Aged balsamic vinegar plays well with others: Vinegar Chicken with Mushrooms

by Terry B on June 30, 2010

Balsamic vinegar offers a subtle and surprisingly mild twist on cooking chicken in wine. Butter and chicken broth help tame it. Recipe below.


I don’t doubt for a minute that you can catch more flies with honey than vinegar. But vinegar is just so much more interesting to me. (Besides, do you really want to catch flies?)

I know honey is enjoying a moment right now, especially with the sudden surge in popularity of beekeeping, but we use a heck of a lot more vinegar in our kitchen—and stock a wider array of them—than we do honey. Right now, for instance, we have three different balsamic vinegars, Japanese rice vinegar, Spanish sherry vinegar, red wine vinegar and, oh yeah, some apple cider vinegar. We have two small containers of honey.

So when I came across the phrase “vinegar chicken” somewhere recently, probably in a restaurant description, I was interested. Turns out there are about a bazillion ways to use vinegar when cooking chicken—and that’s probably a conservative estimate. Many involve marinades and grilling, an intriguing idea I’ll have to try soon. There were any number of baked dishes, too, that I’ll need to remember next fall or winter.

But the ideas I kept circling back to were the ones that sounded closest to chicken and wine dishes cooked on the stovetop. My own chicken and wine recipe is a family favorite; there’s just something so French farmhouse or bistro about such dishes that always appeals to me.

Marion has cooked a delicious vinegar chicken dish in the past that also uses tomato paste. The result is as big-flavored and tart as it sounds. This version is far more subtle. Chicken broth tempers the vinegar’s tanginess, and butter swirled in at the end gives its brightness a velvety finish.

Vinegar Chicken with Mushrooms
Serves 4

4 chicken thighs and 4 drumsticks (or 8 thighs)
salt and freshly ground black pepper
all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons canola oil
2 tablespoons butter, divided
10 to 12 ounces sliced crimini mushrooms (see Kitchen Notes)
2 tablespoons butter, divided
2 shallots, sliced (or 1 small onion)
2 cloves garlic
1 sprig fresh tarragon, plus 1 generous tablespoon chopped (or 1 teaspoon dried)
1/2 cup good quality aged balsamic vinegar (see Kitchen Notes)
3/4 cup low-sodium chicken broth

cooked white rice (see Kitchen Notes)

Season chicken with salt and pepper. Dredge in flour and shake off excess. Heat a large lidded nonstick skillet over medium-high flame. Add oil to pan and brown chicken on both sides, about 4 minutes per side, occasionally swirling pan to make sure chicken touching pan is in contact with oil to avoid scorching. Transfer chicken to plate. Reduce heat to medium and add 1/2 tablespoon of butter to the pan; add the mushrooms to the pan (mushrooms love butter) and toss to coat. Sauté the mushrooms for 3 or 4 minutes, then add the shallots to the pan with the mushrooms and cook, stirring often. Add the garlic and the tarragon sprig to the pan and cook for about 45 seconds. And vinegar and broth to the pan and stir, scraping up browned bits from the bottom. The vinegar will smell really big at first, but don’t worry—it calms way down.

Return chicken to the pan, along with any juices, cover pan and reduce heat to low. Simmer the chicken until cooked through, 15 to 20 minutes. Transfer chicken to a plate and tent with foil. Increase heat slightly under pan and let the sauce cook down slightly (it will have probably have done so a reasonable amount already—if not, just let it cook down a bit longer). Slice the remaining 1-1/2 tablespoons of butter into pats and swirl into the sauce. Stir in the chopped tarragon.

Plate the chicken, a drumstick and thigh per plate, alongside rice. Spoon mushrooms and sauce over rice and chicken. Serve.

Kitchen Notes

Picking mushrooms. We like crimini mushrooms, also marketed as baby bellas, for their flavor and their general availability. A mix of wild mushrooms would be delicious in this dish, if you can find them, and in a pinch, button mushrooms will do just fine. Mushrooms are like sponges, when it comes to flavors. That’s why I say they love butter. But you will also notice that they will pick up the vinegar’s flavor far more than the chicken does.

Picking the vinegar. You really want a decent quality aged balsamic vinegar for this recipe. But don’t go crazy; just get something decent.

Rice, pasta, whatever. White rice worked beautifully for this. There’s not a boatload of sauce with the dish, but the rice was a nice foil for the mushrooms. Some sort of smallish pasta would also work, as would mashed potatoes.


{ 12 comments… read them below or add one }

Em July 1, 2010 at 6:39 pm

I am making this tonight! One of my fave vinegar-y dishes is vindaloo.

Terry B July 1, 2010 at 7:02 pm

I hope you like it, Em! I just had leftovers for lunch, and they were pretty good, if I say so myself.

Katherine July 1, 2010 at 8:09 pm

what a great recipe; there are so many ways to make little changes in it, too, to reuse it over and over! delicious

Sierra S July 2, 2010 at 3:27 pm

My mouth was literally watering just looking at the picture. Can’t wait to try this for din next week!

Dani H July 4, 2010 at 8:33 am

Gorgeous photograph, Terry! Those mushrooms look to-die-for! I love balsamic vinegar. Sometimes I will have a salad with nothing but balsamic vinegar. This recipe is going on my “make it soon” list. Thanks! (And hope you have a good 4th of July.)

ellen July 4, 2010 at 1:03 pm

I haven’t thought about vinegar in this way for so long. What a great idea. I can’t wait to make this dish!

Terry B July 4, 2010 at 1:57 pm

Katherine—Dishes that suggest variations on a theme are always a hit for me too. Would love to hear what you do with it.

Thanks, Sierra! Hope you like it.

Dani—We now have really good balsamic vinegar and really good olive oil in the house, thanks to two recent posts. I’m thinking s big, simple salad would be a great way to enjoy both.

Ellen—It really is just different from cooking with wine. The flavor is more elemental—a subtle tang without an overlay of wine’s fruitiness. That said, I love both, but this is a nice change.

The Happiest Belly July 5, 2010 at 10:11 pm

Hi Terry,

I was just browsing your blog and am so impressed by your beautiful photos! I have a food blog of my own, and I definitely strive to take pictures like yours :) Looking forward to reading more of your recipes!

[email protected] Happiest Belly

Terry B July 6, 2010 at 1:14 am

Thanks, Alison!

Maytina July 7, 2010 at 1:39 pm

As usual, your photos are beautiful! This meal is yet another must try! I really like using vinegar, especially when it’s not on something one typically uses vinegar for.

Gowns July 14, 2010 at 2:02 pm

What a lovely way to use leg and thigh meat of which I am a fan. I will try this recipe soon. Thanks for this recipe.

Nidhi April 13, 2013 at 12:03 pm

I live in India and just recently got introduced to Balsamic vinegar. I stumbled upon your blog as i was looking for recipes to go with the vinegar. I tried to make this at home for my boyfriend and he loved it!! …. love your blog! :)

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