Sunday, February 16, 2014

Provençal Chicken with Olive Tapenade

This just might be my favorite chicken recipe of all. It passed our "Would you pay for this entree in a nice restaurant?" and "Would you go back and order it again?" tests with flying colors.

There's time and effort involved, but I have a few tips to make it easy and fast and it's worth it. There's a lot you can do in advance ~ in fact, you could make the entire dish in advance and reheat it just before serving, so it would be great for a dinner party or special occasion.  Serves 4

Tip #1: Breaking down a chicken takes time, especially if you haven't had a lot of practice. Do it the same day you go to the market. Cut off the back, neck, and wing tips and freeze in a ziploc bag for stock. Separate the thigh from the drumstick. Cut the breast in half down the center of the breastbone, and then cut each of these in half crosswise so you have 4 equal size pieces of breast.

Remove as much skin and fat as possible. Trimming away all the fat now will save you the tedious step of having to pour off, cool and skim the sauce just before reducing and serving, so it's worth doing. Besides, it's much healthier ;-).

Put the chicken pieces in a ziploc freezer bag and store in the refrigerator for no more than 24 hours or put in the freezer until you're ready to make this recipe. See that tiny little piece of meat in the upper left-hand corner of the photo? That came off the underside of a breast piece. Don't sweat it if this happens. Just cook it with the giblets for your pets ;-).

Tip #2: Make the tapenade in advance, even the day before. Make sure you're buying pitted olives, or you'll spend a good 45 minutes standing there wrestling with the tiny, stubborn things. A kitchen tool called a 'cherry pitter' works well on larger olives like Kalamata, not so well on the ones in this recipe.

Tip #2.5 It looks like a lot of tapenade. Maybe too much. It's not.

Tip #3: This was originally a recipe from Williams-Sonoma for a slow-cooker. You can still cook the chicken in one for 3 hours on low, but it only takes 30 minutes at a slow simmer on the stove top, and all the other browning and reducing still has to happen. You decide.

Here we go:

1 chicken cut, skinned, and trimmed of fat as shown above
Kosher salt & freshly ground black pepper
1/2 c yellow onion, finely chopped
5 cloves garlic, finely chopped
3 bay leaves (4 if using the smaller Turkish ones)
1 tsp dried tarragon
1/2 c dry white wine
1/2 c homemade chicken stock

Olive Tapenade
1 c green olives such as Picholine or Lucques
1 c Niçoise olives
2 dried figs, chopped
2 cloves garlic, smashed and chopped
1-2 TB brandy (I use Decourtet)
1 tsp grated lemon zest
1 tsp fresh rosemary, minced

Make the tapenade first. Put the olives, figs, 2 TB EVOO, lemon zest and rosemary in a food processor and pulse to a coarse texture. Put into a small serving bowl. Stir in enough additional EVOO to keep it moist but not too oily. Add 1 TB brandy, stir well and taste to see if it needs more. It will be perfect when there's just the barest hint of alcohol but it doesn't burn when you take a bite. Cover tightly with plastic wrap and set aside.

Now start the chicken. Heat 2 TB of EVOO over medium heat in a Dutch oven large enough to hold all the chicken pieces in one layer. (It's ok if you have doubled the recipe, you'll just want to move the pieces around more during the cooking process.) Dry all the chicken pieces and season with salt and pepper. Working in batches, brown about 5-6 minutes on each side, moving them gently when they're ready to turn and removing to a plate when they're done. You might need to turn the heat down a bit as the oil gets hotter.

It will be a little trickier not tearing the flesh when you don't have skin. Just be gentle but firm, don't move the pieces too soon and don't be afraid to add more EVOO if you need to. I ended up using an entire 1/4 c during the browning stage.

Remove the last batch of browned chicken. Ladle off and discard all but 2 TB EVOO. Add the onion, and cook and stir about 4-5 minutes. Add the garlic and cook another minute. Add the wine, stock, tarragon, 1/2 tsp salt and about 10-12 grinds of pepper and stir to combine everything. Put the chicken back in the pot like this and nestle the bay leaves down in the broth:

Cover and simmer on low for 25-30 minutes until the chicken is just cooked through. The tarragon will smell really strong and you might worry there's too much. There isn't. The smell is much stronger than the taste, which is perfect.

Remove the chicken to a serving platter. Turn the heat up to high and reduce the sauce to just less than half. Now taste for salt and pepper, although it probably won't need either. Pour the concentrated sauce and all the goodies over the chicken. Serve with tapenade on the side.

1 comment:

  1. P.S. I had leftovers for lunch today and it is marvelous. Definitely a keeper.