Hugh Acheson likes to combine classic French techniques with all things southern. Cane vinegar, which is made from sugar cane, is one of his favorite pantry ingredients for adding a malty, sweet-and-sour tang. If you can’t find cane vinegar, you can substitute malt or cider vinegar.
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Melt the butter in an 8-quart Dutch oven or other heavy-duty pot over medium heat. Working in 2 batches, cook the thighs until golden on both sides, 4 to 5 minutes per side. Transfer to a plate.
Add the onions, garlic, and paprika to the pot and cook until the onions are soft, about 5 minutes. Add the vinegar and use a wooden spoon to scrape up the browned bits from the bottom of the pan. Increase the heat to high and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to medium high and simmer until the vinegar is reduced by half, 7 to 10 minutes. Increase the heat to high and add the broth. When the liquid comes to a boil, add the chicken to the pot skin side up, reduce the heat to low, cover, and simmer until the chicken is cooked through and tender, about 30 minutes.
Meanwhile, slice the peel off the oranges. Working over a medium bowl to catch the juice, cut the segments free from the membranes. Squeeze any remaining juice from the membranes into the bowl.
When the chicken is done, add the orange segments and juice, spinach, and mint to the pot, gently stirring them into the sauce. Divide the chicken and sauce among 4 bowls. Serve immediately.
This vibrant, brothy stew is delicious over buttery mashed potatoes.
This is a solid recipe, but I had a few surprises. First of all, the vinegar taste was much stronger than I expected - will use less next time. Also there was a lot more liquid at the end, it was more like a soup! I guess that's the stew part. I did it over rice and it was delicious. The combo of flavors is very nice, would rate it 4 stars for great light southern cooking. Also, I wasn't able to find pearl onions fresh, but the frozen kind substituted and were fine.
I normally just use apple cider vinegar because it's what I have on hand, and I'm way too lazy to pull off the membranes of the oranges. I've also got to say I don't really think it's worth bothering with fresh pearl onions -- you can cut your fussy prep time in half by just buying frozen ones and it still tastes fantastic. This is a late winter staple for me.
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