Can I just say, I love this dish. I love to entertain with this dish. It’s that perfect mix of humble and elegant — the type of rustic-chic that when you plate it you feel like it should have its own Instagram account. It takes the frumpy-but-fabulous chicken thigh and turns it into a centerpiece that you truly build the rest of the meal around.
It gets audible sighs when it hits the table. I’m just saying.
The secret to this one is in the sauce, folks (Sipsy from Fried Green Tomatoes, anyone? No? Okay, fine). And to make it we’re calling upon an ingredient rarely found in my kitchen: Riesling. When I’m reaching for the vino, Riesling usually just isn’t what I’m reaching for — I’ve found its sweetness to be a little cloying, its profile a little too floral. That being said, I wouldn’t substitute another varietal for this dish. Because this sauce is so, so good. This sauce is the kind that begs to be served with rice AND good crusty bread so that you can soak up as much of it as possible before the meal is over. It’s the kind of sauce that begs you to make more than you need just so you have an excuse to serve more at the table. It’s bright and velvety, coating the chicken perfectly as you swoop through a big sauce-puddle of it with your fork.
This dish is adapted from Nigel Slater’s re-imagining of the french ultra-classic Coq Au Vin — a braised whole chicken with red wine, bacon and mushrooms. This version is lightened up and simplified in all the right ways. For instance, though you can use any cut or cuts of chicken you like in this dish, I always reach for bone-in, skin-on thighs. I also switch up the procedure a bit in order to preserve the crispy skin that is achieved when you’re searing off the chicken. You can skip this method, but I hope you don’t because crispy chicken skin is one of life’s great pleasures.
Nigel Slater’s Coq Au Riesling
8 chicken thighs, bone-in and skin-on
8 oz cremini mushrooms, cleaned and sliced
5 slices thick-cut bacon, diced
1 medium white or yellow onion, finely chopped
4 cloves garlic, minced
2 cups Riesling
1 cup heavy cream
¼ cup Italian flat leaf parsley
3 tablespoons chives, thinly sliced
In a wide, heavy saucepan or dutch oven; cook bacon over medium heat until golden brown and fat is rendered, about 6 minutes, stirring occasionally . Using a slotted spoon, remove bacon from pan and set aside on a paper towel lined plate to drain. Reserve bacon fat in the pan.
Season the chicken with salt and pepper and add 4 thighs to the pan, skin side down. Cook without disturbing until the skin is crispy, about 7 minutes. Flip the chicken thighs and cook 2 minutes more. Remove from the pan and set aside. Do not tent with foil or you’ll lose your delicious crispy skin. Repeat with remaining chicken thighs. Remove from pan and set aside with the others.
Next, cook the mushrooms: Add the mushrooms in the thinnest single layer possible, making sure not to crowd the pan. You will more than likely have to cook the mushrooms in batches in order for them to brown properly. Let them sear on one side for 2 minutes without stirring or otherwise disturbing the pan. After 2 minutes, stir to coat the mushrooms with the fat in the pan until they’re cooked through, about 1 minute more. Remove from the pan and set aside. Repeat in batches as necessary until all the mushrooms are cooked, adding more oil in between batches as necessary.
Add onions to the pan and cook until translucent, about 2 minutes. Add garlic and cook 1 minute more, stirring constantly. Add the Riesling to the pan and scrape up all the brown little bits stuck to the bottom. Let simmer until the wine is reduced by half, about 5 minutes. Add cream and simmer until further reduced, about 3 minutes.
If you prefer to preserve the crispy chicken skin, finish the chicken in the oven while the mushrooms are cooking and the sauce is reducing. Preheat the oven to 375° F and place pan in the oven until the chicken reaches 155°F, about 10 minutes. If crispy chicken skin isn’t your thing, go ahead and return the chicken to the pan after you add the cream, and let it finish cooking in the sauce while it reduces. Feel free to remove the skin prior to placing in the sauce.
To finish, if your chicken skin is crispy, Ladle about ½ cup of the sauce on the bottom of the plate and place 2 chicken thighs on top of the sauce. Top the chicken with the cooked mushrooms and reserved bacon. Finish with the parsley and chives. Serve immediately, with any leftover sauce at the table.