One-Pot Wonders

Chicken in Red Wine Vinegar Sauce

April 26, 2011
7 Ratings
Photo by James Ransom
  • Prep time 15 minutes
  • Cook time 25 minutes
  • Makes 6 generous servings
Author Notes

I include this divine Lyonnaise dish in a class I have taught many times featuring four (and sometimes five!) chicken dishes from different parts of France. Many of my students are put off by the title of the recipe, but when the class is over, they almost unanimously declare this dish to be their favorite!

The smarty-pants trick to success with this recipe is: you absolutely, positively MUST pour off most of the fat after browning/mostly cooking the chicken. Then, you must reduce the vinegar to a very thick syrup. Otherwise when you add the crème fraiche, the sauce will turn out beige and watery. —ChefJune

Test Kitchen Notes

Variants on this have become a nostalgia-inducing staple since my time in Lyon. Bocuse’s take uses purely butter, but ChefJune’s combination of fats leaves nothing to be desired -- one could be forgiven for nibbling chicken as the vinegar reduces. If your pan is full, as mine was, give the chicken closer to 15 minutes per side. I used Pompeian vinegar -- vinegar enthusiasts may want to back off on the cream, but however you prefer your sauce, the most important thing is to have a fine baguette on hand to sop it up! —kdavey

What You'll Need
  • 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
  • 1 whole chicken (about 4 pounds) cut into 10 pieces -- you could use all breasts or all leg portions if you prefer. I use free-range chicken.
  • Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
  • 4 shallots, finely chopped
  • 1 cup top quality red wine vinegar (I use Heinz)
  • 1 cup crème fraîche or heavy cream, preferably not ultrapasteurized
  • Finely chopped fresh (flat leaf) parsley, for garnish
  1. Mix salt and pepper together in a small bowl. Rub each piece of chicken with the mixture.
  2. Heat the oil and melt the butter in a deep-sided 12-inch sauté pan over medium-high heat. (If your pan isn't large enough to hold all the chicken in a single layer, use 2 smaller pans, and put half the chicken, oil, and butter in each one.) When the oil is hot but not smoking, use tongs to add the chicken, skin side down. Brown on both sides until the skin becomes beautifully golden brown and the chicken is thoroughly cooked, about 12 to 15 minutes on each side. If not fully cooked through, turn the heat down to finish cooking to keep the skin from burning.
  3. Remove the chicken to a serving platter and cover loosely with aluminum foil to keep warm. Pour off about half of the fat in the pan. Add the shallots to the remaining oil and brown over medium high heat. Slowly add the vinegar to the skillet and boil until reduced to almost a syrup. (The fumes will definitely clear your sinuses -- great for a cold!) Add the crème fraîche and cook until the mixture is well blended and has turned a nutty brown color, about 5 minutes. Return the chicken to the pan to coat thoroughly and heat briefly in the sauce.
  4. Return to the platter, garnish with parsley, and serve immediately. Season with salt to taste. If there is extra sauce, pass it in a small bowl.
  5. Teacher’s Tip: Be sure the vinegar has boiled down enough before you add the crème fraîche or you'll end up with a beige, watery sauce.

See what other Food52ers are saying.

  • Daisy Wiguna
    Daisy Wiguna
  • FrugalCat
  • ilolly
  • Stanislav Alievich
    Stanislav Alievich
  • Xavier
30+ years a chef, educator, writer, consultant, "winie," travel guide/coordinator

72 Reviews

Chloroph December 16, 2020
Based on all the comments, I increased the cooking times significantly until vinegar reduction was complete and the sauce fully caramelized. Also cooked chicken in sauce under low flame a bit longer at the end to make sure it cooked through, which had the added benefit of turning the sauce into an even richer sweeter glaze. In this case, patience pays off. It was delectable, wow!!

