, organs etc. to make bone broth with later. (I will save the bones from the coq au vin after we have eaten it and use it in the stock too.)
  3. Pat dry and season chicken generously with salt and pepper. If the chicken was already salted as from the previous step, skip the salt as it will be overly salted.
  4. In a heavy deep sided pan or French oven, (I use a 5 or 8 quart Le Crueset) crisp the lardons or bacon and then remove them from the heat. Do NOT drain the fat.
  5. Add the seasoned raw chicken in small batches into the bacon fat and don’t overcrowd the pan to let it get nicely browned and crispy. Add more fat as necessary (ghee, bacon fat, olive oil etc.)
  6. Deglaze the pan if required between batches.
  7. As the chicken finishes browning remove it from the pan and set it aside on a plate.
  8. Once the chicken is all done, add the onions, carrots, and celery into the same pot. Let them cook down and brown in the bacon fat. Add more fat as required.
  9. Deglaze the pan as necessary as the fond (brown bits) build up and stick to bottom of your pot (use some of the wine but chicken stock or water are fine as well). Then scrape up the browned bits that will stick on the bottom with a wooden spoon.
  10. Add the mushrooms and cook them down too. They will release a lot of water first before beginning to brown.
  11. As you cook the vegetables, add more fat as necessary.
  12. Add the garlic and stir until fragrant (about 30 seconds)
  13. Add the flour and butter and stir, cooking it until it is no longer raw (2 minutes).
  14. Add more fat as necessary and then deglaze the pot one final time. If you’re using cognac or brandy, this is the time to add it.
  15. Now add the chicken stock and half bottle (or more) of wine and bring it up to a simmer.
  16. Add the bay leaves.
  17. Add back in the crisped chicken pieces and any drippings that have come off the chicken.
  18. Add the lardons/bacon. Some people prefer to add the bacon at the end when serving to keep it crispy but I actually prefer it in the stew.
  19. The chicken should be almost completely submerged in the wine with scant parts exposed. Add more wine and/or stock if required. Do not drown the chicken in liquid. Exposed parts are fine.
  20. More of the chicken will become exposed as the liquid reduces and cooks down — that is not a problem. If it gets too low as the cooking time goes on, you can add more chicken stock or even water, do not add more wine.
  21. Allow your coq au vin to simmer on the lowest heat for about 2 – 2 ½ hours. Sometimes it will take as long as 3 hours. Leave it uncovered as it cooks. You can also put it inside your oven. I have tried both and find both methods to yield the same results — but your stovetop might run too hot and uneven, so if that is the case, consider using your oven instead.
  22. Check the chicken at the two hour mark for tenderness with a knife or fork, it should be practically falling apart but not mushy or coming off the bone.
  23. At the 2 hour mark add in the fresh thyme.
  24. At the two hour mark I would also check the stew for flavor and salt but not before that as it will not have reduced enough yet.
  25. Is it salted enough? Does it need more herbs? Add them now. Be careful with salting.
  26. Once finished allow it to stand for 15 minutes before serving. Coq au vin is actually even better when eaten the next day.

Coq au vin is best served with mashed potatoes, roasted potatoes, crusty sourdough bread. Anything that will soak up the sauce basically.

What is deglazing?

As food cooks down and browns, it begins to stick to the bottom of our pans. This is a good thing.

Those sticky browned bits (fond) are delicious and add flavor to our sauces and stews. To unstick them, a liquid is necessary, typically wine, but stock and water works too.

Hint: this recipe works just as well with other tougher cuts of meat too. For example: lamb shank, oxtail, necks, duck, goose and turkey legs (but not breasts from my experiments).

What’s New At The Homestead

Equipment

A heavy bottomed pan with high sides is all that is necessary.

I love enamelled cast iron like Le Crueset.

Substitutions & Variations

Do you think the peasants stressed over authenticity when figuring out how to make their tough older roosters edible?

No.

You shouldn’t either. Don’t have a certain ingredient? Use something else or omit it.

Try different herbs depending on what you’ve grown or dried or what is for sale.

Don’t stress about the finnicky details.

