Written by Phineas Upham
There is more than one method of tenderizing meat, and Coq Au Vin capitalizes on that fact. The dish is made by slowly simmering chicken the way a casserole is made. Wine or broth is used to add flavor to the dish, a technique that was practiced by ancient cooks as well. Coq Au Vin, despite its stature today, was considered peasant food. It was like cheating the system, whereas richer folk could just buy better cuts of meat.
It is a well-known dish featured prominently both within and outside of France. Chickens were regarded as tough and indigestible, so their meat did not have much value throughout the early 20th century. Royal cooks certainly did not see any merit in cooking chicken-based dishes.
The dish calls for very simple ingredients: wine, bacon, onions, garlic, and the chicken of course. It began to spread as early 20th century foodies and critics tasted the dish and realized how good it was. This was also around the time that the aristocracy was getting into the trend of eating regionally, with each dish acting like a taste of the place.
Julia Child wrote a recipe for Coq Au vin that uses a Dutch oven to simmer the meat. She uses cognac as her base, and asks for tomato paste in addition to the vegetables. She also instructs the cook to combine butter and flour to turn the paste into a sauce that accompanies the chicken.