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Chicken with Vinegar and Onions (Poulet au Vinaigre)

Servings: four to six.

In my experience, a poultry sauté is one of the most overlooked techniques in French cooking. It’s easier than pan-frying and more elegant than a stew. A sauté refers to dredging a cut-up bird (usually a small chicken) in flour before cooking it in a deep skillet with either butter or olive oil and very little, if any, added liquid. As the chicken cooks, it simmers in its own juices mingled with the fat, creating a very concentrated, rich sauce. Most cooks add some aromatics (onions, leeks, or shallots) and a bit of wine or vinegar to balance the richness.


  • 3 Tbs. unsalted butter
  • 2 medium-small yellow onions, thinly sliced (about 2-1/2 cups)
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 3 Tbs. Champagne vinegar (Delouis Fils, Reims Champagne Vinegar by Clovis, or La Marne are three good brands)
  • 1 4-lb. chicken, cut into 8 pieces (or 2 bone-in, skin-on breasts and 4 bone-in, skin-on thighs)
  • 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
  • 2 Tbs. extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 cup dry white wine, such as Sauvignon Blanc or Pinot Gris
  • 2 tsp. chopped fresh tarragon leaves
  • 2 Tbs. crème fraîche (or heavy cream)

Nutritional Information

  • Nutritional Sample Size based on six servings
  • Calories (kcal) : 500
  • Fat Calories (kcal): 280
  • Fat (g): 32
  • Saturated Fat (g): 11
  • Polyunsaturated Fat (g): 5
  • Monounsaturated Fat (g): 13
  • Cholesterol (mg): 145
  • Sodium (mg): 400
  • Carbohydrates (g): 9
  • Fiber (g): 1
  • Protein (g): 40


  • In a 12-inch skillet, melt 2 Tbs. of the butter over medium heat. Add the onions, sprinkle with a couple of big pinches of salt and a few grinds of pepper, and stir to coat the onions. Cover, reduce the heat to medium low, and continue to cook, stirring occasionally, until the onions are tender and lightly browned, about 20 min. Scrape them into a small bowl and set the skillet over medium-high heat. Add 1 Tbs. of the vinegar and stir with a wooden spoon to dissolve any browned bits on the bottom of the pan. Pour the vinegar into the onions and set the skillet aside.
  • If using chicken parts, cut each breast crosswise into two equal-size portions and trim any excess fat or skin from the thighs. Rinse and pat dry.
  • Spread the flour in a pie plate, and season the chicken pieces with salt and pepper. Set the skillet over medium-high heat and add the olive oil and the remaining 1 Tbs. butter. While the butter melts, dredge half of the seasoned chicken pieces in the flour, shaking off the excess. Set them skin side down in the skillet. Brown, turning once, until the skin is crisp and the chicken is evenly browned, 6 to 8 min. total. Lower the heat if the chicken or the drippings threaten to burn. Transfer the chicken pieces to a pan or platter and repeat with the remaining chicken.
  • When all the chicken is browned, pour off all of the fat. Return the skillet to medium-high heat, add the wine, and scrape the bottom of the pan with a wooden spoon to dissolve the drippings. Add the remaining 2 Tbs. of vinegar, the sautéed onions, and 1 tsp. of the tarragon. Return the chicken pieces, skin side up, to the skillet, arranging them in a single snug layer. Partially cover, leaving a small gap for the steam to escape, and lower the heat to maintain a low simmer. Continue to simmer gently, turning every 10 min., until the chicken is tender and cooked through, about 30 min. total.
  • Transfer the chicken to a platter. Increase the heat to a more rapid simmer, and stir in the crème fraîche (or cream); the sauce may appear broken at first, but it will come together. Taste for salt and pepper. Add the remaining 1 tsp. tarragon and spoon over the chicken to serve.

Make Ahead Tips

This dish can be made a day or two ahead, but don’t add the last teaspoon of tarragon. Reheat gently in a covered baking dish in a 325°F oven for about 30 min., adding a few tablespoons of water or chicken broth if the chicken appears dry. Sprinkle with the tarragon and serve.

Steam small red or white potatoes until tender. Just before serving, sauté the potatoes in butter until browned and crispy.

The vinegar and crème fraîche elements in this dish call for a racy white wine with herbal elements. Sauvignon Blanc is a great choice; look for wines from the Sancerre or Pouilly- Fumé regions of France. The 2004 André Vatan Sancerre, $16, and the 2004 Henri Bourgeois Pouilly-Fumé, La Porte de l’Abbaye, $16, would be good bottles to try.


Leave the lid of the skillet slightly ajar to let some steam escape during cooking. This concentrates the liquid for a more intense sauce, and it also ensures that the liquid doesn’t boil or simmer too hard, which would overcook the chicken.


Rate or Review

Reviews (12 reviews)

  • lizzybean | 01/02/2020

    Supremely delicious, easy and a dinner party favorite to come back to!

  • DJ | 02/17/2019

    another fine, fine recipe .
    I have made this several times since it was published. Delicous and very impressive for company dinners.

  • bakergal53 | 08/03/2018

    So few ingredients and so wonderfully delicious!

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