An early mentor in my food writing career told me never to refer to anything in a recipe as a "trick" or a "secret." And she was right.
What makes a dish good is never a trick or a secret. It always comes down to good ingredients, good techniques or both, which is the case with this week's Vinegar Chicken With Bacon and Tomatoes.
Let's start on the ingredient side of the ledger. In this case, the vinegar.
Anyone who's meandered down the oil and vinegar section of their local grocery store has likely noticed that this category takes up much more space than it used to. What makes one option better than the other? The complexities of choosing the best vinegars are many, and I won't go into great depth here, but I will say, and it should come as no surprise, that taste is everything. It may take some experimentation, but it's worth buying a couple of bottles or going to a store that allows you to sample the goods to find the ones you enjoy the most.
A vinegar shouldn't taste harsh. It will be acidic, of course, but there should be some nuanced flavor, too. For cider vinegar, there should be a touch of sweetness and you should be able to detect an apple flavor. Seems obvious, but some of the cheaper varieties are all acidity with no hint of apple.
Once you've found the apple cider vinegar of your dreams, you can put it to work in this simple but flavorful chicken dish.
The dish starts by browning chicken thighs. This is where technique comes into play, and it's an easy one. All you have to do is put a large, heavy skillet on the heat for a minute or so, coat with a little oil and place your chicken in it. That's it. You don't have to fuss over the chicken; it's better if you don't. You just need to give the chicken time, undisturbed, to adequately brown before turning it over to brown the other side.
Moving the chicken around the pan will likely tear the skin, and turning it over frequently will slow down the browning process, which is where the flavor begins to build.
Once the chicken is browned, it's transferred out of the pan. Bacon is cooked in the same skillet with onions and garlic — more flavor — before a generous amount of cider vinegar is added, along with the chicken and cherry tomatoes. It all simmers together until the chicken is cooked through and a delightful vinaigrette-like sauce is created.
No tricks or secrets, but the result is magic all the same.
Meredith Deeds is a cookbook author and food writer from Edina. Reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Instagram at @meredithdeeds.
Cider Vinegar Chicken With Bacon and Tomatoes
Note: Smoky bacon and cherry tomatoes blend beautifully with the cider vinegar to create a warm vinaigrette that cuts the richness of the chicken thighs in this easy, flavorful dish. From Meredith Deeds.
• 4 bone-in chicken thighs (about 1 1/2 lb.)
• 1/2 tsp. salt
• 1/4 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
• 2 tsp. olive oil
• 3 slices bacon, chopped
• 1 c. chopped red onion
• 3 cloves garlic, finely chopped
• 1/3 c. apple cider vinegar
• 1 c. cherry tomatoes
• 2 tbsp. chopped flat-leaf parsley
Pat the chicken dry and season with salt and pepper. In a large, deep skillet, heat the oil over medium-high heat. Add the chicken and cook for 6 to 8 minutes, turning once, until browned on both sides. Transfer the chicken to a plate and drain the fat from the skillet.
In the same skillet, cook bacon over medium heat until it begins to render its fat. Add the onion and garlic and cook, stirring, for another 4 to 5 minutes, until the vegetables have softened. Reduce the heat to medium-low and stir in the vinegar. Return the chicken to the skillet, add the tomatoes and cook, covered, for another 25 to 30 minutes, until the chicken is cooked through. Garnish with the parsley and serve hot.