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French Coq au Vin

This is another very old dish, invented - or so the story goes - by Julius Caesar. A group of Gauls had been cornered Asterix-fashion by one of Caesar's garrisons. To prove that they had plenty to eat, the Gauls sent out an old cockerel to the enemy, with a message around its neck saying 'Bon appetitf Caesar promptly invited the leaders of the Gaulish tribes to a dinner, in the course of which he served the cockerel (cooked to perfection in wine and rare herbs), promising the Gauls that if they surrendered, he would not only give them the recipe, but personally ensure that they and their descendants ate well and lived in prosperity for ever. Did they believe him? The story doesn't tell... Make this dish the night before serving to let the flavours infuse and intensify.

ingredients

serves 6
1 chicken, weighing about 1kg, jointed into 12 pieces (ask your butcher to do this)
500 ml red wine
1 tbsp olive oil
150 g thick-cut bacon, cubed
12 small shallots, peeled
200 g button mushrooms
1 clove of garlic, crushed, peeled and chopped
3 tbsp flour
300 ml chicken stock
2 bay leaves
2 sprigs of thyme
sea salt
freshly ground black pepper
a bunch of flat-leaf parsley, chopped

method

1. Trim the chicken pieces of excess fat. For a really rich flavour, marinate the chicken pieces in the wine overnight.
The next day, pour off the marinade (keep it to cook with) and dry the chicken well with kitchen paper to make frying easier.

2. Heat the oven to 180°C/gas 4.

3. Put the olive oil and bacon in a large ovenproof casserole dish and cook over a medium heat for 3 minutes. Add the whole shallots and cook for a further 6 minutes until browned, then add the mushrooms and garlic and cook for another 2 minutes, stirring well. Remove the ingredients from the pan and set to one side.

4. Place the chicken in the casserole and cook until golden and sealed all over - do this in batches to get a good even colour. Set the browned chicken to one side.

5. Reduce the heat, add the flour to the pan and allow it to absorb the fat. Don't forget to mix in all the coloured cooking bits on the side of the pan. Slowly stir in the red wine (or reserved marinade) and chicken stock and bring to the boil.

6. Return the chicken, vegetables and bacon to the casserole dish, along with the bay leaves, thyme and seasoning. Cover and cook in the oven for 35 minutes. Just before serving, add the chopped parsley.

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