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Recipe: Jacques Pépin's Chicken in Vinegar

The famed chef and TV personality Jacques Pépin offers "Sunday Morning" a classic dish:

"Chicken in vinegar is a bistro specialty in Lyon. The spicy, piquant sauce of vinegar, garlic, and tomatoes has an assertive flavor that complements the bird well. This is good served hot as well as warm on a buffet."

Jacques Pépin's Chicken in Vinegar

Serves 4


1 chicken (about 3 ½ pounds), cut into 8 pieces (2 legs, 2 thighs, and 2 breasts, halved)
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, or to taste
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
3 garlic cloves, crushed and finely chopped (1 tablespoon)
½ cup red wine vinegar
1/3 cup water
1 ½ cups peeled, seeded, and chopped tomatoes
1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley
2 teaspoons chopped fresh tarragon or basil


  • Sprinkle the chicken pieces with half the salt and pepper.
  • Melt the butter in a large heavy skillet. When the butter is hot, add the chicken leg pieces skin side down and brown for about 3 minutes over medium heat. Turn the pieces and brown for another 3 minutes on the other side. Add the breasts, skin side down, cover tightly, and cook over medium-low heat for about 20 minutes. Remove the chicken to a serving platter and keep warm at the back of the stove or in a 160-degree oven. (As soon as the chicken cools somewhat, you can remove the bones from the breasts — they will pull off easily — and the pieces of backbone, if you left it on. It is a little more elegant to remove the bones, but the chicken can certainly be served with them.)
  • Add the garlic to the skillet and sauté for 1 minute, without browning it. Add the wine vinegar and water and bring to a boil, stirring to melt all the solidified juices. Boil for 1 minute. Add the tomatoes and the remaining salt and pepper (the sauce should be peppery). Simmer for 4 to 5 minutes to thicken the sauce. (If the sauce separates, emulsify it by whisking in 2 tablespoons warm water.)
  • Pour the sauce over the chicken, sprinkle with the herbs, and serve.

How to cut a chicken into 4, 8, or 10 pieces

  • You can buy your chicken already cut up at the market, but it is more expensive. Here is how to cut up your own.
  • Remove the tips of both wings (set these little pieces aside for use in stocks and stews). Then remove the other 2 sections of wing. To split the chicken in half, cut down through the center of the breastbone with a knife or poultry shears, then cut down along one side of the backbone. (You can remove the backbone from the half it is attached to and use it in stock or stew, or you can leave it on.)
  • To separate the legs from the breasts, cut right through the joint with a large knife. You now have 4 chicken quarters.
  • To separate the thighs from the drumsticks, cut through them at the joint. Cut the breasts, with the bone, in half as well. Your chicken is now in 8 pieces, with the 2 pieces of wing bringing the total to 10 pieces.

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