I almost forgot to mention that I sauteed sliced mushrooms along with the shallots, which I would totally do again. This added even more depth of flavor and juicy texture. I will be making this recipe again, thank you!!!
Daisy W. July 31, 2020
I tried this recipe just now, and i couldn't stand the smell and the taste of vinegar. Save it by making another set of sauce but without the vinegar, and then I mixed a bit of the vinegar sauce to the new one, so I still got the vinegar taste but without a strong flavour. Using cooking creme is still ok, right? We don't have that creme fraiche here.
ilolly July 31, 2020
Daisy W: You maybe didn't boil the vinegar down enough. It should be kind of syrupy before you add the cream. I usually use heavy cream because it is usually in my refrigerator. Try it again. It is a truly delightful dish that always reminds me of Lyon.
Daisy W. August 1, 2020
Thanks! Syrupy means thick, isn't it? I don't really dare to use vinegar that much 😅
Henry S. February 28, 2019
Love this recipe, as did the entire family. However I must stress that pouring the vinegar slowly is not enough of a caution. The steam generated is dangerous, I suggest wearing an oven glove when pouring the vinegar.
FrugalCat December 28, 2017
I love vinegar. Leg quarters worked perfectly. Next time I may try it with white balsamic vinegar.
ilolly September 9, 2017
Great recipe. I used what I had, i.e. chicken thighs, heavy cream vs creme fraiche, vidalia onions vs shallots. Added julienned slivers of banana peppers. Heed the advice to reduce the vinegar to a syrup. I estimate it took about 10-112 minutes to get to the right consistency. Brought me back to my trip to France and to the wonderful city of Lyon. Thanks for this. It's a keeper.
alison July 18, 2017
This was DELICIOUS! It's in the rotation and will be made again soon. Yes to all your suggestions- mushrooms would be a great addition, and serving with mashed potatoes is a good idea. I made it with sautéed spinach and rice. In the future, I would use deboned chicken breasts, as the bone in chicken parts took very long to cook.
Stanislav A. June 22, 2017
Very cool dish. But I'm too lazy to cook, I order food
Xavier June 21, 2017
I've been to Lyon and its bouchons many times, but I'd never had this dish. Prepared it today for lunch and it was awesome! Though I couldn't help thinking, add mushrooms. Next time.
FavourFlavour March 13, 2015
This is easy and delicious! Made with bone-in, skin-on chicken thighs. Smells heavenly! Something to mop up the sauce is a must - potatoes, baguette - you'll want every drop!
Sylvia A. December 27, 2014
Made this with six large, skinless, boneless thighs (they had some embedded fat left on). The rest pretty much as given. Big flavors, very easy. Served with mashed potatoes. We loved it.
Moenbailey October 4, 2014
Made this tonight. Absolutely awesome, and so simple. I put about 2 tbsp salt and several grinds of pepper in a small dish, but probably only used about half of that. I salted the chicken about 3 hours before cooking. I used a smaller chicken, 2-1/2 lbs, for three of us, but I didn't change any of the proportions for the sauce. I tossed some chopped Kalamatas into the sauce with the cream just to use up what I had in the fridge. They were a nice addition. Didn't have a baguette on hand so served it with mashed potatoes as a sauce vehicle. It was perfect.
Chloe October 1, 2014
Didn't have creme friache here in Korea so I substituted it with heavy cooking cream and my bf loved it! I reduced the vinegar and just used chicken breasts. He said it was the best so far and wanted me to make it again. He was wiping the sauce off the plate with bread so, yup, I'm definitely making this soon. Thank you for the great recipe! :D
Maddie M. September 30, 2014
My sauce came out just a little too heavy... The only reason I could think of is that I used heavy cream instead of creme fraiche? The chicken itself was great, the sauce was just toooo creamy. Probably my fault, but can any of you enlighten me about what I could have done wrong?
ECMotherwell September 16, 2014
This dish is delicious — I loved it! However (and I only share this for those who have similar tastes) my husband really didn't like it, because the end result tasted distinctly like a (wonderful) creamy mustard sauce, and he is emphatically NOT a mustard fan. (It's frustrating; I can't use mustard as a thickener or flavor in sauces or dressings. He is so sensitive to the taste that he can instantly detect it.) Anyway, as soon as I tasted it, I knew he wouldn't like it — if I hadn't have made it myself, I would have thought it a delicious mustard-based sauce. Ah well....
Jordan August 28, 2014
This was absolutely delicious! I used four chicken thighs with the skin on and followed the directions exactly, making sure to reduce the vinegar down to practically nothing before folding in the cream fraiche. I cooked the chicken for about thirty minutes total, flipping it about four times throughout in order to ensure even cooking. The sauce was wonderful and flavorful - I even caught my husband, who had dish duty afterwards, practically licking the pan before putting it into the dishwasher. Thank you for a great recipe!

(Tip: Use a splatter guard when cooking the chicken in order to avoid a mess!)
juliawilde April 7, 2014
Absolutely fantastic. I can't say I was as surprised as some of the folks here, as red wine vinegar and creme fraiche are the holy grails in my family, but this was a major hit. I found I needed to cook the chicken a little longer than described (I used a paella pan, so that might be part of it) and I'd love to see more guidance on how much salt and pepper to use for those of us who do not often make chicken (we're generally a fish-only house), but even with these little moments of hesitation, this recipe was just smashing. And we HIGHLY regretted not having bread to mop up the sauce - don't make the same mistake we did!! Thank you so much for an incredible meal.
SG April 6, 2014
I'm a bit taken aback by the love for this dish. Followed the recipe exactly and the sauce was terrible--much too tart. I saved it with a lot of creme fraiche and the addition of brown sugar and a teensy bit of baking soda. It worked out in the end, but needed serious adjustment--will definitely not make this again.
BetsyTee March 30, 2014
I made this about a month ago and it was superb! ChefJune is right about reducing the vinegar to a syrup - I reduced mine quite a bit to almost nil and there was still wonderful flavor when the creme fraiche was added. Also, love the picture! It and the title are what drew me to it.
Regine March 30, 2014
Correction to prior comment. The " is" is missing in last sentence before "one thing." RESPECTFULLY submitted!
Regine March 30, 2014
Yes Mary, you should hide ( no picture, no recipe saved, no recipe submitted) behind a different name, like "Rude." It one thing to offer constructive criticism and another thing to be nasty.