This dish is one of the traditional dishes in Greek cuisine, consisting of slowly braised rooster in a rich and fragrant tomato and wine sauce served on top of some pasta. It’s basically a Greek coq au vin, but its secret lies in the generous use of fragrant spices such as nutmeg, bay leaf, cinnamon, cloves and all spice berries. Yum!
I’ve been told that in the past this dish was quite a special dish that was once in a while made to be eaten as an exclusive Sunday lunch, or to celebrate a special occasion. Not only is the rooster meat a bit tougher than chicken and needs some extra time on the stove, or in the oven, but there were not as many roosters as hens around – hence, it being an occasional treat! The time spent on slowly braising the rooster is very much worth it, though, as it eventually results in a tender, fall-off-the bone meat. Having said that, if you don’t have the time, or can’t find rooster, of course you can use a whole chicken instead!
I tasted this dish for the first time at a restaurant on the island of Naxos and was quite surprised by the softness of the meat and the warming spices used in the sauce. I am usually not the biggest fan of poultry, as I often find it too dry and a bit boring, but the meat in this dish really is something else and the sauce is so full of flavor!
Some time ago I was asked if I could make this dish and despite not completely knowing how to recreate the flavors I had tasted some years before, I came up with the recipe below after some research and experimenting. With my version of ‘kokoras krasatos’ I tried to remain true to the traditional flavours of the dish (though, people often create their own blend of spices) and luckily it was given some praise from the (Greek!) people that got to try it!
Greek Rooster in Wine with Pasta / κόκορας κρασάτος με μακαρονια
- 1.5 – 2kg rooster
- 100ml olive oil
- 50g butter
- 2 large yellow onions, finely chopped
- 200g carrot, finely grated
- 6 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
- Small bunch of fresh parsley, finely chopped
- 3 tablespoons tomato paste
- 8 all-spice berries
- 8 whole cloves
- Pinch of nutmeg
- 2 bay leaves
- 1 cinnamon stick
- 1 tablespoon white vinegar
- 1 tablespoon brown sugar
- 300ml dry red wine
- 400ml water (more or less)
- Salt to taste
- Freshly ground black pepper to taste
- 500g short pasta (such as penne, casarecce, trofie etc.)
- 200g (xyno)mizithra, feta, or graviera cheese
- Grate your carrot, finely chop the onions and garlic, and chop rooster into 8 – 10 large pieces (or ask your butcher to do it for you). Set aside.
- Place a large pot, or Dutch oven on medium-high heat. Add olive oil and butter to the pot. When the butter has melted, add the pieces of rooster to the pot. Brown the meat on all sides and remove meat onto a plate.
- In the previously used pot, add the finely chopped onions, grated carrot and garlic. Sauté until the onion begins to turn brown and soft. When the onion has softened and browned, add 3 tablespoons of tomato paste, finely chopped parsley, the all-spice berries, cloves, ground nutmeg, cinnamon stick and bay leaves. Stir until fragrant for about 1 minute.
- Return the pieces of rooster to the pot and add 300ml of red wine. When the alcohol has evaporated (after about 2 minutes), add the tablespoon of white vinegar and the tablespoon of brown sugar and add water until the rooster is covered about halfway. Add salt and pepper to taste.
- Reduce heat to low and cover the pot with a lid. Leave to simmer on low heat for about 2 hours until the meat is tender and the sauce has thickened. Add some extra water during the cooking process if and as needed.
- When your rooster is done, boil pasta in salted water according to the instructions on the package. Strain pasta and set aside.
- Remove the rooster meat from the pot onto a platter.
- Put pasta into the pot with the sauce. Stir until all the pasta is covered well, then leave on the stove on very low heat for about 5 minutes to let the pasta cook a bit in the sauce (make sure the sauce is liquid enough to do so).
- To serve, scoop pasta onto plates and place pieces of rooster on top. Sprinkle on some grated cheese, or little blobs of soft xynomizithra, or crumbled feta. Serve immediately.