Provence is that part of South Eastern France much loved by poets, writers, and any one with taste. Bordered by Italy and the Mediterranean Sea, it is covered in pine forests, olive groves and vineyards as far as the eye can see—sigh! Think long hot summers, great wine, and a cuisine packed with bold flavours –as far away from classic French cooking as you will ever get. This dish is a long-time favourite, easy to get together in almost no time, full of the flavours of black olives, anchovies, wine and garlic. OH yes—there is chicken too but the sauce is what makes it FABULOUS! One recipe I came across says it is “usually” made with a whole chicken or rabbit! Rabbit??!! Get a grip. Make it with any free range chicken you like in pieces, even with the skin on if you like but we find this works deliciously and is a breeze to make.
(Adapted from chef Joel Mielle)
4 free range chicken breasts (removed from fridge 20 minutes before)
2tbsp Olive oil
2 tbsp butter
1 Tbsp dried thyme
For the Sauce
2 garlic cloves
4 anchovy fillets or 2 Tbsp fish sauce
½ cup dry white wine
1 cup chicken stock
1 cup tomato puree (not paste – passata)
20 black olives
1 handful fresh parsley leaves
2 tbsp butter
Salt and pepper
1.Dry and cut the chicken breasts in half, try to cut the thick end a little smaller so they even out in weight. Sprinkle with thyme, and pepper.
2. Roll on your bench for even coating – you can place the cut breast pieces in a plastic bag with the spicesmassage them to get an even coating (less messy method).
3.Chop the parsley, set aside. Slice the garlic & pit and slice the black olives into strips (Julienne) set aside.
4.Place a frying pan on medium heat with 2 tbsp butter and 2 tbsp olive oil. Sauté the chicken until golden brown, approx. 3-4 minutes then flip over. Cook another 3-4minutes. Once nicely caramelised, set chicken aside in warm oven (100°C).
5.In the same pan, return to medium heat, add the sliced garlic and anchovies. Cook 30seconds then deglaze the pan with white wine, simmer until almost dry (NB). Add the chicken stock, the tomato puree, sliced olives and mix well. Taste and check seasoning, (olives and anchovies are very salty) add salt if required (probably NOT needed), then pepper. If the sauce is too acidic do not add sugar but rather adjust with some honey. Add the chopped parsley and 2 tbsp of butter, melt, and mix well into the sauce. Return the cooked chicken (with its juices) to the pan and reheat in the sauce 30 seconds as you baste each piece.
6.Serve immediately with rice or couscous. Serve with a lightly cooled Pinot Noir like this fabulous one from Bouchard Finlayson-a classic in its own time.