France on my Mind

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December 7, 2012 by caitlinvaclark

I haven’t been able to kick my French food craving. I think my trip to Paris was just the tip of the iceberg. Clearly, I can’t recreate a cozy bistro or perfectly emulate the slow-cooked classics that have taken a culture generations to perfect, but I can try to make something special.

As winter settles onto London, all I want at the end of the day is a warm decadent broth to thaw the icy bite off my bones. This I why I love my Coq au Vin Soup. It has all the elements of the rich classic French dish, but a piping hot soup makes for a lighter version of a hearty meal. On a cold night, taking the time in the kitchen to transport yourself to a different place, or even just a different mindset, can be so rewarding.

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Prep all your ingredients in advance so you can focus on perfecting each layer of flavor in the soup.

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I cook the ingredients in stages and different ways to develop the proper texture and taste. I make sure to fry the mushrooms first to get a great color and crisp on them. I even roast the potatoes separately in the oven so they are buttery sweet and fluffy soft.

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The key to getting a proper brown color on your chicken is to lightly sprinkle the chicken with flour, cook it in stages so you don’t crowd the pan, and don’t touch the chicken until  it pulls away from the bottom of the pan on its own.

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I chose a Côte du Rhône for this soup because it is full and robust while still dry, enhancing and melding the flavors. The wine in this soup is the star, because it blends properly with the other elements. While you don’t necessarily need to use a French wine, I would recommend avoiding something overly fruity, like a jammy Zinfandel, or anything too light, such as an inexpensive Pinot Noir. At this stage, you will reduce the wine to begin bringing out its essence, so you want to be sure it becomes bold, but dry.

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Add back all the delicious ingredients, top with chicken broth, and start to get excited about a truly irresistible soup!

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Simmer over a very low heat for at least 30 minutes. Although, I have to say, it is even better reheated the next day! You know what I’m having for lunch.

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Coq au Vin Soup

Serves 4 with leftovers

2 Tbs olive oil, divided

2Tbs butter, divided

8 oz. cremini mushrooms, halved

1 lb baby new potatoes

1 lb boneless, skinless chicken breast

1 lb boneless, skinless chicken thighs

1 medium onion, diced

1 large carrot, roughly chopped

4 cloves garlic, thinly sliced

2 Tbs flour

¼ cup Cognac

2 cups red wine

6 stems fresh thyme

2 bay leaves

1 tsp course salt

¼ tsp white pepper

4 cups chicken broth

Preheat oven to 400˚F.

In a large Dutch oven, heat 1 Tbs olive oil and 1 Tbs butter.  Fry the mushrooms, leaving for 4 minutes before stirring to be sure they brown. Cook for 7 minutes total and then remove from the pot. Reserve.

Toss the potatoes with ½ Tbs olive oil and salt and cracked fresh pepper. Spread out on a cookie sheet and roast for 20 minutes, until tender and browned.

Dice the chicken into small bite-sized pieces, removing any fat from the chicken thighs. Sprinkle with salt and pepper and 1 Tbs flour.  In two batches, brown the chicken in the Dutch oven. Then remove and set aside.

Add the remaining 1 Tbs butter (and another ½ Tbs olive oil if necessary) and sauté the onion.  After 3 minutes, add the carrot an garlic.  Cook for 3 more minutes, then sprinkle with remaining 1 Tbs flour. Cook 1 more minute, then deglaze the pan with the cognac and red wine.

Season the wine with the thyme, bay leaves, 1 tsp salt, and ¼ tsp white pepper.  Simmer for 5 minutes to reduce.  Taste for flavor.

Add the mushrooms, potatoes, and chicken with any collected juices.  Mix.

Pour in 4 cups chicken broth and bring to a simmer.  Cover and cook for 30 minutes. Make sure that the soup stays at a very low simmer during this time.  Taste for flavor.

At this point the soup can be served, but you can also continue to braise for up to another 45 minutes.

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