Pleasantly peasanty: Chicken with Vinegar Shallot Sauce

by Terry B on July 19, 2017

Leave it to the French to tame the sharp bite of vinegar with lots of butter, shallots, garlic and tarragon in this classic Lyonnaise dish. Recipe below.

Braised Chicken with Vinger and Shallots

Chicken. In vinegar sauce. After me somehow never hearing of this ever, suddenly it was everywhere. Within the span of the past two weeks, three very different recipes popped up on my radar from three very different sources. A little digging turned up more. And despite my ignorance of it, chicken in a vinegar sauce wasn’t some new chef-driven trend. It was rooted firmly in “my grandmother used to make this” and “based on a traditional Lyonnaise dish” territory.

Even though my lips involuntarily puckered as I read numerous recipes, I was intrigued. Mark Bittman, speaking of the many versions of the dish out there in his own 1998 recipe, said, “the piercing flavor of vinegar is so dominant that it matters little whether you use shallots or garlic, thyme or tarragon.”

I should have had faith that if the French were involved, the vinegar’s mighty tang would have been tamed as French cooks tame many things—with balance and butter. (And by Bittman’s own admission, he had greatly reduced the butter from the original recipe that had inspired him—to a mere and optional tablespoon. He had also used a scant 1/4 cup of shallots and none of the garlic, thyme or tarragon.)

As I said, there are many versions of this classic French chicken dish out there. Many include tomatoes in some format as well as crème fraîche. Some add wine, some don’t. Some are oven braises, others cooked on the stovetop. But one thing most do is go big with the butter, aromatics and tarragon. I followed that lead. The result was pleasingly flavorful, tangy without the vinegar taking over. You know, perfectly French.

Chicken in Vinegar Sauce
Serves 6

6 bone-in, skin-on chicken thighs, about 1/2-pound each
salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 teaspoons dried tarragon, divided
flour for dredging
olive oil
4 tablespoons butter, divided
2 to 3 shallots, chopped—about 2 cups
4 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 cup dry white wine
1/2 cup Japanese rice vinegar (see Kitchen Notes for other options)

Trim the chicken thighs of excess fat. Season generously with salt and pepper and half the dried tarragon, pressing lightly to adhere seasonings to chicken. Dredge chicken in flour, shaking off excess.

Heat 2 tablespoons of oil and 2 tablespoons of butter in a deep lidded skillet large enough to hold the chicken in a single layer over medium-high flame, swirling the pan to combine the oil and butter. Brown the chicken in two batches to avoid overcrowding. Place 3 pieces skin side down in the pan and cook for 5 to 7 minutes, until golden brown. Turn and cook on the second side for 3 to 4 minutes. Transfer chicken to a plate and brown the second batch, then transfer that to the plate.

Pour off all but 2 tablespoons of fat, reduce heat to medium and add shallots to pan. Drizzle in additional oil, if needed, and sweat shallots, stirring frequently, until beginning to soften, about 3 minutes. Add remaining tarragon and garlic, and cook, stirring constantly, until fragrant, about 45 seconds.

Pour in white wine and stir, scraping up any browned bits. Stir in vinegar. Nestle chicken thighs into shallots, skin side up, along with any accumulated juices. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to a simmer. Cover and braise chicken until just cooked through, 10 to 15 minutes (an instant read thermometer should read at least 160ºF when inserted into the thickest part of the thigh).

Transfer chicken to a serving platter and tent with foil. Slice remaining 2 tablespoons of butter into pan, stirring to melt and combine into sauce. Cook for about 2 minutes, then transfer sauce to a serving bowl. Serve, encouraging guests to spoon shallot vinegar sauce over individual pieces of chicken. Or if you’re not being fancy, plate it that way.

Kitchen Notes

Japanese vinegar in a French recipe? We like the light brightness of Japanese rice vinegar. Tarragon vinegar, white or red wine vinegar, or white balsamic vinegar would also be terrific for this dish.

What to drink. We served this with an Italian rosé deemed great with food. A dry white wine or a white sparkling wine would also be good.

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{ 6 comments… read them below or add one }

John/Kitchen Riffs July 19, 2017 at 9:00 am

Butter tames most things, doesn’t it? And this dish sure would tame me — looks terrific. Neat recipe — thanks.

karin bugge July 19, 2017 at 1:07 pm

Sounds wonderful.

Barbara Fazio July 19, 2017 at 7:58 pm

This sounds D’s wonderful. Julia Child would highly appreciate.

Dani H July 19, 2017 at 8:29 pm

I’ve noticed a couple of versions of this online recently too, but your recipe sounds the best by far. Thanks, Terry.

Mellen July 20, 2017 at 6:31 am

A staple around here. But we use red wine vinegar and chestnut flour.

Terry B July 24, 2017 at 11:48 pm

Thanks, everyone! And all modesty aside, I have to say it was delicious.

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