Braised food

Braised chicken flavored with flavors from the south of France

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

“Pass the Dutchie on the left side. Pass the Dutchie on the left side.

And there he lived. Just this line, spinning and spinning in my brain. But that didn’t bother me. I had landed on Chicken Provençal to crack my deliciously red new Dutchie (“Dutchie,” I later learned, is what Jamaicans call their version of a Dutch oven).

I’ve wanted an enameled cast iron Dutch oven for almost as long as I’ve been cooking. I spent almost as much time lusting after one of the Crucible. But a 5.5-quart Le Creuset Round Dutch Oven costs $400. And when I was developing this recipe, it was an impossible amount to justify for just one jar.

Then a fellow blogger wrote about his new dutch oven, which further fueled my obsession. However, she offered me an alternative: a 6-quart dutch oven from Lodge for less than $90. I already owned many Lodge cast iron skillets, so I was familiar with the brand’s level of quality.

I read a few reviews complaining that the enamel chipped sometimes, but decided to give it a shot. I’ve had my Lodge enameled cast iron dutch oven for 12 years now. After all these years of almost weekly use, yes there are chips on the top rim of the jar which I suspect is from 12 years ago when I banged a wooden spoon against the rim to knock the food after stirring. The inside bottom has darkened with use and has some micro abrasions, but it still has great non-stick properties and is still one of my favorite pots.

These days I’m in a better position to splurge on a piece of the French line of pots, but I’m still hesitant to spend that kind of money. Two years ago, just before the county entered its first pandemic lockdown, I came across a Le Creuset Round Red 3.5-quart Dutch Oven at HomeGoods marked down to $150 — a whopping $200 off reduction on the regular price! Of course, it found its way to me (I’m always on the lookout for big brand deals at HomeGoods).

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

A familiar dish

I made no secret that I am a home cook, not a qualified chef. My culinary knowledge base was formed by my father, who shared the dishes of his youth and those he learned while working in professional kitchens, cooking mostly American and Italian dishes. Thus, my exposure to French cuisine over the years has relied solely on occasional outings to French restaurants and reading and occasionally cooking my copy of “Mastering the Art of French Cuisine” by Julia Child .

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

What finally got me to try making chicken provencal for the blog was that within a week I discovered it in a magazine, in a cookbook at work, and it had been mentioned twice on TV. I read it as a sign that the universe wanted me to try my hand at recreating this dish for the blog.

I spent time experimenting with the recipe until I found something I was looking forward to eating. I used Herbes de Provence as the main seasoning in the sauce. This spice blend, depending on the brand, contains rosemary, garlic, lavender, thyme, parsley, tarragon, marjoram, basil, savoy, sage and chervil. If you already have the individual spices on hand, there’s no need to run out and buy the mix; there are many resources online to help you with the amounts of each spice in a homemade version. I don’t usually need dried rosemary, as I have a fresh plant in my garden, and I also don’t tend to use savoy and chervil, so it makes sense for me to just buy the spice mix. Crushed tomatoes, wine, fresh garlic, onions, olives and lemon zest complete the sauce in this version of Provençal chicken (not to be confused with Provençal roast chicken, which uses no sauce tomato).

This dish has become a favorite one-pot meal. After browning and removing the meat, you make the sauce in the same pot. As the onions sauté, the bottom (the browned bits of meat left behind) loosen up and begin to incorporate into the vegetables. Deglazing with wine ensures that none of that tasty background is wasted.

I used boneless, skinless chicken breasts this time, but I also made the dish with boneless, skinless thighs, so use whichever you prefer. As for the olives, this dish is traditionally made with niçoise, nyons or kalamatas. I often use California black olives because I always have some in my pantry. But I also used kalamata and several different varieties of green olives. Again, make it your own and use whatever olive you like.

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

Provençal Chicken in Tomato Sauce with Olives

Feel free to substitute 6-8 boneless, skinless thighs in place of the breast meat. You will need to add about 10 minutes to the final braising time. For a deeper, richer flavor you can use bone-in chicken, but note that bone-in chicken will take longer to cook. Traditionally, Provencal sauce uses anchovies, an ingredient I haven’t yet become familiar with in cooking. If you’re not gross like me, add 1 tsp anchovy paste when adding the chicken broth, stirring well to combine.

Makes 4 servings

⅔ cup flour
Salt, as needed, divided use
3 tablespoons of olive oil
4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
1 medium brown onion, chopped (about 2 cups)
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 cup dry white wine
3 tablespoons of tomato paste
1 can (28 ounces) 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, divided use
¼ cup chopped parsley, divided use

FOR THE NOODLES:
1 package (16 ounces) egg noodles
4 tablespoons butter, divided use
¼ cup panko breadcrumbs
2 good tablespoons of grated parmesan

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

Put your dutch oven on medium heat. Add olive oil. Once it’s shimmering but not smoking, carefully add two of the floured chicken breasts. Brown the chicken for about 5 minutes on each side, then transfer it to a plate lined with paper towel. Remove all but 1 tablespoon of remaining fat.

Add the chopped onions and a pinch of salt to the pan and sweat, stirring often, for 3-5 minutes. Add the garlic and cook, stirring constantly, for another minute. Slowly add the wine, stirring and scraping up any browned bits from the bottom and sides of the pan. Simmer, reducing the wine by half, about 6 minutes. Stir in tomato paste; simmer 5 minutes. Add the crushed tomatoes, Provencal herbs, oregano, thyme and pepper. Stir, cover and simmer for about 8 minutes over low heat. Taste the sauce and adjust the seasoning by adding more salt or pepper to taste.

While the sauce simmers, preheat the oven to 350 degrees. After the final simmer of the sauce, return the chicken to the pot, cover and braise in the oven for 20 minutes or until the chicken registers 160 degrees in the thickest part of the breast (the chicken will continue to cook after its removal from the oven).

Meanwhile, cook noodles according to package directions for al dente pasta. While the noodles cook, heat 1 tablespoon of butter in a skillet. Once melted but not browned, add the panko and toast until golden. Remove to a small bowl and set aside. When the noodles are ready, drain them and add them to a serving bowl. Stir in remaining butter, Parmesan, 1 tbsp chopped parsley and 1 tbsp lemon zest, mixing well until butter is melted. Cover the bowl and set aside until ready to serve. Just before serving, sprinkle the noodles with the grilled panko.

When the chicken has reached 160 degrees, carefully remove the pan from the oven and place it on the stovetop over medium-high heat. Transfer the chicken only to a dish, cover with foil and set aside. Add the chicken broth to the pan, stirring well to incorporate and simmer for 5 minutes. Add the olives, 3 tbsp chopped parsley and 1 tbsp lemon zest, and simmer for about 2 minutes to heat the olives through. Add the chicken, simmer for 5 minutes, then remove the pan from the heat.

Optionally, garnish chicken with chopped parsley and remaining lemon zest. Serve with the noodles on the side and crusty bread to mop up the sauce.

Recipe is copyrighted by Anita L. Arambula and reprinted with permission from “Confessions of a Foodie”.

Arambula is the artistic director and designer of the food section. She blogs at confessionsofafoodie.me, where the original version of this article was published. Follow her on Instagram: @afotogirl. She can be contacted at [email protected]