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Chicken Braised in Beer
(Coq à la Bière)
French Farmhouse Cookbook
by Susan Herrmann Loomis, 1996, Workman Publishing Co.,
recipe comes from Pascale Bouche, who raises poultry in the tiny village of
Aix-les-Orchies, just a few kilometers from the Belgian border. Pascale grew
up cooking with a Belgian accent. Instead of wine, she uses beer in savories
and sweets, and instead of white sugar she often uses cassonade, a rich
brown sugar processed in the north.
Pascale love to cook, and chicken is often – understandably – on the menu.
She likes to experiment with new ways of cooking it, but this recipe is a
delicious variation on an old classic, a Belgian coq au vin. The beer
reduces to a yeasty sweetness, enhancing the already delicious farm chicken.
The garnish, too, is exceptionally flavorful. All the parts take a while to
assemble, but the results are well worth the effort.
As the chicken actually improves overnight, you may want to cook it a day
ahead, then prepare the garnishes just before serving. This also gives you a
chance to skim any fat from the surface of the dish.
Traditionally, the bacon and onion garnish, which is as classic as the
French countryside, is prepared and stirred in at the last minute. This was
it offsets the flavor of the dish rather than blending in with it, creating
a counterpoint and allowing the bacon to remain crisp, adding textural
Serve dark beer, just slightly cooler than room temperature, along with this
à la bière.”
2 tablespoons olive oil, more as needed
1 large chicken (3 1/2 to 4 pounds; 1 3/4 to 2 kg), cut into
(2 breast pieces, 2 wings with portion of breast attached, 2 legs, 2
thighs), excess fat removed
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 large onion, cut in half, then in very thin crosswise
2 tablespoons unbleached all-purpose flour
4 cups (1 l) dark beer
1 bouquet garni (5 parsley stems, 3 imported bay leaves, 2
green leek leaves, 12 sprigs fresh thyme, tied in cheesecloth)
For the garnishes:
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
40 pearl onions, peeled
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 cup (250 ml) chicken stock
10 ounces (300 g) slab bacon, rind removed
12 ounces (375 ) button mushrooms, brushed clean and cut into
1/2 cup (loosely packed) curly parsley leaves, for garnish
1. Heat the oil in a large heavy skillet over
medium-high heat until it is hot but not smoking. Add the chicken pieces,
season them with salt and pepper, and cook on one side until the skin turns
an even golden brown, about 5 minutes. (Do not crowd the pan; brown the
chicken in several batches if necessary.) Carefully regulate the heat to
avoid scorching the skin. Then turn the pieces, season again with salt and
pepper, and brown on that side, 5 minutes.
2. Remove the chicken pieces from the skillet, reduce
the heat to medium, and add the sliced onions (adding more oil if needed to
keep them from sticking). Cook, stirring frequently, until the onions are
translucent, about 8 minutes.
3. Sprinkle the flour over the onions and cook,
stirring, until the flour has absorbed much of the cooking juices and has a
chance to cook, at least 2 minutes. Then return the chicken to the skillet,
add the beer and the bouquet garni, stir, and bring to a boil. Reduce the
heat and cook, partially covered, at a lively simmer until the chicken is
cooked through, about 50 minutes. Remove the chicken from the sauce and
return the sauce to a boil. Reduce it by half, until it has thickened to the
consistency of thin gravy, 5 to 8 minutes. Return the chicken to the sauce,
and remove the skillet from the heat; set it aside. (The chicken can be
prepared up to this point a day ahead. Refrigerate it, covered. The
following day, skim off any fat that has congealed on the surface, if
desired. Reheat, covered, over medium-low heat.)
4. While the chicken is cooking, prepare the garnish:
Melt the butter in a medium-size heavy skillet over medium-high heat. Add
the pearl onions, season lightly with salt and pepper, and sauté until
golden, about 10 minutes. Add the chicken stock, reduce the heat to medium,
and cook at a lively simmer, shaking the pan occasionally so the onions cook
evenly, until they are tender through and the stock has neatly evaporated,
about 20 minutes. Remove from the heat and keep warm.
5. Cut the slab bacon into strips measuring 1 x 1 x 1/4
inch (2 1/2 x 2 1/2 x 1/2 cm). Brown it in a medium-size heavy saucepan over
medium-high heat. Remove the bacon with a slotted spoon or spatula and set
it aside on a plate. Drain off all but 1 tablespoon of the fat. Add the
mushrooms to the pan and cook, stirring constantly, until they begin to give
up their liquid, are slightly golden, and are nearly tender through, about 5
minutes. Season generously with pepper, and remove from the heat.
6. Just before serving, mince the parsley, if using.
7. Add mushrooms, the bacon, and the pearl onions,
along with any juices to the chicken, and gently mix them in. Either
transfer to a large warmed serving platter (one with edges, so the juice
won’t run off) or serve directly from the cooking pot. Garnish with the
parsley, if desired, and serve immediately. 4 to 6 servings.
Gigi's Coq au Vin
à la Beaujolaise
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