Chicken Provençal

I was in the mood for something new, yet still familiar, which is a weird mood to be in. The foods in which I was regularly acquainted weren’t good enough, but anything new that seemed too exotic were also quickly dismissed. This is a mood best described as “picky” or “annoying as hell”. Picture the following:

Inner voice: How about puttanesca?

Me (whiny): Nnnnnoooo. We just had that last week.

IV: Pork Chops

Me: Ugh. No.

IV: You could make something Spanish.

Me: What are you, high?

IV: That’s it, I’m outta here.

Isn’t it always the case? Just when you discover that the world is your oyster, you find yourself tired of shellfish.

Luckily I came across this Cook’s Illustrated recipe, which shut down the urge to be a pain in the ass to anyone who suggested a dish to try. It’s new, at least to me, as I have never tried to make it before. But yet it’s similar enough to chicken cacciatore, that I knew what to expect when all was said and done.

This is one of those dishes that one might be tempted to replace the water with chicken stock. Resist this temptation at all cost! There is enough flavor from the onions, tomatoes, and pancetta, that any flavor the stock might bring will be overwhelmed.

  • 8 Chicken thighs
  • salt and pepper
  • 4 oz. pancetta, diced
  • 1 large white onion, diced
  • 5 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 Tbsp. All-purpose Flour
  • 1/2 cup dry vermouth
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1 14.5 oz can of diced tomatoes, drained
  • 1/2 cup niçoise olives, pitted and chopped
  • 1/4 cup basil, minced

Salt and Pepper the chicken thighs to taste. Set aside.

In a Dutch Oven or large stock pot, cook the pancetta over medium heat until crispy, roughly 5 minutes or so. Remove the pancetta from the pan, but leave the residual grease. Place in the chicken thighs, skin side down, and turn up the heat to high. Fry until golden brown, roughly six to eight minutes. Turn over chicken with tongs and allow to cook for three minutes on the non-skin side of the thighs. Remove the pot from heat, and transfer the chicken to plate to cool. Remove all but 2 Tablespoons of the remaining fat.

Add the onion and 1/2 teaspoon of salt. Place over medium heat and cook until the onions just start to become translucent. Meanwhile, scrap any of the remaining brown fronds from the chicken and pancetta off of the bottom of the pan and mix into the onions. Add in the garlic and flour, and cook for one minute. Add the vermouth, water, and tomatoes.

Remove the skin from the chicken. Place the chicken into the stew, and add the pancetta. Bring to a simmer (185 degrees F). Cover, and lower the heat to medium low. Cook for 30 minutes, turning over the chicken at the fifteen minute point. After the 30 minutes, add the olives and cook for five more minutes. Remove the chicken and place on a serving dish. Add the basil to the braising liquid. Ladle over the chicken and serve.

Serves 4

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