chicken with white wine vinegar
This recipe, which serves four people, was devised by the great French chef Michel Guérard, and is truly excellent. It involves a bit of work, but is none the worse for that.
1 chicken or 8 chicken pieces
5 or 6 unpeeled cloves of garlic
5 tablespoons white wine vinegar
½ pint dry white wine
2-3 tablespoons Armagnac (Cognac will do - buy a miniature if none in the house)
2 teaspoons Dijon mustard (no other variety will do, but be stingy with the amount)
1 teaspoon tomato purée
150ml (¼ pint double cream)
60g (2 ozs) butter - bring to room temperature
2 ripe and firm raw tomatoes (for tomates concassées - see tip below)
parsley or chervil for garnish
Kitchen equipment needed: sharp knife, strainer, heavy casserole or frying pan with lid.
If you've bought a whole chicken, joint it and skin it. Probably easier to buy pieces and skin those. You'll need a good sharp knife for this job.
Heat 1oz of butter in a large, heavy pan (cast iron casserole best). Brown one side of chicken for 5 mins over medium heat. Turn over pieces and brown the other side for 5 mins. Add the unpeeled cloves of garlic, turn heat right down low and cover the pan, leaving chicken to cook gently for 20 minutes, turning the pieces occasionally to make sure they cook evenly. If you're using drumsticks, give them an extra 5 mins, but take out of the pan any less thick portions (eg breast or wings).
(While this cooking is going on, prepare the tomates concassées*, see tip below.)
Put all chicken pieces back into pan, pour on the wine vinegar, and scrape the bottom of the pan to detach any bits which may have stuck. Half-cover with a lid and boil until the vinegar has reduced to about one quarter of its original volume (about 5-10 mins at a guess). Take out chicken pieces and set aside in a warm (not hot!) oven with door slightly ajar, covered to stop them drying out.
Leave all cloves of garlic in casserole. In a bowl or jug, mix together white wine, armagnac or cognac, mustard and tomato puree - a whisk is most thorough for this job. Pour into casserole and reduce at a galloping boil for 5 mins. Now, whisk in the double cream using a wire whisk, an allow to boil in order to reduce and thicken to a slightly velvety texture, stirring often.
Remove from heat, and whisk in the remaining 1 oz of butter in small pieces, one piece at a time, whisking well. Adjust seasoning.
Strain sauce, pressing cloves of garlic against the sides of the strainer to press out the garlic puree, which helps give the sauce body and flavour.
Put chicken pieces onto a serving dish, pour hot sauce over them and garnish with tomates concassées and sprigs of parsley or chervil.
Serve with French beans, salad and either potatoes or tagliatelle.
TIP: To make tomates concassées: plunge the two tomatoes into boiling water and leave for 1½ minutes, then put them under cold water and skin them. Using a clean, sharp knife (ie not the one you used to skin raw chicken pieces!), cut in halves, squeeze out all the pips, then cut the tomatoes into tiny cubes.