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Chicken Pasta Provencal, a new kitchen staple

July 20, 2008

Chicken Pasta Provencal

At the beginning of the summer, I vowed to cook at least one meal a week from entirely local ingredients. I have completely failed in this endeavor. I’ve only even been to the farmer’s market once. Every year, when spring rolls around, I get so excited about fresh, local produce but then fail to take advantage. I am one of those people for whom convenience is everything, it’s true, and finding locally grown and produced food takes time and effort.

The closest I came to an entirely local meal was this pasta dish, and, well, the chicken and the pasta are not exactly from around here. The produce, though? The most brilliant yellow summer squash I’ve ever seen, a perfect heirloom tomato, fresh basil, a sprig of rosemary, all of it from Massachusetts farms and all of it kind of unbelievable. No, this dinner was not 100% local. I’m just not that disciplined. What it was, though, was delicious and possibly my new favorite summer meal.

I got the idea from a recipe in the May 2008 issue of Gourmet for Chicken Breasts Provencal. There are more versions of chicken provencal than you can shake a stick at (whatever that means–I mean, why with the stick shaking?), but they generally involve the traditional herbes de provence (rosemary, basil, marjoram, lavender), wine, garlic, olives, tomatoes, and fresh summer produce.

Heirloom Tomato

This was one of those kitchen experiments that turned out even better than I hoped. It’s like all of the flavors in this dish are meant to be together, and with such incredibly fresh vegetables, it’s almost impossible to create something bad. I don’t often repeat a recipe, but I can guarantee I’ll be making this again, hopefully to actually share with other people next time, so I don’t end up eating all of it myself. Cooking for one can be a dangerous for the waistline when you make something this good.

I think one of the key steps for this dish is dredging the chicken pieces in flour before sauteing them. The flour creates a nice crust and keeps the chicken tender, and what’s left in the pan makes for a thicker, tastier sauce. Don’t skimp on the herbs, either. I actually didn’t have marjoram, so I used tarragon instead, as they are pretty similar in flavor. And no, I didn’t include lavender. I’m not even sure where one would find lavender around here. In fact, lavender’s inclusion in herbes de provence is oft debated, so I didn’t feel too bad leaving it out.

Giant bright yellow squash

Chicken Pasta Provencal

  • 2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut into 1 inch pieces
  • 1/2 c. flour
  • 2 T. olive oil
  • 1/3 c. white wine
  • 2 anchovy fillets (I used the kind packed in oil)
  • 1 large summer squash or zucchini, sliced
  • 1/2 c. pitted kalamata olives
  • 2 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 1 large tomato, cut into 1 inch pieces (I used heirloom tomatoes, but roma tomatoes would work, too)
  • 2 tsp. dried tarragon
  • 2/3 to 1 c. chicken stock
  • 2 T. finely minced (or chiffonaded) basil
  • 1 large sprig of fresh rosemary
  • salt and pepper
  • about 2 – 3 c. pasta

Get your pasta water on some heat and ready for cooking while you prepare all the vegetables. If you start cooking the pasta while the chicken is sauteing, everything should come together at the same time.

Dredge the chicken pieces in flour, and heat about a tablespoon or so of olive oil in a large skillet. Add the chicken, and let it cook without turning for about three minutes. Using a pair of tongs, flip the pieces and stir everything up a bit, and then let the chicken cook for another three or four minutes, or until everything is lightly browned.

Cooked chicken

Remove the chicken from the skillet to a plate, and perhaps cover it with some foil (I didn’t cover it, and it didn’t get too cold or anything, so that is really up to you). Deglaze the pan with some white wine, add the anchovies, and stir it all up, scraping the chicken bits from the bottom of the pan and breaking up the anchovies. Cook away until the wine is mostly evaporated, then add the olives, garlic, and squash. Saute everything together until the squash becomes soft, and maybe starts to brown just a bit.

Anchovies

Add the tomatoes, tarragon, chicken stock, and a sprig of rosemary, and stir everything up well. Bring the stock to a light boil and let it cook away, softening the tomatoes and letting the stock become a thicker sauce.

Cooking vegetables for Chicken Provencal

Once it’s started to thicken a bit, stir in the basil and a bit of salt and pepper to taste, and add the chicken back to the skillet. Let it all cook together for another two or three minutes, remove the rosemary sprig, and once your pasta is cooked and drained, stir it into the skillet.

Serve with a bit of parmesan, and a light squeeze of lemon juice, and think about how lovely it is that it’s summer and you can find incredible tomatoes and enormous bright yellow squash at the farmer’s market.

Chicken Pasta Provencal

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One Comment leave one →
  1. July 24, 2008 1:16 pm

    I love it when kitchen experiments turn out better than initially expected :). I looove squash. I’ve never used anchovies in anything…but the way you described this dish, I’ll definitely have to change that soon. You know what else I like about this? It’s healthy…and those olives…yum!

    Now if only I could print this and eat it for lunch at my desk right now :)!

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