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Vinegar Braised Chicken and Onions or Poulet Saute au Vinaigre

Catherine de Medici
Mother of 3 French

       As far back as the 16th century, Lyon, not Paris, has been the gastronomical capital of France.  It was then that Catherine de Medici, the Queen Consort of King Henry II, an Italian noblewoman by birth, brought cooks from Florence to the French court.  They prepared dishes from the agricultural products from the various regions of France. This was revolutionary, combining the know-how of the Italian cooks with the unmatched produce of France.  The resulting regional dishes were elevated in status because they were, after all, what royalty and the nobility were eating.  The cuisine created in Lyon represented the crossroads of many regional specialties.  A terrific variety of ingredients were available: summer vegetables from farms in Bresse—to say nothing of its famous chickens—and neighboring Charolais, game from the Dombes, fish from lakes in Savoy, spring’s first fruits and vegetables from Drome and Ardeche and of course, the wines of Beaujolais and the Rhone Valley. 

No matter where you travel in
France, you will find Restaurants
aux Lyonnais, serving the
regional cuisine that’s made Lyon

The Lyonnaise tradition of great food continued into the nineteenth century, when middle class women, called “Les Meres Lyonnaise” (Lyonnaise Mothers) took up work as cooks and created a whole vocabulary of new culinary discoveries – all of which incorporated their regional roots. In 1935, France’s pre-eminent food critic, Curonsky, called Lyon “the world capital of gastronomy.”  To this day, the city has one of the highest concentrations of restaurants per capita in France and it’s well worth a visit.  Dishes like “Poulet Braise au Vinaigre” or Vinegar Braised Chicken and Onions, could not be more Lyonnais.  In fact, “Sauce Lyonnais”, one the backbones of the French saucier’s art, consists of white wine, onions, vinegar and small bits of meat—usually leftovers.  While this recipe adds golden raisins and uses both Red Wine and Balsamic Vinegars, it’s heart is still firmly planted in Lyon.  It’s wonderful, budget-friendly comfort food.  You can use whatever chicken parts appeal to you.  As a dark meat lover, I used only drumsticks and thighs.  You could easily swap out these out for cut-up breasts or a mixture of white and dark meat.  The onions I used were those already peeled and ready to go pearl onions from the frozen food section. They save a great deal of time.  And the pancetta “Cubette”,  already diced pancetta, are ideal and another labor saver. At Trader Joe’s, they are particularly well-priced.  Here’s what to look for. 

This is not a particularly time-consuming meal. The real effort here involves getting a really good browning on the chicken.  I was dealing with a rather small Dutch oven so there were more batches to be browned that if I’d used my bigger Dutch oven.  After that it’s just a matter of a gentle simmer on the stove for 35 to 45 minutes. By the way, you can easily half the recipe and still get perfect results.  Here’s the recipe:

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