Recently, a few of my friends have pointed out that perhaps my diet is a little too rich, and it might be worth my while trying to reign it in a bit. I admit, I do love my rich foods. I love butter and cream and pate and pastry…basically anything that isn’t very good for you! Its all fine in moderation but I haven’t been eating them in moderation recently. My friends are right, I do need to pull back a bit.

So, when I saw a cookery book called The Skinny French Kitchen by Harry Eastwood, I bought it immediately.

Growing up in Paris, Harry loved her food but she struggled with her weight, so she decided to write a cookery book about her love of French cuisine, but lightening the load somewhat. She has cut the calories from one hundred of her favourite French recipes, including gratin dauphinois and cheese soufflé, without losing the flavour and the French character. And since I do love my French food, I thought this book might be the best place to start my new ‘regime’.

Flicking through the beautifully illustrated book, I noticed her recipe for Coq au Vin Blanc. I must say, I hadn’t heard of it before. Obviously, I’ve heard of Coq au Vin which uses red wine, but this recipe uses white wine instead, in order to lighten the dish. She also omits the butter and the bacon (I did cheat a bit and added a little bit of smoked bacon). So I decided to make it at the weekend and must say, it went down a treat!

If you’re looking for a lighter alternative to this classic dish, please try it out.

1 tbsp olive oil
6 large chicken thighs, skinned and on the bone
3 medium carrots, peeled and sliced
12 shallots, peeled*
3 tbsp plain flour
400ml good quality medium dry white wine, such as Riesling
500ml chicken stock
250g button mushrooms
5 sprigs of thyme
3 bay leaves
flakes sea salt and black pepper
some fresh tarragon to garnish

First, heat the olive oil in a large casserole dish, then brown the chicken pieces over a medium heat, turning them until they are golden all over. (I must confess, I didn’t read the ingredients list properly and I didn’t realise that I was supposed to remove the skin from the thighs, hence why the skin is on here. I did remove it later though.)

(I made another batch the next day with the skins taken off from the beginning)

Remove from the dish and set aside on kitchen paper.

At this point, because I’d left the skins on, I removed the excess fat from the dish. If you use skinless chicken thighs, you won’t need to do this. I then added 3 slices of smoked bacon which I’d diced. Obviously, if you’re wanting to keep the calories down, don’t add the bacon.

Next, add the carrots and the shallots to the pan. (You can use onions instead of shallots but I personally think shallots taste and look nicer. If you want to use onions instead, just finely dice 3 medium onions.)

*Handy hint: if you hate peeling shallots, immerse them in boiling water for a few minutes before peeling. They practically pop out of their skins! It’s so much quicker and easier.

Next add the flour to the dish and stir until there is no loose flour left.

Add the stock…

And the wine, making sure to scrape up any leftover flour from the bottom of the dish.

Add the chicken thighs to the dish…

Then the thyme and bay leaves…

coq au vin

Bring to a slow simmer and leave to simmer for 2 hours with the lid on.

After 2 hours, add the mushrooms…

And cook for a further 30 minutes with the lid off, turning the heat up slightly to thicken the sauce and intensify the flavours.

I served this with Harry’s Light Mashed Potato (using semi-skimmed milk instead of cream and only a knob of butter) and long-stemmed broccoli. I topped the chicken with some fresh tarragon which really lifted the dish.

coq au vin1
This dish is absolutely delicious. I actually prefer it to the classic Coq au Vin. There is a real richness and depth of flavour and yet its so much lighter. The first one I did had the skins on the chicken and I added a little bacon but I wanted to try it a second time, removing the skins and omitting the bacon and it tasted just as good. Its the perfect dish for moving into Spring.

You can buy The Skinny French Chef here.

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