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
6 generous servings
extra-virgin olive oil
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
shallots, finely chopped
top quality red wine vinegar (I use Heinz)
crème fraîche or heavy cream, preferably not ultrapasteurized
Finely chopped fresh (flat leaf) parsley, for garnish
Mix salt and pepper together in a small bowl. Rub each piece of chicken with the mixture.
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.
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.
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.
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.