Rooster Sous Vide

Coq au vin is a famous French dish of chicken stewed in red wine. As the name implies, the recipe was originally devised to prepare a rooster. As they were usually slaughtered when they were old and tough, it took the acid of the red wine and long and slow cooking to tenderize the bird. Nowadays, coq au vin is usually prepared with chicken. The chicken we use nowadays, even if it is organic, is usually only between 6 and 12 weeks old and therefore doesn’t require the long cooking to become tender. Because it is so young and has grown so fast, the chicken has less flavor than the old rooster used traditionally.

Friends of ours keep chickens in their backyard for the eggs. Their neighbor couldn’t sleep because of the roosters, and so the roosters had to go. As those friends are vegetarians, they asked if we’d be interested in eating the roosters. Of course I said yes and was mentally preparing myself for having to slaughter the roosters.

But these are brave vegetarians, because the roosters were already taken care of when we received them. What remained to be done was the plucking and gutting.

These roosters were of a small breed, as even though they were one year old and fully grown, after plucking and gutting they were only about 700 grams (1.5 lbs). That is less than half of the weight of the commercially available chickens that are 6-12 weeks old!

I did some googling and found this description helpful. To make the plucking easier, I submerged the birds in water of 65C/150F for a minute or so.

The plucking was still quite a chore, perhaps because the roosters were relatively old?

As you can see these were tiny roosters.

I butchered the roosters into breast fillet, legs, and other parts. Do you notice what a dark color the leg meat has? This is because these roosters have been allowed to run around the backyard.

It was easy to decide what to prepare: coq au vin, of course.

I had figured out years ago that older chicken legs can be made tender and succulent by cooking them sous vide for a long time at a low temperature. I cooked these rooster legs for 2 days at 60C/140F, and the result was excellent. The breast fillets were only cooked for 1 hour at 60C/140F.


For 4 servings

2 small roosters of 700 grams (1.5 lbs) each

1/2 bottle (375 ml) red wine

fresh thyme, parsley, and bay leaves

2 cloves garlic, minced

1 shallot, minced

60 grams (2 oz) pancetta, cut into lardons

clarified butter, olive oil or chicken fat (that floats on top of the stock)

salt and freshly ground black pepper


pearl onions

small button mushrooms

butter and flour

carrot, onion, and celery for stock

1 Tbsp tomato paste


Arrange the carcass pieces in an oven dish…

…and bake for half an hour at 190C/375F to brown the carcass to develop more flavor.

Transfer the browned carcass pieces to a stockpot or pressure cooker, and deglaze the oven dish with water.

Scrape with a wooden spatula to get all of the flavor.

Pour that water into the stockpot or pressure cooker with the carcasses. Add chopped celery, onion, and carrot, and barely cover with water.

Bring to a boil and allow to simmer for 3 hours, or bring to pressure and pressure cook for 1.5 hours.

Sieve the stock and discard the solids. As you can see, these roosters were quite lean, as there is not a lot of fat floating on top of the stock. You can use that fat instead of oil for even more chicken flavor in the dish.

Heat 2 tablespoons of clarified butter, olive oil, or chicken fat in a frying pan, and add the pancetta.

Cook until the pancetta is crispy…

…then use a sieve to remove the pancetta, while keeping the fat in the pan. Reserve the pancetta.

Season the breast fillets and legs with salt and freshly ground black pepper.

Brown the breast fillets over high heat in the same pan, about 1 minute per side. Then take out the breast fillets and allow to cool.

Brown the legs in the same pan, about 1 minute per side, until nicely browned. Then take out the legs and allow to cool.

Add minced shallot, bay leaves, thyme, garlic, and tomato paste, and sauté until lightly golden. Do not allow the garlic to turn brown.

Deglaze the pan with the red wine.

Bring to a boil.

Add parsley. Allow to simmer until the wine has been reduced by half (to remove the alcohol).

Add the stock.

Bring to a boil and allow to reduce by half.

Sieve the sauce and discard the solids.

Return the sifted sauce to the pan, and simmer until reduced again by about half. Clean the surface now and then with a skimmer.

