Pollo al Aceto

Next month will mark the five-year anniversary of losing Marcella Hazan, and yet she seems still to be with me in the kitchen whenever I cook one of her recipes. Maybe it’s her writing’s conversational style that guides me through the steps or the emphasis she placed on the taste of a dish that keeps me turning to her books.

I remember my first one in 1973. I was a graduate student boarding with an academic family whose splendid kitchen became mine when they left for the summer. The first recipe I tried was her Bolognese sauce and I was hooked. In fact, it’s the sauce I continue to make today. Among my favorites are her veal stew with tomatoes and peas, her pork loin cooked in milk, her meatloaf with porcini, and her riso al telephono, or boiled aborio rice mixed with butter and fresh mozzarella, which as it melts in the rice morphs into threads that resemble telephone wires.

The recipe for today’s post comes from her 1986 book Marcella’s Italian Kitchen, Fricasseed Chicken with Vinegar, or Pollo Con l’Aceto . As with so many of her recipes, it uses a minimum of ingredients yet yields a richly favored dish with perfect texture.

I made just a few changes to the recipe. Rather than using a cut-up chicken, I opted for bone-in, skin-on chicken thighs. I also seasoned the chicken with salt and pepper before the dredging with the flour rather than seasoning it after browning. Finally I used a bit more rosemary and vinegar than was called for.

I served the chicken with plain rice, which served as the prefect foil for the chicken’s succulent flavors.

Pollo Con l’Aceto, Fricasseed Chicken with Vinegar

(4 servings)



3 tablespoons vegetable oil

2 1/2-pound chicken, cut into 8 pieces, washed and thoroughly patted dry

1/2 cup flour, spread on a plate

Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

1 teaspoon chopped rosemary

1 teaspoon chopped garlic

4 flat anchovy fillets, chopped very fine

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

1/3 cup wine vinegar


1.  Choose a lidded saute’ pan that can subsequently accommodate all the chicken pieces without overlapping. Put in the vegetable oil and turn on the heat to high, leaving the pan uncovered.

2.  When the oil is hot but not smoking, dredge the chicken pieces in the flour on all sides and slip them into the pan. Turn the heat down to medium and cook the chicken, turning the pieces from time to time, until a golden crust forms on all sides.

Browning the chicken

Turn off the heat and transfer the chicken to a plate. Sprinkle with salt and several grindings of pepper.

Transferred chicken

3.  Discard the oil from the pan and wipe the pan clean, making sure you remove every trace of flour.

4.  Combine the rosemary, garlic and chopped anchovies in a small bowl.

Rosemary, garlic, & anchovies

5.  Put the olive oil into the pan and turn on the heat to medium. Add the rosemary, garlic, and anchovy mixture. Cook, stirring frequently, until the garlic exudes its characteristic scent.

Cooking the garlic, rosemary & anchovies

Note: The dish, prepared to this point, can be set aside for several hours before completion.

6.  Return the chicken to the pan, turn the pieces 2 or 3 times, then add the vinegar. Cook for 1 to 2 minutes, letting the vinegar fumes dissipate, then turn the heat down to low and cover the pan.

Cooking the chicken

Cook, turning the chicken pieces from time to time, until the chicken feels tender through and through when pricked with a fork. It should take about 1 hour. If, before the chicken is done, you find that there is no more cooking liquid left in the pan, add 2 or 3 tablespoons of water. Serve promptly when done.

The cooked chicken

Wine Pairing: Beaujolais, Grenache Rose


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