My Recipe Box

Cane Vinegar Chicken Stew with Pearl Onions, Oranges, and Spinach


Serves 4

  • by from Fine Cooking
    Issue 109

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.

  • 8 bone-in, skin-on chicken thighs (2-1/2 to 3 lb. total)
  • Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 oz. (4 Tbs.) unsalted butter
  • 3/4 lb. fresh pearl onions, peeled
  • 6 medium cloves garlic, thinly sliced
  • 1/2 tsp. smoked sweet paprika (pimentón)
  • 1-1/2 cups cane vinegar
  • 1-1/2 cups lower-salt chicken broth
  • 4 large navel oranges
  • 6 oz. fresh spinach, stemmed (4 cups)
  • 2 Tbs. chopped fresh mint

Season the chicken on both sides with 1-1/2 tsp. salt and 1/2 tsp. pepper.

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.

Serving Suggestions

This vibrant, brothy stew is delicious over buttery mashed potatoes.

nutrition information (per serving):
Calories (kcal): 620, Fat (kcal): 36, Fat Calories (g): 320, Saturated Fat (g): 14, Protein (g): 43, Monounsaturated Fat (g): 13, Carbohydrates (mg): 30, Polyunsaturated Fat (mg): 6, Sodium (g): 1070, Cholesterol (g): 170, Fiber (g): 6,

Photo: Scott Phillips

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.

Not sure where the one poor rating comes from. If you don't like vinegar then you might want to skip this one, but if that is not an issue... this dish is worth every single minute you put into it. You may want some bread to sop up the rest of the broth on your plate!

This is a very good chicken dish. If you are lucky enough to have leftovers it warms up well the next day too. I followed the suggestion to serve over mashed potatoes but you could also serve the dish over rice. Even though I blanched the pearl onions, as suggested, I say leave yourself a few extra minutes to get them out of their jackets. And I have to ask Chef Acheson - where in the world does one find cane vinegar? C'mon man! - I substituted malt vinegar.

I have cooked with cane vinegar a lot and the trick which I learned from my mother so that the vinegar does not get too acidic is, not to stir the pot until it has started to boil. It has always worked for me. This recipe is delicious . I'm definitely cooking this again.

All-in-all, a good recipe... I made this twice. As with everything, the quality of the vinegar makes a difference. First time, I used Heinz. Second time, I was limited to a generic store-brand. I think the Heinz was better ---- I'm sure the higher the quality vinegar, the better the flavor. Also, I mixed in some rice vinegar with the apple cider vinegar. I agree with what someone said about being sure that the vinegar reduces. I let mine reduce a bit more, until it got a little bit syrupy. This helps mellow out the vinegar, I think. Also, the orange zest (as someone recommended) was a nice idea. Lastly, I added a final step: I removed the chicken & onions from the pot, and let the broth reduce down uncovered (first, I used a spoon to skim the butter/fat from the surface). I let it cook down to something more like a gravy before adding the chicken & onions back in, and then added the spinach & oranges (plus some zest). I'm not a fan of mint, so I left it out. Served over rosemary mashed potatoes, it was a hit.

Made as is, with cane vinegar (except I just sectioned the oranges, didn't invest the time in trying to take off the membrane). Wife and I both liked it a lot. Did not find too vinegary, but I did reduce it for a full 10 minutes, which may have helped cook off some of the acid. I would absolutely make it again. Not an overly fussy recipe, and not much active time to make it.

Made some changes with which I am very pleased. Could not find the cane vinegar so used 1 C malt vinegar and 1/2 C balsamic. Additionally, I threw in about 3 T of sugar with the vinegar. Took the edge off. I zested one of the oranges and threw that in as well. Increased the garlic. The results were excellent. Not too vinegary but with a lively orange flavor. Will definitely make this again.

If you love vinegar, you'll love this recipe. It is easy and delicious and I'll make it in the future. Next time I'll try it with cane vinegar. Used cider this time.

I think this is a wonderful recipe! I've noticed that I am beginning to crave the sourness of lemony and vinegary foods so this was perfect! I made the recommended mashed potatoes with it and it was just devine! The oranges were suprisingly a perfect mix with the vinegar and onions. I did not find them too vinegary. The only time consuming bit was taking the oranges apart. I didn't really look up an easy way to do this so a very sharp knife might also be helpful. otherwise this is one of my favorites now.

I made this "vibrant, brothy stew" and found it so tangy from the vinegar, I had to add sour cream at the end to tone it down. We couldn't even eat the pearl onions(which we love) which had absorbed too much of the vinegar taste. This is the first recipe from Fine Cooking in many, many years of subscribing that I have to say I did not like!

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