Braised chicken with the flavors of southern France

I remember when I first made today’s Chicken Provençal recipe, gathering ingredients and a song from my youth stuck in my head: “Pass the Dutchie” by Musical Youth, a British-Jamaican reggae band.

“Pass the Dutchie on the left. Pass the Dutchie on the left.”

And there it lived. Just this one line going round and round in my brain. But I didn’t mind. I’d landed on Chicken Provençal to break in my own delicious red Dutchie (“Dutchie,” I later learned is what Jamaicans call their version of a Dutch oven).

I’ve wanted an enamelled cast-iron Dutch oven for almost as long as I’ve been cooking. I’ve spent almost as much time craving one from Le Creuset. But a 5.5-liter Le Creuset round pot costs $400. And when I came up with this recipe, that was an impossible amount to justify forgoing a single pot.

Then a fellow blogger wrote about her new Dutch Oven, which further fueled my obsession. However, she offered me an alternative: a 6-liter Lodge casserole for under $90. Having owned many Lodge cast iron pans, I was familiar with the brand’s level of quality.

I read a few reviews complaining about the enamel chipping at times, but decided to take a chance. I have owned my Lodge Enamelled Cast Iron Dutch Oven for 12 years now. After all these years of almost weekly use, there is some chipping at the top of the pot which I assume is 12 years of tapping the rim with a wooden spoon to knock food off after stirring. The inner bottom has darkened with use and shows some micro abrasions, but it still has excellent non-to-low adhesion properties and remains one of my favorite pots.

These days I’m better positioned to afford a piece from the French pot line, but I’m still hesitant to spend that kind of money. Two years ago, just before the county went into lockdown for the first time because of the pandemic, I came across a red 3.5-liter round Le Creuset Dutch Oven at HomeGoods that was priced at $150 — a whopping $200 off than the regular price! Of course it found its way to my house (I’m always on the lookout for great brand deals at HomeGoods).

The most significant difference I’ve noticed between my two pots is the thickness of the walls. The Le Creuset is much thinner, making it lighter and less portable than the heavier Lodge. I love now having the option to use the smaller or larger Dutch Oven to accommodate a recipe.

A well-known dish

I made no secret of the fact that I am a homemaker and not a trained cook. My food knowledge base was formed by my father, who shared the dishes from his youth with those he learned working in professional kitchens, cooking mostly American and Italian dishes. So my exposure to French cuisine over the years has been based solely on occasional trips to French restaurants and reading and occasionally cooking from my edition of Julia Child’s Mastering the Art of French Cooking.

But this Provençal chicken dish spoke to me. With its chicken braised in tomatoes and olives, it was so reminiscent of one of my favorite dishes from my youth: my mom’s chicken cacciatore. I don’t know where she learned the dish, but she cooked it for us several times a year. She would pile it over white rice, which would soak up that incredibly flavorful sauce, and we would inhale before she even sat down to enjoy her portion.

What finally got me to making Provencal chicken for the blog was the fact that within a week I spotted it in a magazine or in a cookbook at work and it was mentioned twice on TV. I read it as a sign that the universe wanted me to attempt a recreation of this dish for the blog.

I spent some time experimenting with the recipe until I found something I was looking forward to. I used Herbes de Provence as the main seasoning in the sauce. Depending on the brand, this spice mix contains rosemary, garlic, lavender, thyme, parsley, tarragon, marjoram, basil, savoy cabbage, sage and chervil. If you already have the individual spices on hand, you don’t need to buy the mix; There are many resources online to help you with the amount of each spice in a homemade version. I don’t normally use dried rosemary as I have a fresh plant in my garden and I also tend not to use savoy cabbage and chervil so it makes sense to me to just buy the spice mix. Mashed tomatoes, wine, fresh garlic, onions, olives and lemon zest complete the sauce on this version of Provençal chicken (not to be confused with roast chicken Provençal, which doesn’t use tomato sauce).

This dish has become a popular one-pot meal. After searing and removing the meat, prepare the sauce in the same pot. As the onions sauté, the stock (the leftover browned bits of meat) will come off and begin to work its way into the vegetables. Deglazing with wine ensures that none of the delicious stock is wasted.

I used boneless, skinless chicken breasts this time, but I also made the dish with boneless, skinless thighs, so use whatever you prefer. As for the olives, this dish is traditionally prepared with Niçoise, Nyons or Kalamatas. I often use California black olives as I always have them in my pantry. But I’ve also used Kalamata and several different types of green olives. Make this your own again and use the olives you love.

