Monday, 8 August 2011

Chicken Provencale-ish

I threw this dish together for dinner just a few days after the pork belly, red pepper and red onion dish that I wrote up in my last post, and it didn’t occur to me until we sat down and started eating quite how similar it was.  And it it didn’t occur to me in the sense of ‘oh no, I’m repeating myself, how boring have I, and our meals, become?’, but in the sense of a very mildly startling reminder of how much variety you can get from really rather minor variations on the same basic techniques and ingredients.

Okay, so substituting chicken for pork belly is something of a step-shift.  Whatever a step-shift might actually be.  And although both dishes would fall somewhere between the general category headings of ‘casserole’ and ‘pot roast’, this one was cooked quite quickly in a relatively hot oven (and in fact could be done entirely on the stove top), instead of slowly, and in stages.  But still, in terms of differences in what I actually did, really very little changed from one dish to the other.

I can, and will list those differences.  The instructions would read exactly as for (the second) the pork belly dish described here, but:

Use chicken, not pork belly.   By all means joint a whole chicken, but this is one of those dishes where those supermarket packs of mixed thighs and drumsticks come in really handy, and make this a really quick and easy dinner to throw together on getting home from work.  Which is what I did.

Leave the star anise and the vinegar out of the marinade – although, to be honest, either or both could quite happily go back in. Particularly, I would suggest the vinegar, although I’d be inclined to reduce the quantity, probably by about half, as you don’t have the fattiness of the pork belly for it to cut through.  Throw in a bayleaf or two instead.

Turn the oven up.  By all means you can do this low and slow, but it won’t make the same difference to the final outcome as it would with the pork belly, and in the same spirit as above, of making this dish something quick and easy, 45 minutes at 200 will be fine, and means you can roast some potatoes to serve alongside at the same time.  If you didn’t want to roast potatoes, it would cook just as well, in about the same time, on the stove top.  Lid on in both cases, of course.

Add two or three good big tomatoes - halved or even quartered if they’re really good and big.  Chuck these in about half way through.  The tomatoes, along with the other veg and juices from the chicken should produce enough of a sauce, but by all means add a splash of white wine if you feel you need to.  Just a splash mind.  And as you have tomato, you rerally may as well add basil.  Just tear a bunch of leaves and scatter them over just before you serve.

The fact that essentially you’re not cooking your chicken in a booze based sauce is one of the key features that distinguishes this dish from the ‘poulet basquish’ dish I’ve done before, in that case cooked in cider.  Otherwise, of course, the two dishes have much in common, as with the pork belly though, the small changes make a big difference.  The tomato and basil, combined with the pepper and onion, give this version a distinctly Provencale taste, at least to my mind.  Provencale-ish, perhaps.  Although I didn’t, you could certainly throw in a handful of black olives if you felt like it, for even more of a taste of the Med.  And crack open a bottle of Rose to drink with it, which we did.  Ah, summer!

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