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.

Autumnal Mash

Week after week, I’ve been making recipe after recipe for cauliflower “rice” in my effort to hone the culinary use of this low-carb substitution. Many of the recipes were refreshing and light-tasting for these last balmy days before the weather changes definitively for the chilly. But as the first weekend of October ushered in a few days of unmistakable BRRRR, I found myself wanting to revert to an ages old favorite… the mash!

Do the mash... the root vegetable mash!

Do the mash… the root vegetable mash!

Of course, my erstwhile love affair with the mash was in the form of mashed potatoes. Back in the olden days of the 80’s and early 90’s, I was an extremely picky eater with a palate that allowed for the true enjoyment of very few foods. The great culinary theme of my formative years was to take A) some manner of very white starch, and add B) some manner of sauce that did not stray far from the color palate of the starch. I didn’t even like tomato-based spaghetti sauce as a kid. I was a true culinary terror! If I could have eaten macaroni and cheese every day for every meal, I would have done so with glee. Grilled cheese sandwiches would have been a welcome part of the rotation, and for an even bigger change of pace… mashed potatoes and gravy! Even into my high school years when my food preferences had begun to eke toward adventurous (that is, adventurous in comparison to what came before), I still looked forward with delight to mashed potato day in the cafeteria. Our high school cafeteria, being capitalistically crafty, offered the option of buying a whole lunch, or buying items a la carte. I can’t remember a single day I got the whole lunch. In fact, most days I went into the snack bar line to get a soft pretzel or little turkey sandwich. But on mashed potato day, I was in the main line, ordering up a bowl of reconstituted potato with as much near-neon yellow gravy as would fit in the bowl without dripping over on my way to my reclusive seat.

One can never go home again, and nothing proves the concept better than attempting to eat Kraft Macaroni and Cheese as an adult, and I imagine cafeteria potato buds and mysterious yellow gravy would be the same. But as my palate has matured, some fundamental favorites have not changed, at least in concept. I still love any meal that includes sauce over starch, it’s just nowadays that sometimes takes the form of Tikka Masala over Basmati. The concept of mashed vegetables is a tricky one, anymore, as conservation of carbs is also an issue in mind. Cauliflower mash is a staple of any low-carb dieter, and it remains probably the lowest carb option when cravings for mash arise. However, I see no need to limit our possibilities in this respect, so this weekend, I did two varieties of mash, one recipe old, and one new.


1 large or 2 medium butternut squashes
2 tablespoons butter
1 cup cream, sour cream or half & half
salt and pepper

Place the squash whole in a large, shallow casserole. Prick the skin several times with a fork. Roast whole in the oven at 350 until flesh is soft. Allow to cool and then peel off the skin, scoop out the flesh, and discard the seeds.

In a medium-sized, deeper casserole dish, mash the squash with butter, cream, salt and pepper. Since squash can be stringy, I like to whip the mixture with my immersion blender until it is silky smooth.

If the squash mixture is somewhat soupy, place back in the oven, uncovered, to keep warm while letting some of the excess liquid evaporate. Check on the mixture often and stir to check consistency. When it reaches the consistency of mashed potatoes, serve and enjoy!

Again, I can’t stress this enough: squash flesh tends to be stringy when cooked. Butternut less so than other squashes, but you’ll still have strings. I DO NOT recommend a simple treatment with a potato masher (i.e. the method for lumpy-style mash). If you don’t have an immersion blender, try a food processor. It’s a little more work, but worth the effort to get a silky smooth result.


2 lbs. rutabaga
2 tablespoons butter
2 teaspoons garlic, minced
1/2 to 1 cup cream, sour cream or half & half
salt and pepper

Peel the rutabaga and cut into chunks. Place in a large saucepan or stock pot. Cover with water and boil until tender.

Drain the rutabaga chunks and place in a medium, deep casserole dish with butter, garlic, cream, salt and pepper. Mash or process with an immersion blender until smooth. If necessary, place in the oven to keep warm while other dishes are cooking. Serve with your favorite gravy, sauce or curry.

