In college, about a decade ago, I briefly toyed with the idea of being a French major. I had studied the language for about 7 years and had romantic but vague ideas about moving to Europe and working there. Very vague ideas. Something to do with foreign relations/ journalism/translation/nannying…or really, anything. In reality, I just really wanted to move to Paris and was looking for a way to live there legitimately.
That, of course, never happened. I ended up majoring in art history, working at a book store for a year after graduation, then moving to New York for culinary school. Though I never ended up living in France, I did become very familiar with classical French cooking.
Recently I became restless about familiarizing myself with the language again and started taking a French class through CourseHorse at Cactus Language School in Midtown. Although the last time I studied the language formally was exactly 10 years ago, I somehow placed in an intermediate Level 5 class via the online grammar test. The first class was last week. I was a bit nervous about speaking at first but got back into the flow of it pretty quickly. It was like riding a bike again after a long time of not doing so; you’re wobbly at first, but soon muscle memory kicks back in.
Around the same time last week I got restless about not using my Dutch oven often enough. It had been sitting in my cupboard from most of the summer, but now the weather was finally cool enough to make some braised dishes again. And coq au riesling was first on my agenda. It just seemed like the perfect summer-to-fall transition dish — a light chicken braise using a light white wine sauce.
It’s a nice change from regular coq au vin, which uses red wine as the braising liquid and bacon to flavor the sauce. And while some versions of coq au Riesling use heavy cream to thicken the sauce, I made a roux with flour and butter instead, which gave the sauce just enough body for my tastes. And you can use any dry Riesling for this, though I was able to find a nice Alsatian one from Trader Joe’s for 10 bucks (they’re usually a bit more expensive in the US than German or Austrian Rieslings.)
And the recipe requires just half a bottle, leaving you almost half for some nice sipping with dinner.
Coq au Riesling
- 3 pounds chicken legs and thighs, bone-in and skin on
- 2 tablespoons butter
- 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
- 1 large yellow onion, diced
- 8 ounces cremini mushrooms, diced
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 teaspoon salt, plus more to taste
- 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, plus more to taste
- 2 cups dry Riesling
- 1 tablespoon flour
- 4 or 5 fresh thyme sprigs
- 2 tablespoons chopped parsley
- Pat the chicken all around with paper towels to dry. (This will prevent excess splatter when you brown the chicken.)
- Heat 1 tablespoon of the butter and the vegetable oil in a Dutch oven or other heavy-bottomed pot or large straight-sided sauté pan. Working in batches, carefully add the chicken skin-side down and sear until golden-brown, about 2 to 3 minutes per batch. Remove and set aside on a plate.
- In the same pot, add the onions and sauté until softened, about 3 minutes. Add the garlic and mushrooms and cook for another 2 minutes, stirring. Add the salt and pepper. Return the chicken to the pot. Add the riesling and bring the liquid to a boil. Reduce to a simmer and cook, uncovered, for 50 to 60 minutes, until the chicken is very tender.
- With tongs, remove the chicken and arrange in a large serving dish.
- Add the thyme sprigs. Turn up the heat to medium-high and cook the sauce for 2 to 3 minutes until it is reduced by about half.
- Meanwhile, in a small pot, heat the remaining 1 tablespoon of butter until melted, then stir in the flour until no clumps remain to form the roux. Pour the roux into the sauce and stir until the sauce is thick enough to coat the back of a spoon. Turn off the heat and pour the sauce with the mushrooms and onions over the chicken in the serving dish. Sprinkle the chopped parsley on top and serve.
Note: This dish can be made 1 day ahead, chilled in the fridge, and reheated the next day. (This gives the dish a fuller flavor.) Any leftovers also taste great reheated a day or two later.