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Recipe: Chicken with Sherry Vinegar Sauce

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Recipe: Chicken with Sherry Vinegar Sauce
Janet A. Zimmerman
While this dish starts as a typical braise, the technique of removing the lid and increasing the heat halfway through the cooking results in deeper flavor and crisp chicken skin. Depending on the size of the chicken pieces and your appetites, use two to four thighs (or two small leg-thigh quarters). Don't try to substitute chicken breasts, as the long cooking time will dry out the meat.

Yield: 2 servings

Ingredients:

  • 2 large or 4 small chicken thighs
  • Kosher salt
  • Vegetable, canola or olive oil
  • 1 large shallot, sliced (or 1/2 small onion)
  • 1/3 cup dry sherry (I prefer Amontillado)
  • 3 tablespoons sherry vinegar
  • 1/2 cup chicken stock (more if necessary)
  • 1/2 cup canned diced tomatoes, drained
  • 1-1/2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
  • 1/2 teaspoon brown sugar
  • fresh ground pepper

Preparation:

1. Preheat the oven to 300˚F.

2. Sprinkle the chicken pieces generously with salt. Pour a thin, even coat of oil into a large skillet (or oven-proof braising pan if you have it) and heat over medium heat until oil shimmers. Add the chicken pieces, skin-side down, and fry to a light golden-brown. Turn and brown the other side. Remove the chicken from the pan.

3. Pour off all but a light coating of the fat. Sauté the shallots or onions until slightly browned, about 3 to 4 minutes.

4. Add the sherry and stir to dissolve the browned fond from the bottom of the pan. Simmer for a few minutes to reduce by about half. Add the sherry vinegar and cook for several minutes to reduce again by about half.

5. Add chicken stock, a pinch of salt, a few grinds of black pepper, the tomatoes, sugar and mustard and stir to combine. Bring to a simmer.

6. If your pan is oven safe, add the chicken pieces skin side up. If not, transfer the liquid to a large oven-proof pan (with lid) and add the chicken. Add more chicken stock, if necessary, to bring the level of liquid about half to two-thirds up the sides of the chicken pieces -- do not submerge the tops of the thighs.

7. Cover the pan and bake for 25 minutes.

8. Remove the pan from the oven and turn the oven up to 400˚F.

9. Take the chicken out of the sauce and set aside for a few minutes. Strain the sauce into a grease separator and allow the sauce to clarify. Reserve the solids. (If you like, you can make the dish to this point and refrigerate the chicken and sauce separately for up to three days. To finish, bring to room temperature and continue with the recipe.)

10. Pour the defatted sauce back into the pan and add the chicken and the solids. Return the pan -- uncovered -- to the oven for another 25 minutes. The liquid will reduce and the chicken skin will get brown and crisp.

11. Take the chicken out of the oven. If you want to reduce the sauce further, remove the chicken, put it on a rack and stick it back in the oven (with the oven off). Put the pan on the stove over medium-high heat and bring to a boil. Reduce as desired and season with salt and pepper to taste.

Serve over grits, mashed potatoes, or rice.

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