My coq au vin (Click on the pictures below to enlarge) 1. Start by marinating the chicken The evening before; start by dividing the chicken in smaller parts in the sizes you like. Remove the skin as much as possible; no matter how you hard you sear the chicken, after the chicken is cooked in wine, the remaining skin will always turn gelatinous and disgusting, so, better remove that, you don't need people gagging at your table! Put the meat in a container of your choice, just be sure you can pour enough red wine over it so it's covered. I use a "Montepulciano d'Abruzzo" as usual for marinating. I also add a celery stick, an onion halved, juniper berries, 2 cloves, sprig of thyme and a few pepper corns. Cover and leave to marinate overnight. 2. The onion/bacon/mushroom preparation You will find this onion/bacon/mushroom combination in lots of other stews, it is an important flavor maker in many dishes like the ones that have the name "chasseur" in it, which mean "hunter style". - Use pearl onions and peel. I know, it's quite a job. - Rinse the mushrooms; take a few in your hands and shortly rub between your hands under a running water tap. Use small button mushrooms which we call "champignons de Paris" over here. Quarter them. - Cut the rind from the bacon and cut the meat in "lardons". Take a large pan, add a little sunflower oil and add the onions first on medium low. Sweat for a good 5-8 minutes. Then turn the heat slightly up and add the lardons. Fry until they get a bit colored. Now add the mushrooms, a bit of butter, a little dried thyme and s&p. Taste!!! Set aside. 3. Preparing the stew Get the chicken parts out of the marinade and dry them well. Fry on medium high in sunflower oil until they start to color nicely; take all the time you need to do so, 20 minutes or longer is very usual. Add a small chunk of butter halfway if the meat fries to quickly. Add thyme and plenty s&p. Now pour half a cup of brandy over it. I used grappa because it has more power and is packed with flavors of grape skins and grape seeds. If you want to stay french, use "marc" like "marc de Bourgogne" or even the spanish "orujo", they are all identical to grappa. Let the alcohol burn off for a good 5 minutes. Sprinkle a heaped tbsp of flour over the meat and let fry for a while (in culinary terms; singer); turn the pieces of meat a few times. Add the onion/bacon/mushroom preparation. Meanwhile, sieve the marinade and add it a bit at a time to the pan, avoiding to pour over the meat. Don't wack the cold marinade in one go over the meat or it could get tough from this treatment! Add a tbsp of tomato puree. Let simmer for 45 minutes, no longer or the chicken will get mushy and that's not what we're looking for. Check for seasoning. And, ready to serve; 4. Additions - I made what we call a "stoomp", which is a delicious combination of onion, potato, Brussels sprouts this time and quite a lot of butter. Plenty seasoning and an essential grind of fresh nutmeg. In short, a fantastic mash that goes with simple dishes as well as gastronomic ones. - Served with a glorious wine from Argentina.