I’ve wanted us to do vinegar chicken for awhile and Jody, who can never see a lily without thinking of three different ways to gild it, suggested we invite rhubarb. Fine with me, as long as it didn’t make my mouth turn inside out. She also knows that I’ll eat rhubarb in just about anything – Rhubarb and Rose Upside-Down Cake is one of my favorite desserts.
As I was editing the photos for this post it occurred to me that these chicken thighs bear more than a passing resemblance to Ginger-Turmeric Chicken with Lime Yogurt and Coconut Rice. These are trying times, and we’ve been trying to keep things simple. In a daze of heatstroke brainstorming about 1-2-3 food that we could also eat al fresco with our children in our back garden – necessarily socially distanced as they visit from Brooklyn – it somehow eluded the attention of both of us that we published a visually similar dish 5 weeks ago.
Wait. It gets worse. While searching for the link upside-down cake link I also came across Rhubarb Chicken, a recipe from the mists of time, a post from when we started the blog in 2011. The dish is worth revisiting for two reasons – first, while the techniques are similar, the earlier recipe is based around a completely different combination of rhubarb, brown sugar, orange juice and garlic; and second, if you want to know whether your photography skills will improve with a little study and practice, go back and look at my photos from then. Believe me, you get better.
On the other hand, the coincidence serves to illustrate why chicken thighs are our go-to protein – chicken thighs + a few common ingredients that almost everyone has in their fridge can still equal a great inexpensive meal.
And you have yet one more option if you want to cross the Rhubarbicon into theme-dinner territory, Rhubarb Rhubarb Fool, which is, all at one throw, a great dessert, another illustration of dingy underlit photography, and a bit descriptive of the way I’m feeling after this post. Enjoy.
Rhubarb Vinegar Chicken
- 8 bone-in skin on chicken thighs
- Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
- 2 cups minced red onion, 1 medium
- 1 tablespoon chopped garlic, about 3 cloves
- 1 tablespoon curry powder or other favorite spice mixture
- ¼ cup rice vinegar, sherry, champagne, cider or white balsamic
- ¼ cup honey + additional if to your taste
- 1 pound rhubarb, cut into 1 inch pieces
- 1 tablespoon basil leaves + additional for garnish
- Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
- Trim the chicken of any extra skin or fat. Season all over with salt and pepper.
- Heat the oil in a large ovenproof sauté pan over medium-high heat.
- Add the chicken, skin-side down, and sear until golden brown, about 7 minutes. Transfer to a plate. You may have to do this in 2 batches.
- Reduce the heat to medium, pour off all but 2 tablespoons of the fat, add the onions, season with salt and pepper, and cook until tender, about 5 minutes.
- Add the garlic and cook until aromatic, about 1 minute. Stir in the curry powder and then add the honey and vinegar. Add the rhubarb and basil leaves, toss around in the onion mixture and then remove the pan from the heat.
- Set the chicken on top of the rhubarb, skin side up, and transfer the pan to the oven on the middle rack. Roast 35 minutes or until the chicken is done.
- Serve with a grain. I used freekeh.
This dish, like many of our blog posts, is the result of Ken and I batting an idea back and forth. He liked the idea of vinegar chicken. I’d been to the farmer’s market where I’d bought rhubarb on principle and and a jar of spice mix on impulse. “Grandma’s Gold” is an Indian turmeric blend from Fork On A Road, that includes cardamom, cinnamon, nutmeg and black pepper. It seemed obvious and natural to put them together in a recipe for chicken. Rhubarb is already acidic, but I needed the additional acid of the vinegar to balance the honey I was planning to add and the sweet spices in the Grandma’s Gold.
I learned to use vinegar as an alternative to wine early in my restaurant cooking career. In French technique, we’d make a gastrique as the base for certain meat sauces to provide a balanced sweet and sour foundation. This is a loose, rustic version of that technique. If you find the sauce to be too acidic, swirl in a little more honey at the end, and/or add a few tablespoons of butter.