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bloke.JPGRoosters are sometimes identified as “useless roosters.” They consume, but they do not produce and multiple roosters in a coop can create an unsettled environment (see the picture of the rooster chasing the hen!). When we buy chickens, hens cost $5, but the roosters are free. (If you buy chicks, the sex cannot yet be determined, so day-old chicks are inexpensive.)

Well, the wily chicken farmer fooled us when we purchased a dozen hens from him last month. First clue: they did not lay any eggs. Second clue: there is an awful lot of noise at sunrise. Third clue: they sprouted large red combs on top of their heads and a red wattle under their mouth. Fourth clue: roosters are a lot bigger than hens. We were snookered. Well, at least the few eggs we are getting are now fertilized.

What to do? Time for coq au vin. The chicken available at the grocery store is young and tender, baby chickens, actually. When birds grow large and old and tough, their meat needs to be cooked for a long time in order to tenderize the meat. Coq au vin — or rooster cooked in red wine — is a flavorful stew, which is often thickened with flour. This recipe thickens with the chicken livers stirred in at the end — which lends a wonderful, meaty, rich taste.

Coq au Vin

  • 4 ounces bacon, diced
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 8 pieces of chicken, dredged in flour
  • 1/3 cup brandy
  • 1 bottle (3 cups) red wine
  • 2 cups chicken stock
  • 2 cups diced onion
  • 2 carrots, peeled and diced
  • 2 tomatoes, peeled, seeded, and chopped
  • bay leaf and sprig of thyme
  • 1/2 pound mushrooms, halved
  • 1/2 pound pearl onions, peeled
  • 4 chicken livers
  • 1/2 teaspoon red wine vinegar
  • 4 tablespoons butter, softened
  • salt and pepper to taste

Combine the wine and stock in a saucepan and bring to boil and cook until reduced to 3 cups.

Cook the bacon in 2 tablespoons butter until crisp, then remove with a slotted spoon. Brown the chicken very well in the skillet and remove. Saute the onion until clear, about 10 minutes. Deglaze the pan with the cognac and be sure to scrape up the brown bits.

In a stockpot, combine the chicken, bacon, onion mixture, red wine-stock mixture, carrots, tomatoes, bay, and thyme. Bring to a boil and simmer for 30 minutes. In a separate fry pan, heat some oil and saute the pearl onions and mushrooms and add to the coq au vin.

Puree the livers with the vinegar and butter and press through a strainer. Pour a little of the hot liquid into the liver and stir well. Remove the stew from the heat and stir into the sauce. Do not let the sauce boil.