This post has been updated since its original publication in 2015.
This traditional Coq Au Vin (chicken in red wine sauce) is a classic French dish that both my French mother and grandmother made. It has a rich, red wine reduction and is based on Julia Child’s Coq Au Vin recipe with a few twists… like scaling the recipe for 2-4 people, using chicken thighs instead of breast meat (which can become dry when cooked for a long time) and infusing the sauce with porcini mushroom powder for a chicken in red wine that’s unbeatable.
The wine sauce is what makes this Coq Au Vin for 2 special and it starts with a bottle of drinkable red wine. You don’t have to get fancy with an expensive bottle, but it should be good enough that you’d enjoy a glass of it. I usually stick to a $10-$12 wine for cooking.
Making Red Wine Reduction
- Pour a bottle of red wine into a saucepan and bring to a boil.
- Reduce the heat to a moderate simmer and cook for 15 to 20 minutes, uncovered until the wine is reduced to 1 1/2 cups.
- Note: A full bottle of wine contains just over 3 cups, so essentially, you want to reduce liquid by a little more than half. You can eyeball it, but I use a glass measuring cup after 15 minutes just to gauge how much longer the wine should reduce.
While the red wine reduction is simmering, prep the rest of the ingredients.
Ingredients For Chicken In Red Wine Sauce
- Red Wine Reduction
- Chicken Thighs
- Dried Porcini Mushrooms
- Button Mushrooms (or cremini)
- Tomato Paste
- Chicken Broth (I prefer low-sodium)
- Fresh Thyme
- Fresh Rosemary
- Pearl Onions
- Kosher Salt
- Fresh Ground Black Pepper
Building Flavors For Coq Au Vin For 2
Traditional Coq Au Vin is a braise that’s layered with rich flavors, starting with lardons or bacon… How can you go wrong?
- Crisp the bacon and transfer it to a dish lined with paper towels.
- Add the chicken thighs to the pot and sear them until golden brown. See how we’re developing layers of flavor?
Do I Need A Dutch Oven For Chicken In Red Wine?
I like to use my enameled Dutch Oven (Le Creuset, Lodge, Cuisinart) for braising because it provides a slow and even heat, sealing in all the juices, this is the way you would normally prepare a traditional coq au vin — and it’s convenient because it sears and sautés on the stovetop and you just transfer it to the oven to braise.
Crock Pot/Slow Cooker:
You can also use a crock pot or other slow cooker for chicken in red wine, but you’ll need to sear the chicken thighs and sauté the vegetables in another pan on the stovetop before assembling the chicken in red wine sauce. Follow the instructions for assembling the chicken and red wine sauce as the recipe shows but cook in the slow cooker on high for 2-3 hours or on low for 4-6 hours.
Instant Pot/Pressure Cooker:
If you have an Instant Pot, you can follow the recipe as it’s written for the dutch oven, but you may need to sear the chicken thighs in two batches, depending on the size of your pressure cooker. Assemble the ingredients and cook on High Pressure for 45 minutes. Let the Instant Pot release the pressure naturally and thicken with the beurre marnier afterwards.
Layering The Flavors For Chicken In Red Wine Sauce
- After searing the chicken, add the vegetables to the same pot and sauté, stirring occasionally until the veg is tender. Transfer the vegetables to a small bowl.
- Add the chopped mushrooms to the pot and sauté until they give up their liquid and begin to brown. The liquid from the mushrooms will loosen the fond (the stuck on bits in the bottom of the Le Creuset dutch oven). The fond is flavor and adds a meaty dimension to the vegetables.
- Add the vegetables back to the pot and stir in the tomato paste.
- Cook until the vegetables are coated and the tomato paste is fragrant.
This is a bit different from Julia Child’s Coq Au Vin recipe, because I’m adding porcini powder. What is porcini powder? Essentially, it’s dried porcini mushrooms that I blend to a fine powder in my spice grinder. It intensifies the red wine reduction and adds body to the wine sauce. I feel certain that if Julia knew about this… she’d use it.
Assembling The Chicken In Red Wine
- Add the porcini powder to the mushrooms and vegetables, stirring well.
- Pour in the red wine reduction, chicken stock, bundle of fresh herbs and stir well to combine.
- Stir in the pearl onions (I used frozen, which are already blanched and skinned).
- Return the chicken thighs to the braise, skin side up.
- Cover the pot tightly with the lid and transfer to the oven to braise.
As the chicken in red wine cooks, the house is filled with the most amazing aromas. Rich and enticing. Your mouth will be watering the whole time it’s braising. (Sorry/Not Sorry).
There are many ways to thicken a sauce.
