The One-Pot Chicken I’ve Been Making on Repeat for a Decade

August  2, 2018

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There was a stretch of years in the early 2000s, during which I cooked exclusively from Sally Schneider’s A New Way to Cook. I was attending cooking school, working in restaurants, and biking all over Philadelphia looking for rabbit, juniper berries, dried porcini mushrooms, Calvados, and anything else Sally called for in her recipes, which at the time felt exotic and exciting. Her recipe notes and stories about her experiences in French charcuteries, Tuscan cooking schools, New York City restaurants, and Japanese grandmothers’ kitchens read like a novel; they kept me up at night making grocery lists, dreaming about future dinners.

Sally taught me many things: how to pan-sear duck breasts and make reductions with bottles of fortified wines and various vinegars; how to brine and roast a turkey; and how to marinate cod in miso and brown sugar before broiling it to bronzy perfection.

She also taught me how to braise. Her chicken au vinaigre introduced me to the wonders of bone-in, skin-on, dark-meat chicken. It taught me to appreciate the simple but detail-oriented process of browning meat to render fat and extract flavor, to deglazing, to building a sauce with minimal but super-flavorful ingredients—shallots, mustard, sherry, sherry vinegar—and to cooking meat slowly in a covered pan until it all but falls off the bone.

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Top Comment:
“I just made this recipe using Chinese ShangXi vinegar and rice wine as substitutes for the Sherry vinegar and sherry. Both are rather sweet for vinegar & wine and I think that they made excellent substitutes. I think that the key is to use vinegars & wines that lend to the "sweet sour" of the sauce. I think that you can get away with almost anything here. Great recipe and so fast.”
— Mirella

Making chicken au vinaigre felt grownup. Never had I stocked my pantry with sherry; never had I used sherry vinegar. Braising, with its various steps, felt thoughtful. This was the first recipe I tucked into my mental recipe-for-guests file. This was special.

My 10-year streak of making Sally’s recipe without a single adjustment ended when I discovered Diana Henry’s recipe for Moroccan chicken and rice, which calls for chucking everything into the oven at once and cooking it uncovered, defying the conventional braising process. It completely simplified how I make chicken and rice and forced me to rethink the process of similar dishes, like Sally's.

If I could get the same result—tender meat bobbing in a rich, flavorful sauce—while eliminating a few steps, was there any reason (aside from routine and nostalgia) to continue to fuss? Applying Diana’s method to Sally’s chicken allowed the dish to come together in nearly half the time with the added bonus of crispy skin. Win-win.

Life has changed considerably since I first opened A New Way to Cook, the most significant difference being the addition of four children, currently between the ages of three and eight. I would be lying if I said I haven’t changed how I cook and what I look for in a recipe; today I value simplicity over perhaps any other virtue. Chicken au vinaigre is now simple—there’s no browning of the meat, no deglazing, no staggering the entry of the various liquids, no reducing, no fussing.

It’s no longer a classic braise, but it still feels special—and thoughtful. And, when I find myself at the dinner table surrounded by four little bodies spooning chicken au vinaigre into their little mouths, it feels especially grownup.

Even the simplest of recipes require a few tips and tricks to totally perfect them. Here are a few that I stick to:

Photo by Rocky Luten

Difference is in the details

Trim down those thighs.

If the chicken thighs you are using have an excess of overhanging skin, trim it off. If you don't, it'll never crisp up because it will be submerged in the braising liquid; it will also make the sauce taste too fatty.

When it comes to this method, bigger isn't necessarily better.

If the thighs are especially large, too, they may render a lot of fat, which can dilute the flavor of the sauce. If the sauce looks or tastes fatty when you remove the pan from the oven, try this fix: Transfer the chicken to a plate to rest, pour the sauce into a liquid measure, skim off the fat, then return the sauce to the pan, bring to a simmer, and return the chicken to the sauce.

For kids, ditch the crispy chicken skin.

If you are serving this to children, who have yet to discover the joys of crispy chicken skin, you may have better success removing the skin (and reserving it for yourself or other adults), cutting the meat from the bone into smaller pieces, and spooning the sauce over top.

Canned tomatoes work just fine.

If you wish to make this in the winter or spring or at any time when tomatoes are not in season, use canned, crushed tomatoes in place of the fresh—the result will be just as tasty.

Plan the sides according to the season.

In the summer, this dish pairs especially nicely with grilled bread. But in the winter, polenta or buttered egg noodles are a great option as the dish yields a plentiful sauce.

We're firm believers in the fact the difference is in the details, and that little things can make a big impact. We've partnered with Bosch to celebrate these small but important facets of our daily routines and favorite recipes. To see how other home cooks highlight these essential elements in their own kitchens, vote on Bosch's Savor the Details Contest to help select which 10 winners they'll be sending on a special trip to California.

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See what other Food52 readers are saying.

  • Vicki Lawrence Blier
    Vicki Lawrence Blier
  • Brandi
  • Toni
  • Anonymous
  • granjan
I write the blog alexandra's kitchen, a place for mostly simple, sometimes fussy, and always seasonal recipes. My cookbook, Bread Toast Crumbs is available everywhere books are sold.


