What to CookChicken

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

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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.

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.

One-Pan Roasted Chicken with Sherry Vinegar Sauce

One-Pan Roasted Chicken with Sherry Vinegar Sauce

Alexandra Stafford Alexandra Stafford
Serves 4 to 6
  • 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
Go to Recipe

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.

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