52 weeks of cooking – Vinegar

I love vinegar, can’t get enough of it, I’ve tried drinking vinegars and that’s where I draw the line, not a favorite of mine.

Vinegar is complex and each is very unique, there are lots of different flavors and most anything can be turned into vinegar that has an alcohol content. My husband makes wine and cider, sometimes it doesn’t turn out how he thought it would, too sour to consume, so he turns it into vinegar. Old wine does not become vinegar on it’s own like some people assume, you need a mother, a scoby, this blobby substance made from cellulose and bacteria that ferments alcoholic liquids into an acid. Put a mother into some old beer, wine, hard cider, wait a month or so and you have vinegar. My favorite one that my husband has made is from a raspberry wine that was very tart, it made beautiful vinegar, mostly we used it for salad dressing.

This week’s cooking challenge is vinegar, yessssss, but what to choose? My first thoughts were for my favorite vinegar dish, chicken Marbella; chicken marinated in red wine vinegar with capers, olives, dried fruit, oregano and garlic. It’s one of those dishes that I don’t care so much about the meat, I want the goodies and the sauce, luckily for me no one else seems to love it as much as I do so I get it all. Wahah! Or another great one is vinegar caramels, I miss read a recipe and had the best happy accident ever, I’ll have to make those soon to share with you. I decided it was best to make something I hadn’t made before so I chose a gastrique.

A gastrique is a classic French sauce made of caramelized sugar deglazed with vinegar and reduced till thickened. The sauce is both sweet and sour, deep rich flavor and can be seasoned with all sorts of things, citrus, herbs, tomato, whatever you like. I made my gastrique with honey instead of sugar and used two types of vinegar, one for sharpness, the other for depth. I drizzled the sauce over a chicken breast stuffed with ricotta and spinach, the grassy notes of the spinach paired well with the dark cherry quality of the gastrique. I served my chicken breast with horseradish and olive oil mashed potatoes and brussel sprouts in a mustard butter sauce.


Ricotta Stuffed Chicken with Black and White Gastrique


  • 4 chicken breasts


  • 3/4 c ricotta
  • 1/2 c cooked, squeezed, chopped spinach
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 tsp. herbs de provence
  • salt and pepper to taste


  • 1/4 c honey
  • 1/2 c white wine vinegar
  • 1/4 c balsamic vinegar
  • salt and pepper to taste


  1. Prepare the chicken breasts by slicing a pocket into the flesh, make the incision hole about two inches wide so you don’t have as big a space to close. Make it as deep as you can without cutting all the way through, you are trying to create a pocket for the stuffing.


  1. Mix all the ingredients for the filling together, taste and adjust the seasoning.
  2. Divide the stuffing into four portions and push into the pockets of the chicken breast, use your fingers to push it as deep as it can go. Lightly press the breast so that if there is too much filling some will ooze out now instead of into the pan. Secure the opening with two pairs of crossed tooth picks. Season the out side of the breasts with salt.
  3. In a pan over medium high heat with a little oil sear the chicken breasts on both sides until browned. Turn the heat down to medium low and place a lid on the pan to help the chicken steam until it reaches an internal temperature of 160F. Remove from the pan and let rest while you make the sauce.


  1. In the same pan the chicken was cooked add the honey and and cook over low heat for about 5 minutes until it becomes noticeably darker.
  2. Add the two vinegars and cook for about 15 minutes swirling the pan occasionally until the sauce coats the back of a spoon. Season to taste and serve drizzled over the chicken.

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