Chicken Provençal

This dish unmistakably reminds me of dining at home in France.

Yield

Serves 8. Great accompaniments include garlic mashed potatoes and petit peas. I plan to try a Croatian enhancement one day of making more sauce and adding mlinzi to it.

Ingredients

  12-16 chicken thighs
  6 tbsp olive oil
  kosher salt
  fresh-ground pepper
  1 medium onion
  1 head garlic, minced
  1 can anchove filets
  cayenne pepper
  2 cups white wine
  2 cups chicken stock
  2 small cans diced tomatoes
  1 can tomato paste
  fresh thyme
  fresh oregano
  4 bay leaves
  herbes de Provence
    niçoise or Burgundian olives
  1 lemon
  fresh parsley

Preparation

1. Season chicken thighs with salt and pepper. Brown them, skin side-down in no more than a tablespoon of olive oil. Much fat will expire from the chicken anyway. Dark meat works best for this dish because it cannot be over-cooked whereas breast meat is quickly ruined (dried out) by the slightest over-cooking, something that won’t necessarily happen during browning, but will happen for certain during braising.

Notes on chicken parts and cooking: If you want breast (white) meat in your dish, brine for a short time, brown well, and then add them to the braise about 5 minutes before removing it from the oven, then remove just as the recipe outlines. Depending on how long you brown even the thighs, you could end up with over-cooked chicken. I suggest a thermometer plunged into one of the pieces. Cut your time shorter when it reaches 200°—don’t go for the full length in the oven.

2. Decant all but a couple of tablespoons of the fat and oil from the browning pan. Create the braise by sweating onions, minced anchove chunks (no, really, you won’t taste anchoves, but you will find the sauce enhanced) and minced garlic in the oil expired from the chicken browning. Sprinkle with cayenne pepper to taste. Deglaze with a cup of white wine and a cup of chicken stock. Scrape well to release the fond from the pan and dissolve it in the braise.

3. Add 1 small can of diced tomatoes plus 2 tablespoons of tomato paste for body. (In fact, I never cook this dish for fewer than 8 people: just use the whole can.) Season with chopped fresh thyme, oregano and a bay leaf. Add herbes de Provence if desired. Bring to a good simmer.

Herbes de Provence, or pre-packaged herbs from the region of Provence (south-central and south-eastern France) consist usually of rosemary, marjoram, basil, savory and thyme with the last one being the dominate savor. A reasonable substitute is sold in the United States under the name, “Italian Herbs” (or “Italian Spices”).

4. Remove the skin if desired, and plunge the chicken into the braise. Cover the pan with its lid and put the whole into a 300° oven for 45 minutes.

5. Remove chicken, tent and set aside. Reduce the braise down by about one-half and a couple of minutes before serving. I reduce mine by placing my large, oval Dutch oven across two burners of my cook top for 10-15 minutes. Add the olives in part way through this process to avoid over-cooking.

6. Chop up parsley, grate the lemon zest and squeeze the juice. Pour this garnish over the chicken in its serving platter, drizzle with extra-virgin olive oil and sprinkle with the parsley and zest garnish.

Italo-Croatian mlinzi

Increase the liquid volume of the sauce, prepare, cook and add mlinzi to the sauce just before serving.