When the sauce is nice and thick, taste and adjust the seasoning with salt and freshly ground black pepper.

To vacuum seal the meat with the sauce, you have three options:

  1. Use a chamber vacuum sealer. For this, the meat and sauce need to be chilled completely before vacuum sealing.
  2. Use a ziploc bag and the water displacement method. For this, the meat and sauce do not need to be chilled.
  3. Freeze the sauce and vacuum seal the meat with the frozen sauce using an external vacuum sealer (such as a FoodSaver).

Vacuum seal the legs and breast separately, as they require different cooking times. Vacuum seal the lardons along with the legs.

Cook the legs for 2 days (48 hours) at 60C/140F, and the breast fillets 1 hour at 60C/140F. Chill the breast fillets in cold water and then in the refrigerator, and reheat them for 15-30 minutes before serving, again at 60C/140F.

The cooking time for the legs will depend on the age of the roosters. If you prepare this dish with commercially available chicken, 24 hours at 60C/140F will suffice.

Since this is coq au vin sous vide, I thought it would be nice took the carrots and pearl onions sous vide as well. I cooked the carrots sous vide for 1.5 hours at 85C/185F with some salt.

Peel the pearl onions by parboiling them for 1 minute, then chill them in cold water, and finally peel them. Heat clarified butter or olive oil in a saucepan and cook the pearl onions over medium-high heat until they are browned, turning them often.

Deglaze with some red wine…

…and allow the red wine to evaporate almost completely. Season with salt.

The pearl onions should be cooked sous vide at least 2 hours at 85C/185F, but the longer the better (24 hours is great) as they will slowly become softer and more flavorful.

Sauté the baby mushrooms in clarified butter or olive oil until they are cooked and nicely browned. Do not crowd the pan, as otherwise they won’t brown. Season them with salt only after you’ve finished sautéing them.

Pour the liquid out of the sous vide bags with the meat into a frying pan, and bring to a boil.

Combine an equal amount of butter and flour in a small bowl…

…and mix with a fork to get a dough that is called beurre manié.

Lower the heat and add the beurre manié to the sauce.

Cook over medium-low heat, whisking, until the beurre manié has dissolved and has thickened the sauce.

Make and add some more beurre manié to make the sauce thicker, if needed.

Take the carrots and onions out of their sous vide bags…

…and add to the pan, along with the chicken. Allow to heat through briefly before serving. If you cook this together for too long, the meat will dry out.

Serve on preheated plates. I served freshly baked bread on the side, but mashed potatoes would also be excellent.

Wine pairing

This is naturally great with a red Burgundy.


Cod with green peppers and a yogurt-lemon sauce has a lot of zing to it thanks to the peppers and sauce.

6 thoughts on “Rooster Sous Vide

  1. Love coq au vin, although we don’t have sous-vide equipment. It’s definitely a festive dish. We had it for New Year’s last December … my French friend gave me her recipe back in the 1980s and it involved a lot of red wine and … cognac!!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Oh Stefan – what a memory of a dish I used to prepare so often in the past and what a grand post breakfast tale to read on a Sunday morning ! Having defeathered a few birds in my time I was glad not to be doing the messy job . . . kudos to you for taking it on. Glad you were happy with the result . . . and you may just have reminded of the taste of the dish to prepare it myself in the near future . . . no arguments with your ingredient list whatsoever except an organic chicken, a full bottle of Merlot probably and the stovetop will be involved !! . . . and, just to say, am still enjoying clicking on ‘Stefan sings’ . . . a total surprise to me . . .

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Looks delicious, as always. What made you decide to cook the meat in the sauce, instead of adding it afterward as you did previously? Which do you prefer? Great to see you are still blogging, sharing your thoughts and knowledge. Many thanks


    1. Hi Peggy,
      What a coincidence! I’ve just received another rooster from that same friend, which I’ve just plucked. The reason for the order I which I prepared the dish is that this allows me to brown the chicken when it is still raw, which allows for easier browning and no risk of drying out the chicken. What is most important is browning the chicken and adding all the flavor to the sauce. This is done in both preparations. I would have to do a side by side comparison to find out if you can really taste the difference in the final dish.


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