chicken in red wine vinegar sauce

One of dozens of things I’ve learned from the Zuni Cafe Cookbook, possibly my favorite food book of all time, is the method of pre-seasoning meat (and fish) with salt. Generously, and often well in advance of cooking.

The thought of not only planning next day’s dinner in advance – and actually starting to prepare it too – seems like one more good intention gone astray. BUT, in this case the “preparation” involves taking chicken out of the package, sprinkling it with salt, putting it back into the refrigerator and forgetting about it for 24 hours. Yup. Trust me, it’s totally doable. And that simple step has a big impact on the outcome. 

Also, letting the chicken sit in the refrigerator uncovered dries the skin, which is the secret to good, even browning and minimal sticking to the pan.  When the wine and vinegar go in and deglaze the pan, all that good brown stuff merges with everything else, layering the flavors. As the chicken cooks, the meat gets tender and the liquid reduces just enough to make a delicious, savory sauce. I like to serve this over farro or whole grain pasta.


chicken in red wine vinegar sauce

Serving Size: 4 - 6 servings

chicken in red wine vinegar sauce


  • 6 bone-in, skin-on chicken thighs (about 2 pounds)
  • 1 tablespoon kosher salt
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 3/4 cup white wine
  • 1/4 cup red wine vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 3 whole garlic cloves, peeled
  • 1 shallot, thinly sliced
  • 2 small bay leaves
  • 4 sprigs fresh thyme
  • 1/4 cup water
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves


  1. Put the chicken thighs on a small rimmed baking sheet or baking dish. Sprinkle the salt on both sides of chicken; arrange skin side up and refrigerate overnight, uncovered. This will season the chicken and help the skin to crisp and brown.
  2. Heat a large (12-inch) wide pan with at least 2-inch sides over medium high heat. Add the olive oil to the pan, followed by the chicken, skin side down. Cook undisturbed for 10 minutes, watching that the pan doesn't get too hot and adjusting the heat accordingly, until the skin is a rich golden brown. Turn chicken and cook the other side 2 minutes; remove chicken to a plate.
  3. Pour off all but about a teaspoon of the fat in the pan, then add the wine and vinegar and bring to a boil. Stir in the tomato paste, garlic, shallot, bay leaves, thyme and water; return chicken to the pan, skin side up. Lower the heat to a gentle simmer, cover and cook 20 minutes.
  4. Let the chicken rest off the heat 15 minutes. Taste for seasoning, adding more salt if needed and black pepper to taste. Sprinkle with thyme leaves and serve.


  1. I’m all for meals I can forget about and then remember when I’ve had a crazy day and am craving pure comfort. This chicken dish would be just perfect on those days!

  2. I finally bought a copy of the Zuni Cafe cookbook and I’ve been so busy I haven’t even been able to cook anything out of it! I agree this is a good and simple method. I did something similar with my Thanksgiving turkey this year (the pre-seasoning/salting) and it was really good. My mom often made chicken cooked with vinegar. Thanks for sharing the recipe. Looks delicious!

    • Yes, sigh. I often find myself reading it more like a novel, one that never ends (the best kind), and wondering when I’ll fit in all the cooking it inspires in me! I tried a dry salt rub on our turkey this year, too. It turned out great! Ciao Domenica!

  3. That book is one of my absolute favorites too–I am constantly learning from it!

  4. Great post, and what an interesting technique! Love the sound of this.

  5. What a great technique! I have never tried it before but it looks and sounds delicious!

  6. Christine Curtis says:

    This recipe sounds great. Does it also work for boneless/skinless chicken thighs as that is all I have now.

    • Hi Christine, to make this with boneless skinless chicken thighs, skip the overnight salting. Reduce the amount of salt by half and season the chicken about 20 minutes before cooking, letting it sit at room temp. Cook the chicken on both sides (about 5 minutes per side), then proceed with the recipe. You won’t need to drain fat before adding the wine and vinegar. Hope you enjoy!

  7. Can’t wait to prepare this dish….recipe came just in time for a potluck we’ve been invited to !!!

  8. I’m anxious to try this recipe as I love vinegar chicken and haven’t had one with tomato paste before. It sounds good.

  9. Never knew that leaving chicken uncovered leads to better skin! Definitely drawn lots of inspiration and new ideas from this post!

  10. Just made this! I love the simplicity of preparing this dish for family during the holidays and perfect for a snowy Sunday afternoon.

  11. This chicken looks delicious. I’ve alway left my Thanksgiving turkey overnight in the fridge uncovered, but it never occurred to me to do this with my regular weeknight chicken. The idea seems so obvious to me now! Thanks for sharing!!

  12. Firouzeh says:

    Hi, this looks like a nice dish. I’m definitely going to make it. Thanks for sharing your great recipes!

    I have a general question about chicken or any kind of meat. Do you wash the chicken before cooking? I do that and it’s a pain. I wash all the kitchen sink thoroughly after I wash the chicken. I’ve heard that it’s recommended not to wash the chicken. Do you wash the chicken and the red meat? Thanks!

    • I don’t wash meat or chicken. I think it was recommended in the past, but I’ve realized that washing raw chicken just makes more of a mess, plus the skin is then too wet to crisp properly. Yes, and then the sink is dirty! I drain off any water that might be in the packaging and inside the chicken, then dry it well with paper towels. Then wash my hands 🙂

      • Firouzeh says:

        Hi Karen,

        Thanks for your reply! It seems not washing the chicken is the way to go. I will try it next time.

        P.S. I assumed I would get an email notification if someone writes to this thread, but I didn’t. Apparently it’s not done on all platforms. Sorry for the delay in responding to you!

  13. Can you just use a cup of red wine vinegar instead of white wine and red wine vinegar?

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