Easy Weekend Cooking: Paul Bertolli’s Poached Chicken with Balsamic Vinegar and Bread Crumb Sauce

poached chicken with Balsamic Sauce

Balsamic Vinegar and Bread Crumb Sauce

The cooking site Food 52 has this great section called “Genius Recipes” which is all about killer cooking tips and essential recipes from classic cookbooks that everyone should try. The Genius Recipes column never fails to provide me with just the bit of inspiration I need when I find myself deep in a cooking rut. Way back when, I suggested Paul Bertolli’s recipe for super minimalist and totally silky cauliflower soup (vegan by the way) from his book “Cooking By Hand” which they featured in their column along with a really great write up. If you are a cauliflower hater (and I know a few) this might just be the recipe to begin changing your mind.

Another absolutely genius recipe from this amazing book that I come back to time and again is his recipe for “Boiled Chicken with Vinegar Sauce” which appears in the chapter devoted entirely to balsamic vinegar (no wonder I love this book!). The name of the dish really doesn’t do it justice. A more compelling description might be “a super comforting, moist chicken with a wonderful toasty, tangy gravy”. You make it by simply poaching a whole chicken, then using a few ladles of the flavorful poaching broth to create a sauce along with toasted sourdough bread crumbs and “young” balsamic vinegar (no need for the super expensive aged stuff, since you want a bit of tang and acidity). It’s just the kind of meal my family is in the mood for on a chilly fall evening after a busy afternoon riding bikes and running around outside.

With food as simple as this, it’s all about finding the perfect balance of a few flavors which makes this a great recipe to make with kids. The more kids’ cooking classes we teach, the more I am convinced that at the heart of becoming a good cook is becoming a confident taster (something I’m still working on, too). So this would be a perfect recipe to exercise those tasting muscles: give your young cooks the sauce ingredients (encourage tasting things individually), provide support with measuring/pureeing as needed and then turn it over to them to dial it in until they think they think it’s amazing and delicious, resisting the urge to get in there and meddle — which is of course the hard part.

Poached Chicken with Balsamic Vinegar and Bread Crumb Sauce

(adapted from Paul Bertolli’s “Cooking By Hand”)


  • 1 whole chicken (about 4 pounds)
  • 1 carrot, cut in half
  • 1 stalk of celery, cut in half
  • 1 onion, outer skin removed, quartered
  • 2 cups of toasted sourdough breadcrumbs (**see directions below)
  • 5 teaspoons of balsamic vinegar
  • salt & pepper to taste
  1. Place the whole chicken in a big pot along with the carrot, celery and onion. Cover the chicken with water to the top of the drumstick (most of the breast will be above the water line). Lightly salt the water and bring to a boil. Once the water has reached a full boil, turn it down to a light simmer and cook for 30-35 minutes.
  2. Skim any foamy stuff that has risen to the top and flip over the chicken so that it is breast side down and continue simmering for 15 minutes. Use a thermometer to check the internal temperature of the chicken to make sure it is cooked through (you want an internal temperature of 165 degrees F). Turn off the heat and cover the pot while you make the sauce.
  3. Place the toasted breadcrumbs in a bowl and add 2 1/2 cups of poaching liquid from the chicken. Puree the moistened breadcrumbs in a blender or food processor (or run them through the finest setting on a food mill). Add more poaching liquid until you like the consistency, then stir in the balsamic vinegar and season to taste with salt and pepper.
  4. Carve the chicken, discarding the skin, and drizzle chicken with the sauce. Serve extra sauce on the side.


** Toasted Sourdough Breadcrumbs (makes 2 cups) ** YUM — I would happily eat these all on their own!

  1. Blitz 4 ounces of sourdough bread in the food processor until you have a bread crumb consistency (you should end up with about 2 cups). You can substitute any good rustic bread, but we love to stick to sourdough for this recipe.
  2. Melt 4 tablespoons of butter in a pan and toast the breadcrumbs, stirring to prevent the crumbs from burning until they are light golden in color (about 5 minutes).

You might also like: Pasta with Broccoli and Breadcrumbs; Moroccan Chicken with Preserved Lemons and Green Olives; Chicken with Roasted Meyer Lemon, Garlic & Rosemary

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