Cooking meats and poultry with vinegar is an ancient tradition dating from the Middle Ages before lemon was available to add acidity. A Burgundian classic, the recipe calls, of course, for wine vinegar -- the older the better -- and lots of garlic, which mellows and softens as it cooks to act as a thickener for the sauce. This recipe makes a warming main course for four.
a 3½-lb/1.6-kg chicken, cut into 8 pieces
salt and pepper
3 tablespoons/45 g butter
1 large head of garlic
1 cup/250 ml red wine vinegar
1 lb/500 g tomatoes
1 tablespoon tomato purée
a bouquet garni
1 cup/250 ml chicken stock, more if needed
1 tablespoon chopped parsley
Season the chicken pieces with salt and pepper. Melt half the butter over medium heat in a sauté pan or deep frying pan with lid, and heat until it stops foaming. Add the pieces of chicken, skin-side down, starting with the legs and thighs because they need the longest cooking. When they begin to brown, add the wing pieces and finally the breasts. After about 10 minutes, when all the pieces are brown on one side, turn them over and brown the other side for 1 or 2 minutes.
Divide the garlic cloves and add them, unpeeled, to the pan. Cover and cook over low heat for 10 minutes. Then holding the cover on the pan so the chicken pieces do not fall out, drain off the excess fat. Return the pan to the heat, add the vinegar, and simmer it, uncovered, until very well reduced, 10 to 15 minutes. Chop the tomatoes -- there's no need to seed or skin them as the sauce will later be strained. Add them to the chicken with the tomato purée and the bouquet garni. Cover and simmer again until the chicken is tender, 10 to 15 minutes more -- the pieces should fall easily from a two-pronged fork. If some pieces are cooked through and tender before others, remove them.
Transfer the chicken pieces to a serving dish and keep them warm. Add the stock to the pan and simmer the sauce, uncovered, until it is concentrated and lightly thickened, 5 to 8 minutes. Work the sauce through a sieve into a saucepan, pressing hard to extract the garlic pulp. Bring the sauce to a boil, take it off the heat, and whisk in the remaining butter in small pieces. Taste it and adjust the seasoning. Spoon the sauce over the chicken and top with chopped parsley.
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Excerpted from Anne Willan: From My Chateau Kitchen by Anne Willan. Copyright© 2000 by Anne Willan. Excerpted by permission of Clarkson Potter, a division of Random House, Inc. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.