chicken braised with bacon and balsamic vinegar

Having friends all over the country has many benefits, but one of the most constant is hearing about the weather in different regions of our fair nation. When I heard about the snowstorms hitting the northern Midwest, I couldn't help but laugh. Last year the polar vortex was a remarkable force that stopped everything. Power. Work. School. Any travel, anywhere. Travel to the grocery store? Nope. Need to go get something? No you don't.

So here I am in Atlanta, and the sun is shining. Every day, the sun shines. It's crisp in the mornings, and cooler during the day, with big puffy clouds and a screaming blue sky. But I can commiserate with my friends up north. Oh yes, I understand. After a day behind the snowblower, I can't think of a better meal to sit down to warm you up. This chicken is rich, flavorful, easy, and quick. A godsend for a busy day- and it will taste like you've been working on it for hours. Perfect paired with the crispy parmesan polenta I posted a while ago- the creamy polenta against the acidic chicken is just ambrosia.

Give it a go for dinner this week. You might not be behind a snowplow yet, but winter is coming. You can even make this whole meal ahead of time and refrigerate it, then gently reheat in the pot when you are ready to serve (up to 3 days later). The chicken thighs will stay moist and will just become more flavorful as they sit.

Here's how it's done:

You'll need six strips of thick cut bacon. I highly recommend the black forest bacon they sell at Whole Foods- you can buy as many or few pieces as you want, and it is delicious. Of course, any thick cut bacon will do. Chop the bacon into small pieces, then cook in a dutch oven or large saucepan until crisp. The key when cooking bacon is low and slow- don't crank up the heat. You want the bacon to gently release its fat into the pan, rendering out nice and crispy.

While the bacon is cooking, set out your chicken thighs and season them. I like to put salt and pepper in a ramekin, toss them together, and then use my fingers to season the chicken. This way I never have to touch the salt or pepper shakers with yucky raw chicken hands.

After the bacon is sizzling and brown and you've seasoned all the chicken thighs, place them right into the hot pan. I took the bacon out first, but you could leave it in. It's immaterial.

The goal is for the chicken to get very well browned on all sides. Leave it alone to caramelize. No peeking! You want them very brown before turning.

Once the chicken is well browned on all sides, turn the heat to medium and add the garlic, rosemary (and bacon, if you took it out of the pan). Stir and let cook for about 3 minutes.

Add the vinegar and stir well. Turn the heat to low and cook 15-20 minutes, turning the chicken frequently. Serve.

Here's the recipe!