Poulet au Riesling

This was what we ate on New Year’s Eve, and very nice it was too. This is comfort food of the highest order and a lovely change from Christmas fare. It is also a great dish for sharing with friends, because a lot of the work can be done in advance.

Classically, this would be made with a cockerel, making it Coq au Riesling, but it is rare to see cockerels on sale in butchers’ shops, so a decent free-range chicken is fine. To be authentically Alsatian, you should use a Riesling from Alsace, but such wines aren’t cheap and, in my opinion, better off in a glass than in the cooking pot, so a basic dry or medium-dry German Riesling will suffice.

Ingredients

50g butter
a decent splash of grapeseed oil (another unflavoured oil will do)
1 leek, finely sliced
1 chopped onion
125g bacon lardons
4 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
1 free-range chicken cut into 8 pieces on the bone
250g chestnut mushrooms, halved or quartered if they are large ones
1 bottle of Riesling (Alsatian if you can afford it, otherwise a German one will do)
a good glug of marc or other eau de vie, or you could use Calvados or Cognac.
250ml cream
salt & pepper to taste
2 bay leaves
a few sprigs of thyme
Marinate the jointed chicken with the bay leaves and some thyme in the Riesling with salt and pepper for a few hours in the fridge. Remove the chicken pieces and dry them off. Save the marinade.

Melt the butter and oil together in a large hob- and oven-proof pan. Lightly brown the chicken pieces all over and remove from the pan.

Add the sliced leek, chopped onion and bacon lardons and sauté until the vegetables are soft and translucent and the bacon has rendered out its fat. Add the garlic and sauté for another 30 seconds, making sure that the garlic doesn’t burn before removing this mixture from the pan (leaving the fat behind).

Add the mushrooms and allow to sauté for about 4-5 minutes. Add in a couple of new sprigs of thyme. Return the bacon and vegetables to the pan, throw in the eau de vie and flame off the alcohol. Strain the wine marinade into the pan and allow to come up to a boil, scraping up the sticky residue from the bottom of the pan. Return the chicken pieces to the pan and turn down the heat and cover. Place in a 160C oven for around 20-30 minutes, or simmer on the hob.

After this time, remove from the heat.

At this point, you can either proceed with finishing the dish, or if you are preparing it in advance, leave until cooled and refrigerate it.

To finish the dish off, take out the chicken pieces, place the pan on the hob, turn up the heat and reduce the liquid down by about a third. Add the cream and stir. Return the chicken and simmer gently for another 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. If it seems a bit thin, whisk in some beurre manié. Taste for seasoning and adjust if necessary.

Serve with white rice, new potatoes, pasta or just some crusty bread.

A simple green salad will go very nicely with this.

The ideal wine to drink with this would be from Alsace, ideally a Riesling or a Gewürtztraminer, but a white Burgundy would work well too, as would a lighter red wine, again Burgundy would be a good destination to start looking.

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