Chicken Poached in Riesling with Cream Sauce

The second recipe I have chosen from my book to get you in the mood for the French Wine Harvest is a truly delicious chicken dish from Alsace. The wine villages in this, the most northern, wine region of France, are absurdly pretty, with geraniums pouring over balconies of ancient buildings, traditional decorated local pottery, and charming metal-work signs outside shops and bars.

The recipe was given to me by the Freudenreichs, a family who have been making wine in Eguisheim for over 300 years and who take pride in feeding their pickers superbly.

FOR 4 - 6 PEOPLE

CHICKEN POACHED IN RIESLING WITH CREAM SAUCE (Coq au Riesling)

Use a free-range chicken. Cut it up into 8 portions, or buy chicken joints such as legs (drumstick and thigh attached).

1 chicken, weighing about 1.5 kg (3 lb), jointed

60 g (2 oz) butter

1 tablespoon oil

4 shallots

1 clove garlic

1 small glass cognac

500 ml (15 fl oz)dry Riesling

sprig parsley and bay leaf

salt, pepper and grated nutmeg

400 ml (14 fl oz) crème fraîche

Brown the chicken pieces in a mixture of butter and oil in a flameproof casserole. Put aside. Peel the shallots and garlic and chop finely. Add them to the butter mixture and let them take colour. Put the chicken pieces back. Warm the cognac in a small pan. Pour it over the chicken and, standing back, ignite carefully. When the flames die down, add the Riesling just to cover and the herbs. Bring to simmering point, cover and leave to cook gently for 30 to 45 minutes, until the chicken pieces are tender.

“When they are cooked, lift them out and keep them warm. Taste the broth. You could now choose to reduce it by fast boiling for 5 to 10 minutes in order to give it a depth of flavour. If you take this step, add the seasoning afterwards, having tasted again.

Stir in some of the crème fraîche and perhaps a little butter. Taste and add more cream until you feel it is right. Sieve the sauce, pour over the chicken and serve.”