Coq au chat percé (Chicken Tag)

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(Photo: Residents watch Independence Eve ’05 fireworks from atop Marina City West Tower. Credit: Devyn Caldwell).

Ever since I became a home cook, I’ve wanted to try my hand at coq au vin. This Saturday with Devyn, I finally took the plunge. Well, actually, I got it in my head to make Chicken and Figs, but I couldn’t find a good recipe. So, in true left-of-center form, I adapted a Portuguese recipe for wine-braised chicken, taking out the piri-piri (Portuguese hot sauce), adding figs, and on the whole (and pardon the pun) winging it.

Devyn and I agreed it was one of the best things I’ve made. I mean, it was really good. Like, scrape yourself away from the table good. Like, how-good-is-this-Yoplait yogurt commercial good. So I thought I’d share the recipe I came up with.

I served it with garlic basmati rice and butter-orange juice braised carrots and onions, and it paired really well with a nice, earthy Shiraz — for a great match, get two bottles and cook with what you plan to drink that night. We used Little Penguin Shiraz, a bold, inexpensive Australian label.

(Aside: as I was blogging, I heard a large number of fire engines race by so I went up to the 61st floor roofdeck to see what I could see. No clue where the fire engines went. But next door on top of West Tower were three kids, girls, no more than 12 years old, playing tag on the roofdeck running around and around the circular elevator core. Vignettes like that remind me why I love living in Marina City so much).

Coq aux figues (Chicken and figs in wine)

1/2 cup flour
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon black pepper
2 lbs. chicken, cut into serving pieces (or two-inch squares)
two pan turns of extra virgin olive oil
1/4 lb. bacon, minced
1 cup onions, diced
1 or 2 carrots, peeled and sliced
8 oz. button mushrooms, sliced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 cup mission figs (one package), stemmed and halved
1/2 cup Italian parsley, chopped
1 cup earthy Shiraz
1/4 cup good Cognac
1 teaspoon chicken base mixed into 1 cup water
salt and pepper to taste

In a mixing bowl, combine the flour, salt, and pepper. Dredge the chicken pieces in the flour mixture.

In a large, heavy skillet or stew pot with a lid, heat the olive oil and brown the dredged chicken pieces. Reserve the chicken pieces and brown the bacon in the same skillet until crisp. Add the onion, carrot, and mushrooms and sauté until the onions are translucent. Add the garlic and figs and sauté for two minutes more. (At this point, I usually season my aromatics with a little salt and pepper, but in this case, light on the salt due to the chicken base). Return the chicken to the skillet and add the parsley, wine, cognac, and chicken base mixture.

Bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer and cover. Cook on low for one hour. Monitor the liquid level and add more wine or stock if needed.

When done, transfer to a serving platter. (Because of the flour dredge, you should already have a thick, hearty sauce and have no need to deglaze the skillet. This is a neat trick I learned from my previous goulash project).

And remember, serve with a bottle of the wine that you cooked with. Enjoy!

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