Inspired by many features, most recently Best Bite’s Kelly Dinardo’s Frugal Foodie (and also inspired by being unemployed) I’ve decided to start a regular feature in which I spotlight great dishes made on an unemployed writer’s budget. As with many other similar features, I won’t include pantry staples (onions, garlic, olive oil, butter, dried spices, eggs, flour etc) in the final price.

Coq au vin

Coq au vin

First up: coq au vin, that classic French dish that many may consider too gourmet to make on their own, or too expensive, because it’s French or something. Well here I am to prove you wrong.

Budget: $20, including wine and port, serves 6 to 8 – so per serving this dish costs $2 to $3. This dish would obviously be a lot cheaper without the bottle of wine needed.

I started off of a Epicurious recipe that stayed (mostly) true to the classic French dish and modified it to make it a bit easier as well as cheaper. This can be time consuming, but I have some suggestions for time-saving techniques if you don’t want to make this an overnight affair. More details after the jump.


  • 1 bottle of decently priced wine ($7.50 – by far the most expensive ingredient – used Yellowtail Shiraz)
  • 2 carrots (about $.20 – found 1lb bag of carrots for $.99 at Harris Teeter)
  • 2 onions (from pantry)
  • 3 celery stalks (about $.40)

    Mirepoix plus thyme and bay leaves

    Mirepoix plus thyme and bay leaves

  • 1 tbs thyme (I used dry, to make it cheaper, about $2.50 fresh, about $3.50 for a small jar of dried – about $.15 for serving)
  • 2 bay leaves (about $4 a jar, $.15 for serving)
  • 8 chicken thighs ($5 for 2.5 pounds)
  • 1.5 cups pearl onions (frozen – about $2.50 for 16 oz – $2 for a serving)
  • 5 tbs unsalted butter (pantry)
  • 4 slices of bacon ($3 for a package of 16 slices-found on sale at Harris Teeter – $.75 for serving)
  • 1.5 cups port (I would consider this optional – $15 for a 750 ml bottle, about $3 for serving)
  • 2 tbs flour (from pantry)
    • Note: I omitted mushrooms because I really don’t like them, but they are a staple in coq au vin (price: about $2 for 12 oz/1.5 cups of cremini)

Total: $20.85 w/o pantry items onions, thyme, bay leaves, butter, and flour. (OK I went over by 85 cents, I really did try, but it actually cost me $18.85 because I didn’t use mushrooms)


  • Take chicken, onions, carrots, celery (all roughly chopped), thyme, and bay leaves, and bottle of wine, put in large pot/dish to marinate the night before (put in the refrigerator to d0 s0).
    • Alternately, if you don’t want to marinate the night before, you could do a few hours, or not at all, the key is, the longer you marinate the more flavor will be imparted to the chicken.
  • The next night (or whenever you want to eat – give yourself about 2 hours to cook), melt 3 tbs of the butter in a saute pan, caramelize the pearl onions (and mushrooms if you so desire) for about 10 minutes, until pretty brown. Take out of the pan, removing most of the fat.
  • Put bacon in same pan, cut in small pieces (make sure to separate pieces), and brown until desired doneness. Take out of pan, cool on paper towels to get rid of some of the grease.
  • Searing the chicken in bacon fat

    Searing the chicken in bacon fat

    Take chicken out of its wine bath (it will be purplish because it’s been hanging out in red wine, but once you sear it the chicken will brown), pat dry with paper towels until very dry. This is key to getting a good sear on the chicken so take the time to do it. Sear chicken in same pan that you browned the bacon and onions/mushrooms in – you can wipe the pan clean beforehand if you prefer, but there’s all this yummy bacon fat in the pan, so I cooked it in that. Cook chicken on both sides until well-browned – about 3-5 minutes each side.

    • Note: bacon fat has a lower smoking point than butter/oil – so turn the fan on high if you cook in bacon fat, also know that even with that you might have to open a window if you go this route.
  • Return chicken to its wine bath (in large pot if not already there) and bring whole mixture to a boil. Once at a boil, reduce heat to simmer and let chicken cook for about an 1 hour and 15 minutes.
  • Remove chicken from pot, strain liquid into a bowl (you can get rid of the vegetables or keep them – they’ve imparted their flavor into the sauce which is important, but if you want to eat them like I did, eat them). Strain some of the fat off of the top of the sauce, if desired. Return liquid to pot.
  • Add port (if you want to add it) to pot, bring to a boil.
  • Whisking the roux into the sauce

    Whisking the roux into the sauce

    Now, make a roux to thicken the sauce (it’s quite simple though people think it’s complicated) – take 2 tbs of butter and 2 tbs of flour and mix together in a small bowl. Whisk into your sauce, stirring until any flour lumps are gone.

  • Boil sauce until liquid reduces and thickens, whisk from time to time, about 15 minutes. Season sauce with salt and pepper to taste.
  • Return all of your ingredients to the pot, on a simmer until all of the components are warmed.
  • Serve and enjoy!

I know, this sounds time consuming, and it is, but it’s well worth the effort: it’s yummy and cheap. That’s usually two key components of gourmet on a budget: takes time but tastes good.