To serve 6 – 8
1 chicken, preferably a cockerel 10 – 12 months old, cut into serving pieces, but an old Cock or Stewing hen is wonderful (flavor...)
1 additional young chicken if your Stewer is too tough for eating, cut up
Salt and Pepper
2 strips lean salt pork with the ring removed, sliced 2/3 inch thick and cut into cubes
3 medium sized carrots cut into sections, 1 – 2 inches long
3 medium sized onions, coarsely chopped
2 tsp flour
¼ cup brandy
4 cups red wine, 3 for the Roo, 1 for you!
4 – 6 cups of good warmed beef broth
1 bouquet garni made up of thyme, bay leaf and a few sprigs parsley
½ lb mushrooms
Salt and pepper again
11 tsp butter
25 or 30 small boiling onions, peeled
Good wholesome bread for slicing and sopping up the succulent sauce
1. Preparing the aromatics:
Parboil the pieces of salt port for 2 minutes, drain and dry them in a towel. Put them to fry over low heat in a large, heavy skillet with a bit of oil or butter. When the pieces are golden brown, remove them and put them aside.
In the same cooking fat, place the carrots and chopped onions. Keep the heat between medium and low, and allow them to cook, stirring regularly to avoid over browning, for 20 – 30 minutes. Remove the vegetables, put them aside. Leave the pan be. You will fry the chicken in it.
2. Coloring the chicken:
Season the chicken pieces with salt. Add more fat or oil to the pan if necessary and cook the pieces over moderately high heat, turning them until they are lightly browned all over. Sprinkle flour on the chicken and turn the pieces until the flour is lightly colored. The flour will help thicken the braising liquid. Return the onions and carrots to the pan.
3. Flaming with brandy
Turn off any overhead fan, as it could suck up the brandy flame and burn your face. When the flour has cooked for a few minutes, pour in the brandy, carefully set it alight and stir. When the flames have died, add the wine and raise the heat. Stir the chicken pieces and move them around until the liquid comes to boil, scraping all the residues – they are an important flavoring element.
4. Slow braising
Transfer the chicken pieces and vegetables into a soup pot with a nice thick bottom. Pour in your warmed beef stock over the chicken pieces until barely covered, adding more wine or stock if necessary. Add the bouquet garni, tied or untied. Bring the liquid to a boil, and then regulate the heat so the liquid barely trembles and cover the pan tightly. The length of the cooking time depends on the bird’s age and “past” – from 30 – 45 minutes for a fryer that has never exercised to 1 ½ hours for a 10 month-old rooster, and an hour longer still for one that may be too old to have a fine flesh, but will produce a marvelous sauce (if this is the case you can use both younger and older chicken together, discarding the old chicken meat later, after braising. This will intensify the flavors of the sauce, great idea!)
5. Meanwhile, cook the boiling onions, seasoned, in the butter over very low heat, shaking the pan from time to time for 20 – 30 minutes. Keep them covered and avoid browning them; if the saucepan is not heavy enough. Remove the onions when they are done and use the same pan to fry the mushrooms. Trim the mushrooms stems and cut the caps into two or four pieces. If they are small, keep them whole. Toss them in butter over high heat for 2 or 3 minutes; season with salt and freshly ground pepper, making sure not to overcook them. With the high heat, the moisture they exude will evaporate quickly, thus preventing them from stewing.
6. Straining the braising liquid
When the chicken pieces are tender, transfer the chicken and carrots pieces to another platter. Pass the cooking liquid through a fine sieve into a saucepan, using a spatula or wooden spoon to work the residue. Put back in the pot. Discard the remains of the bouquet garni, and the old chicken meat at this point.
7. Cleansing the sauce
In the pot, skim as much fat from the surface of the liquid as possible and bring to a boil, then position the saucepan over the heat so as to permit its contents to simmer only on one side. On the still side, a skin of fat and impurities will form; when the skin is thick enough, carefully skim all fat and impurities as they surface over the next 30 minutes or so. If, at this point, the sauce is still too thin, turn up the heat to create a fast boil, stirring constantly until you achieve the right consistency. Remember, however, the sauce will thicken as it is placed in the serving dish. Do not make the mistake of over thickening the sauce at this point.
8. Assembling the dish
Put the chicken pieces, carrots, onions, mushrooms, and fried pork sections into the pot with the sauce, making sure they are covered. Simmer for 20 minutes more, et Voila! Le coq et prêt! Serve with a nice crunchy green salad, a glass of that red wine and warm bread and you will have a meal you will never forget.
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