This was the first time I ever mashed a rutabaga. Honestly, it behaved very much like a potato. If anything, it’s a little drier and requires a bit more boiling time. But otherwise it is very potato-like. It did not have excess liquid at the end, like butternut and especially cauliflower mash do. I did use sour cream, instead of liquid cream, but I imagine it wouldn’t be really any different than potatoes if you did use half & half. I used a full cup, but adding half the cream would probably also work out okay because the rutabaga is so close to potato in consistency. I’ve gotten in the habit of adding a goodly amount of cream to any mash, simply because cauliflower mash requires it to get a bit more potato-like body. The rutabaga would not need as much, FYI for those looking to limit fat and/or dairy.

Beef Bolognese

Sometimes recipe searches lead to unexpected places. In my ongoing search for new ideas to fuel low-carb recipe substitutions, I encountered a recipe for Beef Bolognese with spiralized rutabaga noodles. This recipe rang two distant bells of memory for me.

First, I have certainly heard of Bolognese before, but it is one of those continental recipes that has, over the years, simply buzzed along the outskirts of my recipe radar. In general, I’m don’t actively search for new Italian recipes, simply because I have a pretty thorough existing repertoire in that cuisine category. Bolognese is essentially Italian meat sauce, which is perhaps as non-novel an Italian recipe as one could imagine. Having stumbled upon this particular recipe, however, I found myself intrigued by the spice mixture. In addition to the typical Italian green spices like parsley and oregano, it also included cinnamon and cloves. The addition of these more fragrant dark spices to more traditional Mediterranean tomato sauce is a combination I’ve enjoyed before in Greek Pastitso. Upon further investigation of Bolognese recipes, I found that some included nutmeg as well as other ingredients that intrigued me. Also, I found recipes for Bolognese both with ground beef and the stew beef, the latter variation a timely upgrade, as my dad had requested I incorporate a beef roast into our meal this past weekend.

Second, the use of spiralized rutabaga turned out to be something of a eureka moment. Many years ago, when I was in high school, I hunted down a rutabaga and some other atypical root vegetables to try out a particular recipe back when I was on a 90’s-style low-fat healthy eating kick. At the time, my tastes were not terribly well-evolved and I found myself slightly off-put but the difference in flavor between the rutabaga and a typical white potato. Without even tasting them anew, I immediately knew that my current adult palate would welcome these atypical root vegetables, such as rutabaga and turnips… especially when I discovered how relatively low they are in carbs. Rutabaga is only 9g/100g and turnips a measely 6g/100g. That’s even better than the 12g/100g in the butternut squash that forms the basis of my newly beloved squ-oodles! Both these vegetables have a similar consistency to butternut squash in that they are more substantial than the flimsier and more likely to spoil zucchini. They are also cheaper and easier to prepare for spiralizing than butternut. They can both be peeled simply like a potato and there are no seeds to carve out. Once my backyard supply of butternut squash runs out, I’ll need a more cost effective alternative to keep me through the winter, and both are worthy candidates.

As follows is my Beef Bolognese, a compilation of my favorite aspects of all the Bolognese recipes I evaluated online. I served it over spiralized rutabaga (rutab-oodles!), but it could certainly be served with any spiralized vegetable or with regular pasta.

Beef Bolognese with rutab-oodles!

Beef Bolognese with rutab-oodles!


2 tablespoons bacon fat
2 onions
3 cloves chopped garlic
2 stalks celery
1 (28 ounce) can chopped tomatoes
1 (6oz) can tomato paste
1 cup beef stock or one boullion cube
1 cup red wine
1 tbsp dried parsley
1 tbsp paprika
1 tsp oregano
1/2 tsp dried thyme
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
dash ground clove
dash ground nutmeg
2 lb beef, ground or cubed
2 bay leaves
salt and pepper, to taste

Heat bacon fat in a medium-large saucepan, or in the bottom of a crockpot. Add the chopped onion, garlic and celery. Saute until soft.

Add the tomatoes (discard liquid if using a crockpot) and tomato paste. Add the beef stock if using a saucepan, or a beef bouillon cube if using a crockpot. Add the wine and spices up to and including the nutmeg. Process with an immersion blender, if desired, to puree the vegetables into a smooth sauce.

Add the beef cubes after pureeing, and then the bay leaves, salt and pepper. Cover and simmer on low fire (in crockpot, low or high is fine, depending on how soon you want it to be ready; generally 4 hours on high or 8 hours on low) until beef is done. Ground beef simply should be cooked, cubed beef should be done enough to shred easily with a fork.

Serve over pasta or vegetables. Garnish with parmesan cheese.