I serve this dish with a simple side of buttered egg noodles. Mashed potatoes, creamy polenta, or steamed rice would be nice substitutes.

Provençal chicken in tomato sauce with olives

Feel free to substitute 6 to 8 boneless, skinless thighs in place of breast meat. You will need to add about 10 minutes to the final simmering time. For a deeper, richer flavor, you can use bone-in chicken, but note that bone-in chicken takes longer to cook. Traditionally, the Provençal sauce uses anchovies – an ingredient I’ve yet to get used to when cooking. If you’re not squeamish like me, add 1 teaspoon of anchovy paste when you add the chicken broth and stir well to combine.

Makes 4 servings

⅔ cup flour
Salt, as needed, shared use
3 tablespoons olive oil
4 skinless and boneless chicken breasts
1 medium brown onion, chopped (about 2 cups)
3 garlic cloves, chopped
1 cup dry white wine
3 tablespoons tomato paste
1 (28-ounce) can crushed tomatoes
3 tablespoons Herbes de Provence
1 tablespoon dried oregano
1 teaspoon ground thyme
¼ freshly ground black pepper or to taste
½ cup chicken broth
1 cup whole black or Kalamata olives, pitted
3 tablespoons lemon zest, shared use
¼ cup chopped parsley, shared use

FOR THE NOODLES:
1 (16 ounce) package egg noodles
4 tablespoons butter, shared use
¼ cup panko breadcrumbs
2 generous tablespoons grated parmesan cheese

Place flour and 2 tablespoons salt in a resealable gallon-size bag. Add one chicken breast and shake to coat. Remove the chicken, shake off excess flour and place on a wire rack. Repeat with the other three breasts. Put aside.

Set your Dutch Oven to medium heat. Add the olive oil. Once it is shimmering but not smoking, carefully add 2 of the floured chicken breasts. Sear the chicken for about 5 minutes per side, then place on a paper towel-lined plate. Remove all but 1 tablespoon of the remaining fat.

Add the chopped onions and a pinch of salt to the saucepan and sauté for 3 to 5 minutes, stirring frequently. Add garlic and cook for another minute, stirring constantly. Slowly add the wine, stirring and scraping off any browned bits on the bottom and sides of the pan. Simmer for about 6 minutes, reducing the wine by half. stir in tomato paste; Simmer for 5 minutes. Add the tomato passata, herbs de Provence, oregano, thyme and pepper. Stir, cover and simmer on low for about 8 minutes. Taste the sauce and adjust the seasoning by adding more salt or pepper to taste.

While the sauce is simmering, preheat the oven to 350 degrees. After the sauce has finished simmering, return the chicken to the pot, cover and simmer in the oven for 20 minutes or until the chicken reaches 160 degrees at the thickest part of the breast (the chicken will continue to cook after it is removed from the oven). .

Meanwhile, cook the pasta according to package directions for al dente pasta. While the pasta is cooking, heat 1 tbsp butter in a pan. Once melted but not browned, add the panko and toast until golden. Pour into a small bowl and set aside. When the noodles are done, drain and place in a serving bowl. Add remaining butter, parmesan, 1 tablespoon chopped parsley and 1 tablespoon lemon zest and mix well until butter is melted. Cover the bowl and set aside until ready to serve. Just before serving, sprinkle the noodles with the toasted panko.

When the chicken has reached 160 degrees, carefully remove the pot from the oven and place on the stovetop over medium-high heat. Place the chicken on a platter only, cover with foil and set aside. Add the chicken broth to the saucepan, stir well and simmer for 5 minutes. Add the olives, 3 tablespoons chopped parsley and 1 tablespoon lemon zest and simmer for about 2 minutes to thoroughly heat the olives. Add the chicken, simmer for 5 minutes, then remove the pot from the heat.

Optionally garnish the chicken with chopped parsley and the remaining lemon zest. Serve with the pasta on the side and some crusty bread to soak up the sauce.

Recipe is copyright of Anita L. Arambula and is reprinted with permission from Confessions of a Foodie.

Arambula is the art director and designer of the food department. She blogs at confessionsofafoodie.me, where the original version of this article was published. Follow her on Instagram: @afotogirl. She can be reached at anita.arambula@sduniontribune.com.

Leave a Comment