I think, more importantly than trying to get a rooster - which can sometimes end up tough and chewy and a far cry from that dreamy coq-au-vin you were picturing in your head - you should focus on getting a good quality chicken. I get chickens from a farmer's market, they are 6 to 9 months old, I'm not sure how old they have to be to be called rooster, but IMO those are just great for that dish. Also keep in mind that an older bird is going to take more time and energy to break down! After that, breaking down a supermarket chicken feels like cutting through a pat of butter.
1) Find yourself a good quality, older chicken.
2) Find yourself a good quality red wine.
No need to go spend $100 on a bottle, but please don't use $2.49 Trader Joes wine either. If you want to stay close to the original you can find a Burgundy wine.. but Burgundy wine is a bit expensive so you'd probably have to spend too much to get a decent one. The truth is you can use just about any red wine you'd like (and even white wine if you want!!), keeping in mind that the wine you're using will dictate the flavor profile of the sauce. I've used pinot noir, cote du rhone, syrah... with great success.
3) Make your own chicken stock.
Spend as much time as you can making quality stock. You can roast chicken bones (break down the chicken you're going to use for the dish, and keep its back and wing tips for the stock, plus some more bones), cover them in tomato paste and roast some more, roast celery, onions, carrots, garlic... I like to use thyme and bay leaf, black pepper...
4) Marinate or not?
You can choose to marinate the chicken overnight or not. If you do, you'll want to first boil the wine and let it cool down to avoid the alcohol in the wine reacting with the chicken, which can make it tough. Boil the wine, let cool, add thyme, garlic, bay leaf, peppercorns, carrots, celery and onions and let marinate overnight.
Marinated chicken will be closer to the 'authentic' coq au vin, meaning the flesh will be darker, colored by the wine. The chicken will taste more like wine and less like chicken.
Unmarinated chicken will stay white inside, but you still get the wonderful sauce. The chicken taste more like chicken.
5) Classical garniture (I highly recommend you follow it, because it's delicious):
- Sautéed mushrooms
- Sautéed lardons (bacon pieces, ideally you'll find a block of cured pork belly that you can cut in larger cubes, rather than using flat slices of bacon).
- Glazed pearl onions "glacés a brun". Don't use the frozen stuff. Get fresh pearl onions, or fresh green onions (look for them at Mexican markets) ... that stuff:
Then in a pan, add the clean, peeled onions (without the stems), cover with water to 2/3 the height of the onions, add a tablespoon of sugar, a few good knobs of butter, and salt. Let simmer gently until the water cooks off and the onions start being glazed by the caramel, until you get a nice caramel color on the onions.
These glazed onions, IMO, is one of the highlights of the entire dish!
Toasted bread slices, cut into triangles, with one pointed end dipped in the sauce and the dipped in freshly minced parsley.
Accompaniment: steamed potatoes, or fresh egg noodles, who both work great to soak up the delicious sauce.
- Color the chicken in hot oil. Take your time, and get as much color as you can on as much surface of the chicken pieces as possible. Color is flavor. You're starting to build the flavor of the sauce!
- Add diced onions, carrot and celery, thyme, and full squashed garlic cloves, bay leaf, and sweat.
- Add a couple tablespoon of flour and cook for a couple mn. This will later help thicken the sauce.
- Pour about half chicken stock / half wine, to cover the chicken pieces. That's a lot of liquid (1.5 or 2 liters altogether). But that's going to be the sauce, which is the BEST part of this dish! So you want a lot of it.
- Simmer for 20 mn to 1 hour depending on the age and toughness of the chicken.
I like to sprinkle the final dish with minced parsley.
I may have forgotten something, but that's the basic idea. Let me know if you have any questions!