From a poor people’s dish to a 3-star signature dish

The Poulet au Vinaigre (chicken cooked in vinegar) is, along with the Black Truffle Soup VGE, the Sea Bass stuffed in Puff Pastry Shell and Choron sauce, the Bresse Chicken Truffled cooked in a Bladder, the Red Mullet dressed in Crusty Potato Scales, and some others, one of the signature dishes of the legendary chef Paul Bocuse. I tried to replicate here his recipe…

Vinegar is almost as old as civilization or, to be precise and if we consider that civilization came with the production of alcohol, as old as alcohol beverages. As a matter of fact, although vinegar comes from the French word vinaigre, literally meaning "sour wine", Babylonian scrolls recording the use of vinegar date to around 5000 B.C, made from figs, dates or beer. Traces of vinegar have been found in Egyptian urns from around 3000 B.C. and it was often carried by Roman legionnaires and the bible reports that some vinegar was offered vinegar to Jesus at the Crucifixion. The processes of fabrication were progressively improved and modernized, including by Louis Pasteur himself, and it is likely that the old fig vinegar had noting to do with the modern balsamic, hard cider or red wine vinegars. That said, its usage has remained more or less the same, for both culinary and medicinal purposes.

Culinary-wise, it has been used as a preserving agent, as a condiment, and also, like spices at the same period, as a way to  cover the tainted taste of meat that was past its prime. This is probably the origin of the Poulet au vinaigre and it is somehow amusing to observe that this dish now served in the most prestigious restaurant in the world -the recent loss of its 3rd star two years after Bocuse’s death didn’t change this status- was originally a preparation the purpose of which was to dissimulate the “relative” freshness of a meat that was not duly refrigerated, this was before the fridge was invented, or that was discounted because of the same “relative” freshness…

No tainted chicken for Paul Bocuse!!! His recipe calls for a poularde, i.e. technically a young hen that has not started laying eggs, rather than a younger chicken. For my recipe, I used a cockerel, i.e. a young and quite “sportive” rooster that deserved longer cooking time and, possibly, some marinating time. The recipe times below are given for a classic 4 lbs. organic chicken. For an older and/or bigger bird, or for a smaller one, the cooking times should be modified accordingly.

Levels of difficulty

45 minutes

50/60 minutes

Ingredients 4 servings

§  A chicken or a young cockerel, cut in 8 pieces
§  2 big shallots, minced in brunoise
§  1 cup of vinegar
§  Flour to coat the chicken pieces
§  1 cup of chicken broth (made with the carcass)
§  1 tbsp. of neutral oil
§  3 medium/small tomatoes, chopped*
§  1 crushed garlic clove*
§  Herbs (thyme, rosemary, basil…)*
§  1 tbsp. of olive oil*
§  Optional: ½ glass of wine*
§  3 tbsp. of butter
§  S&P

* Those ingredients are used to make a concassée of tomatoes, i.e. crushed tomatoes simmered in olive oil with herbs and garlic

§  Cook gently the chopped tomatoes in olive oil, with the herbs and the garlic clove, till obtaining a kind pf purée, or concassée, deglaze with the wine and let evaporate the alcohol,
§  Coat with flour the chicken pieces and shake them to eliminate the extra flour,
§  Sear the chicken pieces in medium/hot oil, on the meat side first for a few minutes, then, and then only (yes, this is what Paul Bocuse recommends to avoid that the skin “shrinks” when seared) on the skin side, for a few minutes again, till the skin take takes a nice golden color,
§  Place the chicken pieces in an oven dish and roast them for 10/15 minutes in a preheated 355 F oven (10/12 minutes for the white parts and 15+ minutes for the brown parts), and reserve them on a grill afterwards,
§  While the chicken is roasting, remove the cooking oil from the searing pan (but do not wash it!), heat 2 tbsp. over medium/low burner, add the shallots, salt them, and let them cook till they become translucent,
§  Add the tomato concassée to the shallots and stir the whole, add the vinegar and let reduce gently for around 5 minutes,,
§  Add the chicken pieces and let them cook 20 to 30 minutes in shallot/tomato/vinegar mixture, flipping them  and basting them regularly with sauce,
§  If need be, add all or part of the chicken broth to keep the texture syrupy
§  Serve the chicken with its sauce and with a side,
§  For the side, I followed Paul Bocuse’s recipe, i.e. pommes boulangères, i.e. several layers of onions and potato slices poached together in a chicken broth. I just added my personal twist, substituting half of the potatoes for sweet potatoes (see picture below)



  1. I admire your patience and your skill. And you do know how to make a pretty plate! As always, this is a lovely dish. Thanks for sharing!

  2. Merci Carol. This is really a superb recipe. Delicious! And this is not that long to prepare... typically in those crazy times! You should try it.


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