If you make this dish, please let me know in the comments how it turned out.

pot of coq au vin

Authentic Coq Au Vin With An Old Rooster

This is the traditional recipe for coq au vin using an older rooster (hens work too) slowly braised to tenderness in a rich wine sauce. Do not attempt this recipe with the typical broiler chicken found at the grocery store.
Prep Time: 30 minutes
Cook Time: 2 hours 30 minutes
Total Time: 3 hours
Course: Main Course
Cuisine: French
Keyword: stews, sunday dinner, winter
Servings: 4
Calories: 1011kcal
Author: Jana Dziak

Ingredients

  • 1 whole chicken (4-5 lbs, cut into 6-8 pieces)
  • 1 750 ml bottle red wine (Burgundy is traditional)
  • ½ cup cognac or brandy (optional but nice)
  • 2 cups good chicken stock
  • 1 cup cubed lardons (or good bacon)
  • 2 cups chopped yellow onion
  • 3 cups mushrooms (cremini, button, etc.)
  • 2 cups chopped carrots
  • 2 chopped celery
  • 5 cloves minced garlic
  • 2 tablespoons flour
  • 10 sprigs fresh thyme
  • 2 bay leaves
  • Sea salt & pepper (to taste)
  • 2 tablespoons butter

Instructions

  • Cut a whole chicken into six or eight pieces: 2 wings, 2 breasts, 2 drumsticks, 2 thighs. You can also keep the drumsticks and thighs attached. A bird that has been allowed to rest in the refrigerator and salted for about 24 hours (loosely covered) is best.
  • Save the back, neck, feet, organs etc. to make bone broth with later. (I will save the bones from the coq au vin after we have eaten it and use it in the stock too.)
  • Pat dry and season chicken generously with salt and pepper. If the chicken was already salted as from the previous step, skip the salt as it will be overly salted.
  • In a heavy deep sided pan or French oven, (I use a 5 or 8 quart Le Crueset) crisp the lardons or bacon and then remove them from the heat. Do NOT drain the fat.
  • Add the seasoned raw chicken in small batches into the bacon fat and don’t overcrowd the pan to let it get nicely browned and crispy. Add more fat as necessary (ghee, bacon fat, olive oil etc.)
  • Deglaze the pan if required between batches.
  • As the chicken finishes browning remove it from the pan and set it aside on a plate.
  • Once the chicken is all done, add the onions, carrots, and celery into the same pot. Let them cook down and brown in the bacon fat. Add more fat as required.
  • Deglaze the pan as necessary as the fond (brown bits) build up and stick to bottom of your pot (use some of the wine but chicken stock or water are fine as well). Then scrape up the browned bits that will stick on the bottom with a wooden spoon.
  • Add the mushrooms and cook them down too. They will release a lot of water first before beginning to brown.
  • As you cook the vegetables, add more fat as necessary.
  • Add the garlic and stir until fragrant (about 30 seconds)
  • Add the flour and butter and stir, cooking it until it is no longer raw (2 minutes).
  • Add more fat as necessary and then deglaze the pot one final time. If you're using cognac or brandy, this is the time to add it.
  • Now add the chicken stock and half bottle (or more) of wine and bring it up to a simmer.
  • Add the bay leaves.
  • Add back in the crisped chicken pieces and any drippings that have come off the chicken.
  • Add the lardons/bacon. Some people prefer to add the bacon at the end when serving to keep it crispy but I actually prefer it in the stew.
  • The chicken should be almost completely submerged in the wine with scant parts exposed. Add more wine and/or stock if required. Do not drown the chicken in liquid. Exposed parts are fine.
  • More of the chicken will become exposed as the liquid reduces and cooks down — that is not a problem. If it gets too low as the cooking time goes on, you can add more chicken stock or even water, do not add more wine.
  • Allow your coq au vin to simmer on the lowest heat for about 2 – 2 ½ hours. Sometimes it will take as long as 3 hours. Leave it uncovered as it cooks. You can also put it inside your oven. I have tried both and find both methods to yield the same results — but your stovetop might run too hot and uneven, so if that is the case, consider using your oven instead.
  • Check the chicken at the two hour mark for tenderness with a knife or fork, it should be practically falling apart but not mushy or coming off the bone.
  • At the 2 hour mark add in the fresh thyme.
  • At the two hour mark I would also check the stew for flavor and salt but not before that as it will not have reduced enough yet.
  • Is it salted enough? Does it need more herbs? Add them now. Be careful with salting.
  • Once finished allow it to stand for 15 minutes before serving. Coq au vin is actually even better when eaten the next day.
  • Serve with something starchy like mashed potatoes or crusty sourdough bread.

Nutrition

Serving: 1g | Calories: 1011kcal | Carbohydrates: 26g | Protein: 55g | Fat: 66g | Saturated Fat: 23g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 7g | Monounsaturated Fat: 14g | Trans Fat: 0.4g | Cholesterol: 245mg | Sodium: 1383mg | Potassium: 1059mg | Fiber: 5g | Sugar: 9g | Vitamin A: 11270IU | Vitamin C: 18mg | Calcium: 116mg | Iron: 9mg
Tried this recipe?Let us know how it was!

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