Thursday, July 28, 2011

Chicken Provençal

Long story short, I knew I'd made something like this before, but I couldn't find a recipe anywhere...
So, I put something together based on what I could remember and what seemed *right*.
Sometimes you just have to go with what fits.

Well, after the fact I did indeed find where the recipe I was looking for came from.
It was in The New Best Recipe... and mine was similar, but not the same.
Needless to say, TNBR is a great book, and fairly scientific if you like that kind of cooking.

If you happen to like making up recipes or maybe doctoring them, there's a book called
It's kind of a book of lists... what goes with a certain ingredient, or what the common flavors are in a specific cuisine. For example, you could look up blueberries and find that cinnamon is a good partner. Look up "Jamaican" and find what common spices might be included.

It's good to have as a reference for those times when you need something, but aren't quite sure what it is. Good for inspiration.
Uh, no recipes though.

One thing I would like to address is the subject of anchovies.
Many people are horrified by these little fishes.
Why? I'm not quite sure.
They are intense little things, true. It's due to their preservation and packaging.
But, when a little is used appropriately, anchovy can be what makes something perfect (and you'd probably not even know that the one thing which was so key was this much maligned little fishy).
For instance, Caesar dressing and Worchestershire sauce wouldn't be what they are without anchovies.

I like to have a tube of anchovy paste in the fridge, just waiting.
This way you can just measure a bit out and it melts or blends right in to whatever you're making.

Chicken Provençal is great served with rice pilaf, polenta, or couscous. In fact, I think a bowl of rice with the sauce poured over the top is great (no chicken necessary).

Chicken Provençal
serves 4-8 (depending on who's eating)

8 chicken thighs, with skin and bones, trimmed of excess fat and skin
Kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper
1 1/2 T olive oil
1 large yellow onion, diced
5 large garlic cloves, minced
1 c white wine
1 c chicken broth
28 oz can of good-quality tomatoes, in tomato juice
1 1/2 T fresh thyme, minced
2 t anchovy paste
1 bay leaf

2/3 c black olives
2 1/2 T capers, drained (rinsed if they're packed in salt)

1 navel orange, washed (you need the zest)
1/4 c fresh minced parsley leaves

Salt and pepper the chicken on both sides.
Pour 1 1/2 T olive oil into a heavy-bottomed pan or dutch oven and heat over medium-high until the oil shimmers. Sear 4 chicken thighs, skin side down, until golden (about 5 minutes). Don't touch the chicken for at least 5 minutes! Remove the seared chicken to a plate or pan and repeat with the remaining pieces of chicken.
Pour off all but about 1 1/2 T of the oil that is left in the pan. Dump the diced onion into the hot oil and saute until soft and a little golden, about 10 minutes. Add the minced garlic and cook, stirring constantly, until you smell the garlic (this should only take a few seconds).
Add the white wine and scrape the bottom of the pan with a wooden spoon to deglaze it, dissolve and remove the fond, and add all that good flavor from the chicken you cooked a little earlier. Continue scraping, and cooking the wine and onions, about 5 minutes.
Add chicken broth, tomatoes and juice, anchovy paste, thyme, bay, 1 t salt, and 1/2 t freshly ground black pepper. Stir to combine and bring the mixture to a boil. Reduce the heat to a simmer and submerge chicken thighs into the sauce. Cover with a slightly cocked lid and continue simmering about 40 minutes.
Remove chicken thighs to pan with sides to rest a bit and cover with aluminum foil.
Bring the sauce to a boil and cook for about 15 minutes total to reduce the sauce a bit, adding the olives and capers after about 7 minutes.
While the sauce reduces, mince the parsley and grate the orange zest over the chopped leaves. Toss with fingers to combine the two.
Serve the chicken with the sauce and a sprinkling of orange-parsley over the top.

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