Crockpot Coq au Vin

Coq Au Vin is one of those cooking preparations I’ve randomly heard about over the years but didn’t really pay much attention to — I suppose it just always sounded like a dish best left to French restaurants. It entered my radar late last year when I had a fondue version of coq au vin at a restaurant, and so when I stumbled upon a crockpot version of this preparation a few weeks ago, it piqued my interest.

A bit of research indicates that Coq Au Vin is essentially poultry braised with wine. Cooking anything in wine seems like a great idea to me; I usually find myself inventing ways to add wine to recipes that don’t call for it. Braising, as it turns out, indicates that the meat should be pan seared before slow cooking in liquid, so the recipe does sound ideal for the crock pot. Apparently this cooking method was developed specifically for tougher, less expensive (right up my alley!) cuts of meat, to break down the tissues, making them more palatable. Also inherent in the braising approach is the purposing of the braising juices as a gravy. Everyone knows I adore mashed things with gravy, and so it seemed the perfect opportunity to try a promising new recipe while at the same time pouring it over a nice root vegetable mash on a crisp October day.

Coq Au Vin with Mashed Rutabaga

Coq Au Vin with Mashed Rutabaga


6 oz sliced bacon, chopped
2 lbs chicken tenderloins
1 onion, chopped
1 cup dry red wine
3 teaspoons garlic, minced
1/2 teaspoon dry rosemary, or 3 sprigs fresh
1 teaspoon salt
1⁄2 lb mushrooms
1⁄8 cup water (optional)
1 teaspoon cornstarch (optional)
2 green onions, chopped

Chop up bacon and fry until crisp (I like to use my kitchen scissors to cut the raw bacon into pieces before frying). With a slotted spoon, remove the bacon from the skillet and place in the crockpot.

Reheat the bacon fat and brown the tenderloins. Remove the chicken to the crockpot once seared. Add the onions to the remaining bacon fat. Saute briefly, until onions soften. Add wine to the skillet. Scrape down the sides of the skillet and then pour the contents into the crockpot.

Add the garlic, rosemary and salt. Slow cook on high for 3 hours or low for 6 hours. Add the mushrooms about halfway through.

When your coq au vin is finished cooking, you can, optionally, turn the juice into a thicker gravy: mix cornstarch with the 1/8 cup water in a small bowl. Strain the crockpot cooking juices into a saucepan. Heat, slowly stirring in the cornstarch. Stirring often, cook until reduced and thickened.

Garnish with the green onions. Serve with a mashed root vegetable.

This recipe is admittedly not the simplest of crockpot recipes. There is a lot going on stovetop, as well. I didn’t opt to use the cornstarch for thickening, both to keep the carbs as low as possible and because I didn’t want to do one more transfer to a new pan. It worked out just as well treating the crockpot juices as more of an “au jus” gravy. There was not a ton of liquid leftover anyway, so I would say folks can certainly feel free to skip this step.

Mornay Sauce for Seafood or Pasta

In my general browsing of recipes online, I found myself encountering the term “Mornay,” especially in seafood dishes, such as Crab Mornay or Salmon Mornay. Further research shows that it is — perhaps unsurprisingly — French in origin, a culinary outgrowth of Bechamel sauce, a basic white sauce (butter, flour, milk) that is a core element of French cooking, and that surfaces more widely in recipes of broader Continental origin.

Apparently Mornay is just Bechamel with cheese. The types of cheese used in recipes vary, but the one I seem most commonly is Swiss. I’ve seen it included in recipes to be poured over fish filets, seafood croquettes or crab cakes, even seafood crepes. It doesn’t seem to be used, traditionally, as a sauce for pasta, but its consistency as a cheesy sauce, it seems to me, invites the correlation that Swiss is to Mornay, as Parmesan is to Alfredo, as Cheddar is to Mac & Cheese, etc. Having tried it over pasta, I’m sold! My favorite way to make it, and preserve its longstanding connection to seafood, is to add faux crab and green onions:


2 tablespoons butter
1 tablespoon white flour
1/2 cup white wine (optional)
2 cups half & half or cream
8 oz Swiss cheese (Gruyere is most traditional)
2-3 green onions, snipped or sliced
8 oz to 1 lb. faux crab, chunk style, or other seafood
salt & pepper to taste
pasta or bread

Melt the butter in a medium saucepan. When it is just melted, add the flour and stir until all lumps are broken up. If you’re going to add some wine, make sure it is a light-bodied white so as not to compete with the subtle flavors of the swiss cheese. Heat the wine through and then add the cream and the cheese. I have gathered from looking at several recipes that Gruyere is the variety of Swiss cheese that is considered most traditional, but it can be pretty expensive. Any type of Swiss — or a combination of Swiss cheeses — will do. I use just plain ol’ low-brow brick o’ grocery store Swiss, but don’t rule out a Gruyere or an Emmenthaler or a Jarlsberg as a higher-brow option.

Heat the cream & cheese mixture on medium-low fire in order to soften the cheese. Meanwhile, snip the onions into a bowl and set aside. When the cheese is visibly melting, puree the sauce with an immersion blender to smooth out all the lumps. After the sauce is pureed, add your fish, if you’re using shellfish or faux crab. If you’re making this sauce to top a fish filet, crab cake or seafood croquette, then prepare the fish separately.

Once the sauce is thickened and heated through, add most of the snipped green onions (reserve some for garnish, if you like), salt and pepper. Serve tossed with pasta, over prepared fish and/or with crusty bread. Garnish with parsley.

To be honest, having read a lot of Crab Mornay recipes, I’m not sure what to make of their serving suggestions. Nobody but me seems to have had the idea to serve over pasta. Fair enough. I’ve done pasta but I have also used it (sans faux crab) as a sauce for salmon croquettes. Some of the recipes I’ve read involve serving it over seafood crepes, sometimes with mushrooms added to the crepes or the sauce. Again, seems logical. However, a majority of recipes suggest serving with “crusty bread” or in “a bread bowl.” Are people eating their Crab Mornay like a soup? Or, perhaps, making it thicker for use as a dip (I don’t add as much flour as some recipes because of carbs, but also so it will be pour-able enough to work as a pasta sauce)? I suppose it would be tasty as a fondue, though having larger fish chunks in a fondue seems cumbersome, unless they are also reserved and served on the side for dipping.

The mystery of Mornay will persist, but I’m advocating here and now that we add it to the canon of classic pasta sauces! This simple sauce is quite delicious; cheese lovers rejoice!