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 Coq au Riesling
This quick variation on a classic Alsatian dish is French comfort food, made to go with Riesling.
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This article was published in The Wine Advisor FoodLetter on Thursday, Jan. 10, 2008 and can be found at

Coq au Riesling

Think of a classic French comfort food dish, and chances are one of the first goodies to come to mind will be coq au vin.

Country fare of Burgundy brought into the formal dining room, this hearty dish features a chicken - or better yet, traditionally, an old rooster who's outlived his usefulness - long-stewed in red wine with mushrooms, onions, garlic and herbs until the old bird finally turns wine-dark and, at last, tender.

Over in Alsace, where France meets Germany in a picturesque, too-often war-torn region along the Rhine, the locals make and drink white wine, mostly, so it's not surprising that the local variation on coq au vin is made with white wine - specifically, the intensely flavored local Riesling. The result, coq au Riesling, is essentially similar to the Burgundian red-wine dish save for the color of the wine and the addition of an enriching dollop of cream; but its personality is almost completely different.

Like coq au vin, it's originally intended to be made with an old rooster, not a thing one is likely to pick up at Whole Foods. This variation that I whipped up on a whim the other day is perhaps not truly authentic, but it's certainly inspired by the Alsatian dish. It uses chicken parts - ideally chicken thighs, whose robust dark meat comes a little closer to the style of the original than bland white meat - for a quick rendition that can be brought to the table in an hour.


(Serves two)

Sweet onion, enough to make 1/2 cup (120g) chopped
1-2 cloves garlic
6 brown or white mushrooms
1 ounce (15g) pancetta
2 tablespoons (30g) butter
4 to 6 chicken thighs or mixed parts
Black pepper
1/2 cup good-quality Riesling
1/4 cup heavy cream


1. Peel and chop the onion. Peel and mince the garlic. Clean the mushrooms and cut them into thick slices. Chop the pancetta.

2. Melt the butter over medium-high heat in a saute pan and add the pancetta, cooking until it renders some of its fat and starts to turn crisp brown. Put in the chicken parts, skin-side down. Brown well on both sides, 2 or 3 minutes per side, and take them out to a warm plate. Remove the skin if you wish, to save a few calories; it won't be crunchy and delicious in this procedure, so there's not much point in keeping it.

3. In the butter and chicken fat remaining in the skillet, cook the chopped onions and minced garlic until they're translucent and aromatic. Put in the mushrooms and saute until they soften. Add salt and pepper to taste.

4. Pour in a little of the wine to deglaze, scraping the bottom of the pan. Put back the chicken parts and any accumulated juices, then pour in the cream. Bring back to a simmer, then reduce heat to low and cook, covered, for 30 to 40 minutes, stirring occasionally. Uncover, increase heat to a low medium, so the sauce bubbles gently, and cook for a few more moments until it reduces and thickens a little. Grate on a bit of nutmeg, check seasoning and serve.

MATCHING WINE: Riesling, of course. An Alsatian Riesling would be ideal, but just about any decent dry or off-dry Riesling will do. It was fine with the Schloss Vollrads 2006 Rheingau Riesling Qualitätswein featured in Monday's 30 Second Wine Advisor.

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