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Philosophy and Coq au Vin

Those of you interested in the philosophical portion of this blog, keep reading. If you are only interested in the Coq au Vin recipe, scroll to the bottom now!

There is a huge market in this country for anything that brands itself as self-improvement, self-empowerment, self-help, self-anything. I believe all of these concepts are misleading. Why? Because there is no self.

Humans don't exist in isolation. We are entangled with everything in the universe. This cosmic connection means every thought we have, every word we speak, every action we take, has infinite consequences.

Most of the world's major religions don't preach this way of thinking. They advise you to live following certain guidelines; not for the benefit of all mankind, but to reserve a spot for your self in the afterlife. Some people argue the reasons for good behavior don't matter, only the behavior, but, I disagree.

If you are only thinking of your self, the empowerment you are looking for will remain elusive. The changes you are hoping for won't fulfill your need for purpose.

I believe only by understanding that each of us is part of a greater whole can we begin acting in ways that will benefit everyone. I think it is only by surrendering selfish desires that people will be at peace with themselves and one another.

Volumes have been written on this topic by people much smarter than I and this post is not meant to trivialize a very weighty subject. It is just a brief glimpse into what I personally believe.

If you are wondering what the recipe has to do with philosophy, nothing, except a meal of Coq au Vin accompanied by a glass of excellent Bordeaux tends to lead to philosophical discussions.

And now for something completely different, Coq au Vin:

Adapted from Julia Child | From Julia Child's Kitchen | Alfred A. Knopf, 1979


  • 1/2 cup lardons (or very thickly sliced bacon), cut into 1/4- by 1 1/2-inch strips (optional)

  • 2 or more tablespoons olive oil

  • 3 1/2 to 4 1/2 pounds chicken, cut into parts (or all one kind of part), thoroughly dried

  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper

  • 1 bay leaf

  • 1/4 teaspoon dried thyme

  • 20 pearl onions, peeled

  • 3 tablespoons all-purpose flour

  • 2 cups red wine

  • About 2 cups chicken stock

  • 1 or 2 garlic cloves, mashed or minced

  • About 1 tablespoon tomato paste

  • 3/4 pound fresh mushrooms, trimmed, rinsed, and quartered


1. Toss the lardons or bacon pieces in a heavy-bottomed casserole or pot along with 2 tablespoons oil over medium or medium-high until lightly browned, about 2 minutes. Transfer the lardons or bacon to a plate, leaving the drippings in the pot.

2. Heat the drippings or oil remaining in the pot over medium-high heat. Season the chicken with salt and pepper and add the chicken to the pot, being careful not to crowd the pieces and cook, turning frequently, until nicely browned on all sides.

3. Add the bay leaf and thyme to the pan and then nestle the onions around the chicken. Cover the pot and let the chicken simmer gently, turning the pieces once, for about 10 minutes.

4. Uncover the pot, sprinkle the flour over everything, and turn the chicken and onions so the flour is absorbed by the sauce. Cover and cook, turning once or twice, for 3 to 4 minutes more.

5. Remove the pot from the heat and gradually stir and swirl in the wine and enough stock to cover the chicken. Add the garlic and tomato paste to the pot, cover, and gently simmer for 25 to 30 minutes.

6. Test the chicken. There should be no trace of pink and the juices should run clear when the meat is pierced with a knife. Add the mushrooms, and simmer 15 minutes. The sauce should be just thick enough to lightly coat the chicken and vegetables. (If the sauce seems too thin, bring it to a boil and cook until the sauce is reduced to the desired consistency. If the sauce is too thick, thin it with spoonfuls of stock.) Taste the sauce and correct the seasoning accordingly. Serve the coq au vin immediately or better yet, let it cool, cover, and refrigerate overnight. To reheat, skim any fat that has congealed on the surface of the stew and place the pot of coq au vin over medium-low heat.

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