Coq au Riesling
Coq au Riesling (Ronnie Fein)
On the first night of Passover our family follows customs that began with my grandparents over a hundred years ago. It’s comforting to light candles using my great-grandma’s candlesticks, dress the table with my mother’s special tablecloth and more or less eat the same foods we’ve eaten for as long as I can remember. And yet, we have made a few changes here and there: a more up-to-date Haggadah, a different charoset every year and an additional entrée for the vegetarians at the feast.
But the biggest change is the wine we serve.
Although we still offer Manischewitz concord grape for the folks who appreciate the history and tradition, there are so many fabulous kosher-for-Passover wine choices available now, we don’t want to pass up the opportunity to drink a fine wine that actually works with the meal, that makes the food tastier and more pleasurable, that goes beyond drinking-as-ritual. In addition, we enjoy a number of entrees that use wine – braised short ribs, veal breast stew, for example -- and concord grape wine just doesn’t work because it’s too sweet and overpowers the other ingredients. The availability of a good wine for cooking has opened up a world of recipes to make for the Seder and during Passover week.
One of our favorite wines is Riesling, which can be sweet and distract from savory ingredients. On the other hand, there are also moderately sweet and dry ones and they are perfect for foods that are rich or flavorful, seasoned well and interesting. Duck? Certainly. Turkey. Salmon. Tuna. Most Asian-seasoned food. Wild mushrooms. And, most everyone’s go-to: chicken.
I’ve made Coq au Riesling – braised chicken -- several times with different Riesling choices, both crisply dry and modestly sweet. We loved them both. Rich shiitake mushrooms balance the acidic Riesling flavors perfectly.
Although it may seem like “just chicken,” this is a fancy-named, beautiful dish that’s festive enough for any Seder table or for dinner during the holiday week. It’s also a complete meal-in-one entrée, which makes things easier during the hectic holiday, although I have served this with sautéed spinach, because we like extra vegetables. If you eat quinoa or rice during Passover, either would also make a good accompaniment.
I make this dish using a whole, cut up chicken, but it’s also fine if you use (4) whole legs or (4) half-breasts (cooking time may be a few minutes more). There’s a bonus to this entrée too: you can prepare Coq au Riesling ahead and rewarm for serving.