A little research revealed the follow about this lovely dish: Chicken Provencal hails from South France – in the Provence region. The basic characteristics of Provencal cuisine are herbs, olives and slow cooking. Naturally, there is much more involved; but those are the basics in a nutshell. One look at the breathtaking charm of the countryside and it’s easy to see why. The use of Thyme, Rosemary, Marjoram and Sage are prevalent in Provencal cooking, as are olives and olive oils. Slow cooking is a must. After all, who would want to be in a hurry here? The countryside invites one to slow down, to savor and live in the beauty of the moment; don’t you think?
While the original recipe called for the use of a whole 3-pound chicken, cut into pieces, I chose to use only the legs. I felt that the dark meat would stand up well to all the other flavors of the pot, and the legs made for a nice presentation. (Besides, I had six packages of drumsticks in the freezer – and this dish seemed the perfect vehicle to utilize at least two of those packages). You can use a whole chicken if you like.
Give yourself plenty of time to gather and prepare the herbs. Chopping fresh Rosemary didn’t take long. Plucking only the leaves from the tender sprigs of thyme was a bit more time-consuming. Usually grasping the thyme at the top and running my fingers downward does the trick. However; the thyme sprigs I recently purchased at the market was thick with tiny off-shoots and the sprigs were so tender and fresh that they were unwilling to part with their leaves. Plucking was in order – three tablespoonfuls of plucking. Oh, but it was so worthwhile – the aromas and the flavor were exquisite.
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
3 tablespoons fresh thyme leaves
2 teaspoons chopped fresh rosemary
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons butter
1/2 cup minced yellow onion
2 cloves garlic, minced
4 cups crushed tomatoes with basil and their juice
1 large can Colossal Black Olives, drained
Gently pull/roll skins back from the chicken legs toward the nubs, revealing the meat. (Think socks or nylons). Rub the chicken all over with the pepper, half of the thyme, and half of the rosemary. Pull/roll the skins back into place so that the herbs are between the skin and the flesh. Set aside until ready to use.
In a Dutch oven large enough to eventually hold all the chicken legs, heat the olive oil and butter over medium-high heat. When it is nearly smoking, add the legs in two batches. As soon as first batch is added to pot, reduce heat and let brown, about 2 to 3 minutes. Turn chicken over and cook for another 1 to 2 minutes to brown the other side.
Remove first batch, increase heat and repeat with second batch. Remove legs once browned and set aside.
Add the onion and garlic to the now empty pot and cook 1-2 minutes, soaking in pan drippings.
Add the crushed tomatoes and their juices, scrapping up any bits clinging to the pot. Return the chicken and any collected juices to the pot, spooning the sauce over the chicken.
Cover, reduce the heat to medium-low and cook until the juices run clear and chicken is nearly falling off the bone, about 90 minutes.
Uncover, turn off heat. Add remaining herbs and olives.
To serve, plate a few drumsticks on each plate. Spoon a little sauce over chicken and garnish with warmed black olives.
Serving suggestions: Serve with Garlic Mashed Potatoes; Baked Polenta with Parmesan and Rosemary or Couscous. A simple salad of young greens is also a nice touch. As would warm French Bread to soak up the beautiful, flavorful sauce.