Coq-au-vin with homemade homebrew wine

I love coq-au-vin. Lumps of chicken slow cooked in strong red wine, and plenty of it. Lots of hunks of salty bacon and delightful little onions. You can make this the expensive dinner party way... go to the butcher and spend a lot of money on a really good free range chicken - this is the best coq-au-vin in the world!

Or, go to the supermarket and buy a bargain pack of chicken thighs and drumsticks. Cheaper than cheap, but with the addition of lots of homemade homebrew red wine, it still makes a better than average mid week dinner.

What is Coq-au-vin - as the old joke goes, it is obviously a cock that has been run over by a van. Ha ha. Coq-au-vin is a classic french peasent dish made from slow cooked old chicken in a thick red wine sauce which has mushrooms and sweet small onions floating in it. A proper coq-au-vin is a slow cooked tasty dish. Beware the modern versions which are cooked much more quickly.

The key is always the wine. Choose a really good robust red, but more in the Burgundy style than the claret style. Fruit wines, such as blackberry wine adds an extra dimension of more direct fruityness. The best wine for this is probably a well aged sloe wine which is nice and tannic and often quite bitter, and survives the long cooking process.

What you really do is go and find a butcher who will sell you a nice old chicken - ideally a cockerel, but this works fine with regular chicken, but free range is always worth the cost. Get him to chop it into 8 chicken parts.

In a large frying pan, heat some oil and brown the chicken so it has lots of yummy crispy bits. When it looks good, lob in some brandy and make some flames. In a big pan, soften some onions and chopped up bacon or gammon in some butter. Throw in the chicken pieces and then pour in strong robust red wine until it completely covers the chicken. This could well be a couple of bottles.

Don't hold back with the wine. Bring the whole thing to the boil and then let it simmer with the lid slightly off for a couple of hours. In the last half hour, chuck in some mushrooms. Then take the chicken out and put on a plate and keep warm. The pan now contains some chicken fatty red wine. Boil it for 10 minutes or so to reduce.

At this stage I will often transfer the chicken to a plate, pour the coq-au-vin sauce into a very large frying pan, and then return the chicken to the hot casserole dish. The sauce is much easier to reduce in the wide frying pan.

Melt some butter and mix some flour with the butter. Add this roux to the sauce, stirring all the time until it reaches the consistency you desire. You can make the sauce as thick as you like, but do not overdo it. Don't worry about the colour, it is supposed to look gray. Once the sauce is thick, chuck the chicken back in and serve.

Yummy - even better after a day in the fridge. I once cooked this with three large chickens and over a gallon of red wine. Fantastic fun!