A Barbecue-Chicken Alternative

Poulet au Vinaigre, placed on an old Limoges platter.

Chicken is a staple at our house. It is rustic, easy to cook, and our daughter loves it. So we typically have chicken at least twice a week—fried, roasted or sautéed. But this basic fowl can be boring, frankly. Often I crave barbecued chicken but it’s impossibly messy, staining napkins and rendering fingers sticky.

There is a chicken recipe in Mapie de Toulouse-Lautrec’s La Cuisine de France (Orion 1961) that has a barbecue appearance and flavour but without the mess I associate with it. Poulet au vinaigre, or vinegar chicken, is cooked in a heavy covered pot instead of on a grill. The sumptuous sauce incorporates several ingredients that one finds in traditional barbecue sauce, such as tomato purée. But instead of being slightly sweet, as so much barbecued chicken often is, the dish is infused with a subtle but sprightly tang of vinegar. (A reader recently commented that the balance between acid and sweet reminds him of Indonesian cookery.)

Our daughter agreed and proceeded to speedily devour both drumsticks, saying it was “the best barbecued chicken I have ever had.” As for my husband, he is sold on the splash of vinegar, which, he observed, brought “an intense dimension I didn’t expect.” He is also increasingly sold on preparing chicken in a pot on top of the stove, which cooks the meat quickly and in this instance richly caramelized the skin.




2-1/2 or 3-pound chicken

6 tablespoons butter

5 teaspoons white wine

4 tablespoons white wine vinegar

2 cloves garlic

3 teaspoons French mustard

4 teaspoons tomato purée

4 teaspoons heavy cream

1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce

Salt and pepper


Choose a chicken that is not too fat. Have it cut in pieces and cook it in a covered heavy pan with the butter and unpeeled garlic, salt, and pepper for 25 to 30 minutes, until the chicken is cooked.

Meanwhile mix in a bowl the mustard, tomato purée, and white wine.

When the chicken is cooked, add the vinegar. Cover the dish and cook until the chicken is almost dry. Remove the chicken and keep hot on a serving platter. Pour the mustard mixture into the pan and cook down a little without a cover. Add the cream and the Worcestershire sauce. Stir well and pour over the chicken. Serve immediately.


6 comments on “A Barbecue-Chicken Alternative

  1. Tracy F. says:

    Sounds delicious! I’m going to try it soon.

  2. Albert says:

    Dear Aesthete Cooks,
    Wonderfull this poulet au vinaigre. What do you think: would this recipe work with poussins? I happen to have just bought 2 of them in the market.
    My late parents where Indonesian and the method of this recipe, with the acidity counterbalancing the sweetness of the caramelisation reminds me of some ways of preparing chicken in the Indonesian cuisine.
    By the way: I absolutely LOVE Mapie de T.’s cookbooks even as they are “good books for good cooks” as Marcella Hasan would say.
    Highest regards,
    Albert Premier.

    • Dear Albert, I hope it will work with poussins! I don’t know enough about poussins to make a yes or no comment. All I can say is that the recipe is impossibly delicious. Thank you so much for the observation re acidity and sweetness and Indonesian cuisine. I never knew that. I once had the loveliest Indonesian meal in Amsterdam, in a restaurant on the street with the masses of antiques shops.

  3. balsamfir says:

    Buying a fresh organic chicken today to try this one.

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