I made the mistake the other night of having a dinner party and serving something I’d never made before. You’re not supposed to do that! But I was desperate.
It was one of those dinner parties where each guest very kindly tells you ahead of time about his or her dietary restrictions – vegetarian, gluten-free, lactose-intolerant, allergic to eggs. And then they add that you really don’t have to do anything to accommodate them, they’ll just nibble on lettuce so please don’t worry. I think they actually mean it but I would feel sort of bad taking them up on the offer.
Fortunately I had pulled this recipe out of an Oprah Magazine I’d found at the airport (What? Where do you get your recipes?) so I decided to give it a go.
And hooray for this chicken! I am really not a chicken fan in general — I find it dry and boring and to be honest the chicken breasts these days have just gotten so monstrously big that they turn me off.
But chicken thighs are great. Much more flavorful, tender, and affordable. Braised in the vinegar, you get a tangy, colorful, incredibly flavorful dish that’s really easy to make and, most importantly for dinner parties, that you can make ahead of time.
Red Wine Vinegar-Braised Chicken Thighs
(From O Magazine, recipe by Michael Pollan, who says he was inspired by Jean-Georges Vongerichten, so there. Serves 6-8)
If you can’t remember the last time you bought red wine vinegar, buy a fresh bottle rather than using what’s in your pantry. Since the vinegar is a predominant flavor, you want to make sure you’re using good quality stuff that won’t have an acrid aftertaste. I used Eden which was very affordable and tasted great.
- 4 lb chicken thighs, bone-in and skin-on. Preferably organic and air-chilled. You could do a mix with drumsticks, or probably even get away with white meat if you prefer.
- 1/3 cup chopped shallots (about 2 good-sized shallots)
- 1 1/2 cups good red wine vinegar
- 1 1/2 cups broth, chicken or vegetable
- 2 tablespoons tomato paste
- 1 cup canned whole peeled plum tomatoes, drained and quartered (I just used all the tomatoes from one 28 ounce can, otherwise there would have been about 3 tomatoes left, and that’s just annoying)
- 6 cloves garlic, peeled
- 4 sprigs fresh thyme, or 1/2 tsp dried
- 3 bay leaves
- chopped parsley for garnish (obviously optional)
1. Preheat oven to 300 degrees.
2. Sprinkle chicken generously with salt and pepper. Heat olive oil in a large dutch oven over medium high heat. You might need more than 2T of oil to cover the bottom, depending on the size. Be generous.
3. Arrange half the chicken in the pot in a single layer. You don’t want to crowd the pan so it’s best to do this in two batches. It’s worth the extra time — the chicken will cook better. Cook, without too much fussing or poking, until golden brown on each side, about 6 minutes per side. Transfer to a plate and repeat with the remaining chicken.
4. Add shallots to the same pot and cook, stirring occasionally, until golden, about 2 minutes. Add vinegar and simmer until the acrid smell starts to dissipate, about 5 minutes. Don’t take a big whiff of the vinegar as it’s cooking or you’ll get a nose-stinging surprise.
Note that the smell didn’t bother me, but Jesse walked in and claimed that the “entire apartment” smelled like vinegar and that we needed to open every single window [insert Maggie’s skeptical face here]. I think he’s sensitive. After a few minutes it was fine. (P.S. he loved the dish once it was done).
5. Add broth, bring to a vigorous simmer, and cook until slightly reduced, 3 to 5 minutes.
6. While you’re waiting, drain and quarter the tomatoes if you haven’t already.
7. Whisk in tomato paste. Add tomatoes, then arrange chicken in pot, skin side up. Tuck in garlic, thyme, and bay leaves between the pieces.
8. Cover the pot with aluminum foil, then put the lid on, and tranfer to oven. Cook for 1 hour and 15 minutes, until chicken is very tender.
9. Take the pot out of the oven and let it rest for 30 minutes before serving. Discard the thyme and bay leaves. Serve over polenta, rice, or with fresh crusty bread.