The Mushroom Variety Ina Garten Avoids When Making Coq Au Vin

Coq au vin has been around for a couple of hundred years. A cookbook from 1864 shares a recipe for chicken in white wine or "poulet au vin blanc," which Fine Dining Lovers says is similar to that of coq au vin, which wasn't just made with any old chicken, but with rooster, stewed in red Burgundy with onions, carrots, celery, and bacon, before it is garnished with onions and sauteéd mushrooms, per Gourmet Traveller. Whether or not the dish was widely enjoyed is not known because coq au vin doesn't appear in the writings of France's best-known chefs, and there was a reason for this. Coq au vin, which was first made in the French region of Burgundy, was considered peasant food.

Coq au vin didn't emerge to become part of an American kitchen's repertoire until cookery queen Julia Child first featured the dish on her show "Mastering the Art of French Cooking," as well as on "The French Chef," in the early 1960s, per Fine Dining Lovers. Even then, chefs like Paul Bocuse, via Gourmet Traveller, and Child via PBS, whose versions of coq au vin became popularly used, didn't specify just what kind of mushrooms to use in their coq au vin. But Ina Garten chose to take that step in the interest of making the dish more flavorful, and she took the time to explain why.

Button and cremini mushrooms provide different flavors

Garten doesn't appear to be a fan of using button mushrooms for this particular dish. She specifies that she doesn't use this kind because "they don't have a lot of flavor," per a clip from her show "Barefoot Contessa." Instead, she recommends using cremini or porcini as the go-to mushrooms of choice for coq au vin, and she may have a point.

The Spruce Eats says button mushrooms are just the younger version of the Agaricus bisporus — a mushroom family which the Garten-recommended cremini comes from too. The white mushrooms, which measure between 1 to 3 inches across, are described as "the least mature" variety.

But Cooks Illustrated says the relationship between buttons and creminis is slightly more complicated than that. While buttons and creminis come from the same species, they diverged to become what they are today when a farmer found the white mushrooms in his garden, which he cloned and sold for less.

To find out whether the loss of color meant a loss of flavor, Cooks Illustrated says it sauteéd both buttons and creminis the same way, then served them on both a pizza and risotto before coming to the same conclusion: that creminis had a deeper flavor than the whites. So for those of you who love mushrooms — whether or not it's in coq au vin — even if the brown creminis may cost a bit more, the added umami makes up for it.