Unless you’re a first-time reader, I don’t have to remind you that Alex and I are kind of obsessed with Hugh Acheson, particularly his cookbook A New Turn in the South. After a marathon of a Monday (complete with a four-hour class) and a super busy Tuesday, I knew that I wanted to choose thoughtfully for tonight’s dish, yet go with a trusted source. This recipe has caught my eye a few times when thumbing through Hugh’s cookbook, mainly because it sounds so strange. Vinegar chicken? With oranges? As weird as it kept sounding, I knew that Hugh wouldn’t steer me wrong. I also had a few of the ingredients on hand already, so I took it as a sign to try this one out tonight.
This one-pot dish has a great depth of flavor. When the cherry vinegar thickens and cooks with the chicken stock and the tiny pearl onions, the chicken thighs soak up all of the yummy goodness. The spinach and orange pieces brighten up the dish, and the citrus is surprisingly mild.
I served this dish alongside some homemade mashed potatoes. A word on mashed potatoes: I don’t often make them, but when I do, I try to keep them as light as possible while still making them taste good. I boiled four small, cut up Yukon Gold potatoes, drained them (reserving about 1/2 cup of the starchy boiling water), mashed the potatoes, then added 2 Tbsp. butter, the starchy cooking liquid, and about 1 Tbsp. half and half. Then I added some crushed garlic, salt, and pepper. The fat-to-potato ratio really isn’t that high here, and this version will leave you satisfied with flavor but not plagued with guilt or bloated with fullness.
Cherry Vinegar Chicken with Pearl Onions, Orange, and Spinach
Adapted from A New Turn in the South
4 bone-in, skin-on chicken thighs
salt and pepper
2 Tbsp. unsalted butter
about 20 pearl onions, peeled
1/4 tsp. paprika
4 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
1/2 cup cherry vinegar (this is not a typo–I do mean cherry rather than sherry); available at Fresh Market
1 cup chicken stock
2 large navel oranges, sliced into large bite-size pieces
1 Tbsp. fresh mint leaves
2 cups fresh spinach, stems removed
Salt and pepper both sides of the chicken thighs. Heat the butter over medium heat in a heavy pot that had a lid (leave the lid off for now). When the butter is melted, add the chicken skin-side down. Cook for 7 minutes, then turn the thighs over and add the paprika, garlic, and onions. Cook for 5 more minutes, then add the vinegar and cook until the vinegar reduces by half. When that happens, add the chicken stock, cover the pot with the lid, then cook for 20 minutes. Lastly, add the spinach, orange pieces, and mint. Stir for about 30 seconds or long enough for the spinach to slightly wilt. Serve with mashed potatoes or as a stand-alone stew.