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Diana Henry’s Moroccan chicken and rice recipe from Simple taught me many things, namely that standing by the stovetop browning chicken until the fat renders and the skin crisps is not necessary. If you are unfamiliar with the recipe, Diana throws everything—vegetables, chicken, rice, seasonings, stock—into the pan at once and bakes the dish uncovered. After 40 minutes, the rice and chicken are perfectly cooked, both boasting caramelized edges.
Recently, I tried the “chuck-everything-in-together” method with a favorite Sally Schneider recipe for chicken with sherry vinegar sauce from A New Way to Cook. Sally’s recipe calls for coating the chicken pieces in flour, browning them in batches, making a sauce, braising the chicken on the stove, removing the chicken, and finally, reducing the sauce to concentrate its flavors.
The process is not hard, but throwing everything into a pan and then into the oven is easier. I used Diana’s method with Sally's sherry vinegar chicken, sautéing the shallot briefly before adding everything else to the pan in succession: chopped tomatoes, mustard, sherry, sherry vinegar and water. After 40 minutes in the oven, the chicken, as hoped, emerged with beautifully golden and crisp skin, meat falling off the bone, a plentiful sauce pooling all around.
At this point, the dish is nearly done. Because the chicken isn’t browned as a preliminary step, the fat renders in the oven. When rice is part of the equation, it absorbs all of this fat, making it especially tasty, but without the rice, the fat floats atop the sauce. While a little bit of fat imparts a welcomed richness, a lot dilutes the flavor of the sauce. The solution is simple: transfer the chicken to a plate to rest and skim the fat off the sauce. This leaves behind a tastier, more concentrated sauce.
I do this by pouring the sauce from the skillet (after removing the chicken) into a large, 4-cup liquid measure, but it could easily be poured into a large bowl, too. After a few minutes, the fat rises to the top, and it's very easy to skim off with a spoon or ladle. You don't have to be so precise. If a little fat is left or if some of the juices are taken away, it's no big deal. Once the fat has been skimmed, return the juices and chicken to the pan, and bring to a gentle simmer. A tip: If you make the dish a day ahead of time, you can transfer the dish (without skimming the fat) to the refrigerator. The following day, the fat will be solidified atop the chicken and sauce, and you can easily pull it off and discard it.
At the end, you may be tempted to throw some thinly sliced chard or kale or a heap of spinach into the skillet to make this a one-pot wonder, but I’d just as soon let it be, and serve a green salad on the side with lots of crusty bread to soak up the all of those juices.
A Few Tips
Chicken with vinegar or poulet au vinaigre is a classic French dish, typically made with vinegar, wine, mustard, tomatoes, stock, and cream. Sally looked to Spain with her variation, calling for sherry and sherry vinegar. If you don’t have sherry vinegar on hand, any number of vinegars—white wine, red wine, champagne—could work. Similarly, white or red wine could be substituted for the sherry. In the next few weeks, when the tomatoes disappear completely from the market, canned, chopped tomatoes will work just fine in place of the fresh.
Use bone-in, skin-on chicken pieces, preferably dark meat, which is more forgiving. Chicken breasts can be used, of course, but because white meat is more prone to drying out, you should cook the breasts for less time. (Check in on them after 30 minutes.) If you prefer using a whole chicken cut into pieces, you can do that here, but again, be sure to remove the breasts before the legs to ensure they don't overcook.
Make it ahead: This dish reheats beautifully. Simply, reheat the skillet in the oven covered at 350° F until the chicken is heated through, about 20 minutes, then remove the lid to help the skin crisp back up, eying it for desired brownness. For crispier skin, you could run the chicken pieces, sans sauce, under the broiler for a couple of minutes, before returning them to their sauce.
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1 to 2 shallots, thinly sliced to yield a heaping 1/4 cup
- kosher salt and pepper to taste
- 6 to 8 bone-in, skin-on chicken thighs
- 2 to 3 Roma tomatoes, diced to yield 1 cup
- 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
- 2/3 cup Sherry, such as Harvey's Bristol Cream, or white wine
- 1/3 cup sherry vinegar or other
- 2 cups water
- bread for serving