Vicki L. October 18, 2019
I've read and re-read this article... I see the ingredient list, but where are the instructions? It sounds like we just throw everything into the pan, but what temp should the oven be? About how long should it braise?
Mirella October 18, 2019
I think that I know why you aren't seeing the instructions. You are looking at the ingredients in the middle of the article, but if you take a look again there is a blue button to the right of the ingredients that says "view full recipe". That links to the full recipe and then you can scroll down and see the step by step instructions with temperatures and times. You will enjoy the results! Mirella
Vicki L. October 18, 2019
Oops. Duh. Thanks!
Mirella October 18, 2019
You are in good company :)
Author Comment
Alexandra S. October 18, 2019
Here's the link, Vicki!
Brandi October 13, 2018
I made this and at first I wasn’t sure I would like the vinegar sauce but boy did I ever!! This is a new favorite in our house. So nice to make something so good so fast! Thank you for the recipe and would love to have other recipes!
Brandi October 13, 2018
Also I wanted to add I used red wine vinager and just regular cooking sherry! I was worried it might not taste right but it was great.
Toni September 18, 2018
Used white wine as I did not have sherry. In my opinion, sherry is a must. I found this bland and unappealing.
Anonymous September 16, 2018
Very delicious! I used a can of diced tomatoes, onions instead of shallots, less water for a thicker sauce in the end but with Sherry and sherry vinegar and it was delicious!
Author Comment
Alexandra S. September 17, 2018
So happy to hear this, Nancy!
granjan September 13, 2018
I have been gifted several bottles of sherry, and we don't like sherry! Thought this recipe might help with the surplus but it tasted of sherry! The method however was lovely. beautiful crisp skin. will use red wine and wine vinegar next time.
Author Comment
Alexandra S. September 17, 2018
Glad you like the method! Too bad about the Sherry!
Mirella September 3, 2018
I just made this recipe using
Chinese ShangXi vinegar and rice wine as substitutes for the Sherry vinegar and sherry. Both are rather sweet for vinegar & wine and I think that they made excellent substitutes. I think that the key is to use vinegars & wines that lend to the "sweet sour" of the sauce. I think that you can get away with almost anything here. Great recipe and so fast.
Author Comment
Alexandra S. September 17, 2018
So happy to hear this, Mirella. Great tip re rice wine and ShangXi vinegar. And I think you're right: if you strike that sweet-sour balance, you can't go wrong. Thanks!
Brandi August 26, 2018
Can you use any kind of vinegar and can u explain your reasoning please! What is the difference between regular cooking sherry and cream sherry. Just trying to learn something so I can best make dinner with what I may have on hand! Thank you so much looks delicious!
Author Comment
Alexandra S. August 27, 2018
Hi Brandi, If you can't find sherry vinegar, I would use something like red wine or white wine vinegar. You want a vinegar with a nice sharpness (as opposed to balsamic, which is sweeter) so that it balances the sweetness of the sherry. I honestly don't really know the difference between cooking sherry and cream sherry, but my guess is that cooking sherry is just a little less aged and therefore less expensive but probably totally acceptable to use here. I always use Harvey's Bristol Cream because I always have it on hand, and I love it for cooking.
cosmiccook August 16, 2018
Thanks, Alexandra! I think the sweet Marsala wine will work! Since I'm not crazy about cream sherry, don't want to have to get a bottle for one recipe!
Author Comment
Alexandra S. August 27, 2018
Makes sense!
cosmiccook August 15, 2018
Can you elaborate on the Sherry type best to use? Cream sherry and white wine are miles apart. Is it essential you use a cream sherry, or will a dryer sherry work as well? What about Marsala wine if its a sweeter note desired?
Author Comment
Alexandra S. August 16, 2018
I almost always use Harvey's Bristol Cream, but a dryer sherry will work just fine. It's a very forgiving recipe, and while something sweet is preferable to balance the good amount of vinegar, a dry wine also works—the flavor of the sauce in the end will just be different. If necessary, at the end, you can adjust the flavor of the sauce with a pinch of sugar, but you may find that not to be necessary. Hope that helps!
FS August 15, 2018
Very do-able recipe, perfect for fall and winter.
Sue L. August 14, 2018
Is it possible to make with chicken breast, family does not like dark meat. I wonder if it would become too dry/
Author Comment
Alexandra S. August 14, 2018
I think you could ... just check the chicken after 30 minutes or so. You could run the pan under the broiler to crisp up the skin a bit if the chicken is done before the skin begins browning.
Jake August 6, 2018
I frequently see recipes like this shown in a cast iron skillet, but won't the acid from the tomatoes and vinegar damage the pan's seasoning?
Author Comment
Alexandra S. August 6, 2018
Hi Jake, I had heard the same thing, and then I bought Cook's Illustrated's Cook it in Cast Iron, and in their "Busting Cast Iron Myths" section, they discuss this issue. Acidic ingredients can cause damage but really only over lengthy cooking periods. They will not cause damage to enameled cast-iron skillets, however, and the Staub pan you see in the photos is enameled. If you are not using an enameled cast-iron skillet, Cook's Illustrated suggests transferring the cooked food from the skillet to a serving platter shortly after it has finished cooking (kind of a pain, but worth the effort) to avoid damage. Also, if you start with a well-seasoned skillet, the impact of the acidic ingredients will be less. Hope that helps!
Sassa August 3, 2018
If I were to make a double recipe, in two lidded pots, will the cook time increase because of the increased mass in the oven absorbing the heat?
Author Comment
Alexandra S. August 3, 2018
It's possible! Every oven is so different, so it's really hard to say. I would just keep an eye on it. When the skin looks evenly golden, the chicken will or will be close to being done. Bone-in thighs are very forgiving, but just keep an eye in it—the meat should pull easily from the bone.