Adapted from Bon Appetit, Y'all by Virginia Willis
This country French recipe was one of my final exam dishes in culinary school. Delicious and simple, it has become a real family favorite. It’s very important to use the best quality red wine vinegar. We made our own at school with the leftover dribbles and drabs of wine.
Many years later, I was cleaning the kitchen at the television studio where Martha Stewart’s show was produced, and noticed a cloudy substance in one of the bottles that I was about to recycle. I realized that it was a “mother,” a live bacterial culture that turns wine into wine vinegar. I took it home, transferred it to a glass cookie jar, and added red wine. That was over ten years ago. My tasty biology project is still alive and well, producing incredible vinegar.
In France, this dish is often made with guinea hen, which has rich, dark meat, and much more complex flavor than chicken. Meme used to raise guinea hens; they would roost in the trees and make a huge fuss if anyone came into the yard.
1 (4- to 5-pound) chicken, cut into 8 pieces
Coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 tablespoons unsalted parve margarine
1 tablespoon canola oil
4 cloves garlic, crushed
1 cup red wine vinegar
1 (15-ounce) can whole tomatoes, crushed, with liquid
1 cup chicken stock or reduced-fat, low–sodium chicken broth
1 bay leaf, preferably fresh
2 sprigs of flat-leaf parsley
2 sprigs of thyme
To cook the chicken, season with salt and pepper. Heat the margarine and oil over medium heat in a large, straight–sided skillet or saucepan (not cast iron, as it will interact with the acidic tomatoes and vinegar). Add the chicken, skin side down, without crowding the pan. Cook without crowding until a rich, golden brown on both sides, 3 to 5 minutes per side. Remove the chicken to a plate.
Pour off all but 1 tablespoon of fat. Add the garlic and cook until fragrant, 45 to 60 seconds. Add the vinegar and scrape with a wooden spoon to loosen any brown bits from the bottom of the skillet. Stand back when adding the vinegar, because when it hits the hot pan it will produce strong vinegar fumes. Return the chicken to the skillet. Add the tomatoes with their liquid, chicken stock, bay leaf, parsley, and thyme. Bring to a boil, then decrease the heat to medium-low, cover, and cook until the chicken is tender and the juices run clear, an additional 30 to 45 minutes. Taste and adjust for seasoning with salt and pepper.
To make the sauce, remove the chicken pieces to a warm serving dish. Increase the heat to high, and cook the sauce until reduced and lightly thickened, about 5 minutes. Taste and adjust for seasoning with salt and pepper. Remove and discard the herbs. Spoon the sauce over the chicken and serve.
Yield: Serves 4 to 6
Variation: You can make this recipe with boneless, skinless breasts instead of bone-in pieces. Simmer the breasts as directed on top of the stove along with the other ingredients, but just until the juices run clear, only 8 to 10 additional minutes. Remove the breasts to a warm plate and cover with aluminum foil. Let the sauce continue to simmer until the vegetables are tender and the sauce is thick enough to coat a spoon. Return the breasts to the sauce and finish as directed.
Recipes: Poultry, Chicken, Kosher