Fresh, sliced lemongrass, shiitake mushrooms and a whole tablespoon of chopped garlic make this dish lighter and brighter-tasting than the traditional coq au vin. It’s Cat Cora’s sublime makeover and you will adore it
1 Organic Free-Range Chicken, 4lbs, skinned and cut into 8 pieces (4 breast pieces, 2 legs and 2 thighs)
Salt & coarsely-ground black pepper
1/3 cup olive oil
1 tbsp unsalted butter, plus about 3 1/2 tbsp softened unsalted butter, if thickening the sauce
1 1/2 cups shallots, chopped
5 cups fresh shiitake mushrooms, quartered
4 to 5 stalks fresh lemongrass
1 tbsp garlic, minced
3 cups dry vermouth
2 cups chicken stock
1 tablespoon all-purpose flour, if thickening the sauce
Wash the chicken pieces and pat dry, then season each piece with salt and pepper. Set aside.
In a large skillet with a lid, heat 2 tbsp of the oil and the 1 tbsp butter over medium heat. Add the shallots and cook, stirring occasionally, until they’re soft and golden brown, about 7 minutes. Transfer the shallots to a plate and set aside.
Add the mushrooms to the hot pan and another 1/2 tbsp oil if necessary and cook, stirring occasionally, until they are evenly browned, about 5 minutes. Remove from the pan and add to the plate with the shallots. Add another 2 tbsp oil to the pan and brown the chicken in batches, taking care not to crowd them in the pan. Transfer the pieces to a separate plate when they are fully browned.
Meanwhile, cut the bottom third from each stalk of lemongrass, peel off any outer fibrous skin, and finely mince the tender portion inside; you should have about 1/4 cup minced lemongrass (don’t worry if it’s a little more or a little less). Cut the remaining upper two thirds of the stalks into 2-inch lengths and set aside.
Turn the heat to low, add the minced lemongrass and the garlic to the pan, and cook for 10 to 25 seconds, until they release an aroma but are not browned. Turn the heat to high, add the vermouth, and deglaze the pan by scraping up all the browned bits from the bottom and sides of the pan with a wooden spoon.
Boil until reduced by about a quarter, 8 to 10 minutes.
Return the chicken to the pan and add the stock. Scatter the 2-inch pieces of lemongrass around the chicken, cover, reduce the heat to low, and simmer until the chicken is tender and cooked through, 35 to 40 minutes. Remove the chicken from the pan and discard the pieces of lemongrass.
If you want to thicken the sauce (I often don’t), knead the remaining 3 & 1/2 tbsp butter with the flour until thoroughly mixed and whisk into the pan juices. Bring to a boil over medium heat and cook until the floury taste is gone and the liquid is thick enough to coat the back of a spoon, about 10 minutes.
If it’s not thick enough, knead together an additional 2 teaspoons flour and 1/2 tbsp butter and whisk it in, simmering until the liquid has thickened.
Add the chicken, mushrooms, and shallots to the pan, lower the heat, and baste with the sauce. Cook until the chicken pieces are heated through, about 10 minutes, and serve.
** Don’t make this dish unless your supermarket has fat, fresh-looking lemongrass stalks; pass up stalks that look discolored, dry, or wooden. You can freeze lemongrass, so when you find good fresh stalks, wrap them tightly in plastic and place in the freezer for up to a month. Let them thaw for 24 hours in your refrigerator before attempting to slice them.