Thickening The Wine Sauce
- Reduction: You can reduce it by simmering the pot uncovered, which will allow the steam and liquid to escape, giving you less sauce.
- Slurry: You can make a slurry with cornstarch and water (or wine, stock etc.) and add it to the liquid. Bring it to a boil and let it cook for one minute until the sauce thickens. This is a good method for non-dairy based sauces.
- Roux: Make a roux by melting butter in a pan and whisking in an equal amount of flour until there are no dry bits of flour left. Cook for a minute to eliminate any flour flavor, then whisk in the liquid ingredients. (This works well for dairy based sauces).
- Beurre Manié: (pronounced burr mon-yay) – which is simply a mixture of flour and butter, mashed together to form a paste. If you added flour directly to a hot pot of wine sauce, it would clump and not dissolve in the sauce, however, by coating the flour with butter (a.k.a. fat molecules) it will emulsify into the sauce thickening it and adding a silky, glossy look and texture. This is the method I use for this traditional Coq Au Vin For 2 — and it’s the same method in Julia Child’s Coq Au Vin.
So, what do you think? Doesn’t it look heavenly??? Trust me, it tastes even more amazing. This rich, hearty, meaty braise will quickly become one of your favorites. The aromas alone will make your stomach do somersaults.
What To Serve With Chicken In Red Wine Sauce:
- Buttered noodles
- Boiled Parsley Potatoes
- Browned Butter Sea Salt Mashed Potatoes
- Mashed Cauliflower with Roasted Garlic
- Garlic Herb Parker House Rolls
Coq Au Vin For Two
- 1 bottle drinkable red wine - burgundy beaujolais, cabernet would work well
- 3 slices bacon chopped
- 4 chicken thighs excess skin and fat trimmed
- 2 carrots peeled and diced
- 1 stalk celery diced
- 1/2 yellow onion diced
- 1/3 cup dried porcini mushrooms
- 1 cup button mushrooms quartered or large chunks
- 2 tablespoons tomato paste
- 1 cup chicken broth
- 5 sprigs fresh thyme
- 2 stems rosemary
- 1 cup frozen pearl onions
- 1 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt divided
- 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper divided
- 1 tablespoon butter
- 1 tablespoon flour
- oven proof dutch oven or heavy pot with a tight fitting lid
- Preheat oven to 300 degrees.
- Pour the wine into a sauce pan. Bring to a boil and reduce heat to a moderate bubble. Cook until wine is reduced to 1 1/2 cups -- about 15 minutes. Set aside.
- Meanwhile, set a dutch oven or heavy pot over a medium to medium high heat. When pot is hot, add bacon and cook until browned and crisp. With a slotted spoon transfer bacon to a dish lined with paper towels to absorb excess grease.
- Sprinkle chicken with 1/2 teaspoon each salt and pepper. Add chicken, skin side down to the hot dutch oven. Cook 4-5 minutes until browned. Using tongs, turn chicken and brown the other side for an additional 3-4 minutes. Transfer chicken to a tray. Reserve two tablespoons of grease and discard the rest.
- Add celery, carrot and chopped onion to the pot. Cook 3-4 minutes until slightly softened. Transfer vegetables to a small bowl. Add the white mushrooms and cook until browned, stirring occasionally. Remove from heat.
- Tie thyme and rosemary with a piece of kitchen string. Set aside.
- Add dried porcini mushrooms to a clean coffee grinder or spice grinder. Pulse until a fine powder is formed. Set aside.
- Add vegetables back to the pot. Add tomato paste and cook and stir until vegetables are well coated and tomato paste is fragrant. Stir in 2 tablespoons of the mushroom powder. Add wine reduction and herbs to the vegetables. Add the chicken broth and stir to combine. Add pearl onions and remaining 1 teaspoon kosher salt and 1/2 teaspoon pepper.
- Add chicken back to the pot and nestle the thighs (skin side up) into the braising liquid. Put the lid tightly on the pot and place in the oven. Cook for two hours.
- Meanwhile, in a small bowl add the butter and flour. Using the back of a fork, mash them together to form a paste -- (this is called a beurre marnier).
- Remove pot from the oven and place on the stove. Remove the chicken pieces and transfer them to a plate. Remove the herb bundle and discard. Skim any excess grease off the top of the braising liquid.
- Add the beurre marnier to the dutch oven over medium high heat and cook, stirring frequently until mixture thickens and creates a gravy like consistency -- about 2-3 minutes. Remove from heat. Add the chicken back to the pot.
- Serve with buttered noodles, mashed potatoes or mashed cauliflower for a lower carbohydrate option and sprinkle with crumbled bacon.