As “Salt Fat Acid Heat” progenitor Samin Nosrat will tell you, cooking with acid is essential to balancing the flavors in a dish — especially with something like braised chicken, which has a strong richness thanks to the fat rendered from the bird. Ballis agrees. “Replacing a portion of the stock or wine used for braising with the punchy acidity of vinegar creates a sauce with great depth, but with plenty of tongue-tingling oomph,” she writes on MyRecipes. “The best part is that it doesn’t require learning a new recipe, but rather, simply adding in an appropriate vinegar to the braising liquid in my favorite dishes and letting the mixture do all the work.” Ballis recommends adding a splash of the same vinegar just before serving to bring a “bright intensity” that cuts through the buttery flavors of the chicken.
If you’re ready to start improvising, rely on Ballis’ 3:3:1 ratio. That’s three parts stock or water, three parts wine “or other liquid like juice or beer,” and one part vinegar. As for which kinds of vinegar to use, she offers some guidance based on the flavors of various cuisines, including red or white wine vinegar for Greek recipes, sherry vinegar for Spanish recipes, and champagne or fruit vinegar for French recipes. Et voilà: Ballis’ “secret ingredient” makes the timeless dish even more deliciously accessible.