I enjoy cooking French style dishes. Typically French dishes are rich and saucy and that’s right up our alley. There is nothing bland or boring about it. When I entertain guests, I have a tendency to reach for my tried and true French meat recipes and go from there for sides. This is one such meat entree that is a go-to for guests. Chicken Provençal. It’s easy and a stress free type entree that allows me to have it ready just before the guests arrive and I can just keep it warm until we’re ready to eat. While it is a rich and saucy meat dish, it’s not so rich that you have to cut it with some bland sides. There’s a certain simple and light elegance about it that serves perfectly over a bed of your favorite pasta and yet makes you feel you still have room for dessert.
In Provençal cuisine, there are 3 basic building blocks of ingredients: Olive oil, garlic and an aromatic seasoning such as anchovies. Many times in Provençal cooking you will also find olives as a key ingredient, such as in this Chicken Provençal. There are so many varieties of olives out there and I suggest you use the one that you enjoy eating, whether it be black or green. I used black olives in this recipe because it brings the flavors I’m looking for.
Here’s how I make it.
This is something I like to do when sauteing or pan searing chicken breasts. Pounding it thin allows the chicken to cook quickly and more evenly. However, it is optional.
Here’s what I do:
I find it easiest to use some kind of heavy duty baggie, plus it contains the chicken in one place and doesn’t make such a mess. Quart size is what I have here. Doesn’t matter if it’s a zip top or not since you’re not going to zip it close. You need for some air to be able to escape as you’re pounding them thin. But, it does need to be a somewhat heavy duty plastic bag.
Even though I don’t zip the baggie closed, I do hold one hand over the opening so the chicken doesn’t shoot out as you’re knocking the fibers to smithereens. Start out somewhat easy to get a feel of how tight the muscle is, then pound it to about an even 1/4 inch thickness using the smooth face of the meat mallet.
A note about meat mallets. These are also known as a meat tenderizer. They look like a hammer (see picture above) and one face of the mallet is smooth while the other face has rows of pyramid shape tenderizers. For meats like chicken, use the smooth side. For tougher meats that have stronger fibers, such as beef and pork, use the face with the pyramid shape tenderizers.
Salt and pepper both sides of the chicken breasts.
Heat a skillet over medium high heat for a couple minutes. Add the extra virgin olive oil and place a couple of the pounded breasts into the pan at a time and brown both sides. About 3-4 minutes per side, or until it’s just cooked through. Do not overcook it or it will be too dry. Move the chicken breast to a plate and cover with aluminum foil to keep warm.
Pictured here is where some serious flavors come alive! We could call this a type of seasoning, couldn’t we? Drop the temperature to medium low. Leave all of that deliciousness in the pan and start adding the rest of the ingredients…
Add the garlic, anchovy paste and tomato paste. Stir a bit and cook over medium low heat for about 30 seconds while you grab the white wine.
Tip: I rarely use anchovy paste and I don’t like buying cans or jars of anchovy fillets. I only use a small amount at a time and by the time I get around to needing more, the leftovers have gone bad. So, I buy anchovy paste in a tube. It is a fantastic way to keep it in the fridge for quite a while! It’s like a tube of toothpaste where no air gets inside to cause it to go bad.
I also do the same for tomato paste. While I do keep those little cans in the cupboard, I use the tube when I just need a couple of Tablespoons. They also keep in the fridge for a long time.
Pour in the dry white wine and…
You can use a wine you like to drink or even cooking wine that you will keep on hand in the cupboard. I have used both depending on what I have available and both work well. A couple of suggested dry white wines would be a Chardonnay or Chablis.
Add the crushed tomatoes…
Then the chicken broth…
Sliced black olives and butter. Stir and bring to a good bubble over medium heat and cook for about 5-7 minutes to reduce a bit and thicken. Do a taste test and adjust salt and pepper to your liking.
Add the browned chicken breasts back into the pan with the scrumptious sauce.
Spoon the sauce over the chicken and simmer on low heat for 5 minutes to heat the chicken throughout.
Serve over your favorite pasta. I love all shapes and types of pasta! This one is called Gemelli. Delicious!!
Tip on cooking pasta. Be sure to salt the water generously. It’s the only time you can add any flavor to it. As Mario Batali says… “Salt the water to taste like the sea!”
For other French dishes, check out these recipes!
Printer friendly recipe.