Years ago living at the drette, my housemate, Goon set a piece of crumbed chicken breast on fire and, in a flurry of Monty Python-esque panic, proceeded to hurl the whole raging unit—chicken, pan and all—out the second story kitchen window onto the well-frequented footpath where all our cars were parked.
“It was more an oil fire with a piece of chicken in it,” Goon would later clarify.
On a mellow, wintery night at the P.A mansion years later, looking for something to do, Hon and I noted that it happened to be Bastille Day. Fans of a good themed occasion, we decided to commemorate the flashpoint of the French Revolution with a night of sumptuous French fare. In an improvised whim, we threw some chicken in a pot, added herbs, and stuck it in the oven for an hour.
The end product was truly revolutionary—a delicious take on the classic ‘Chicken Provencal’. Over steaming, slow-cooked chicken, infused and dripping with butter, thyme and rosemary, we cranked Yann Tiersen’s ‘Amelie’ soundtrack and downed liberal glasses of Cote-du-Rhone red wine. Later, we’d add golden, crisp roast potatoes to the mix, to be smashed in the delicious sauce and soaked up.
Recently, Hon and I found ourselves in Provence, in the medieval hub of Avignon, the heart of the Cote-du-Rhone. The wine was spectacular, but we reckon our chicken dish reigns supreme.
Have a go for yourself: Chicken Bastille—good for July 14, or any other day; call up some friends, get your French on, and if you happen to set it on fire, do your best to not defenestrate it.
- 1 Medium sized free-range chicken
- 1 Spanish onion, peeled and finely chopped
- 3 Cloves of garlic, peeled and finely chopped
- 400g tomatoes (tinned or fresh)
- 16 Kalamata or dark olives, pitted
- 1 Tbls olive oil
- 1 Tsp unsalted butter
- 2 Sprigs of rosemary with stems removed
- 4 Sprigs of thyme with stems removed
- 1 Tsp freshly ground black pepper
- 1 Tsp freshly ground sea salt
- 16 Small potatoes
- Preheat oven to 180°C, 160 fan forced (350°F/gas mark 4)
- Using paper towel, dry the chicken of any juices and carve it up into 4 pieces*. In a bowl, coat the pieces with the rosemary and thyme, pepper and salt.
- On the stove, place a pot on a high heat, melt the butter and oil together. Once the pot begins to smoke, place each chicken piece in and cook for around 2-3 minutes each side, making sure that the skin is nicely browned. Cook 1 or 2 pieces at a time, then return browned pieces to the bowl.
- Reduce heat to medium; add garlic and onion for 2 minutes, then add tomatoes, scraping any charred or burned bits into the sauce.
- Add chicken pieces and cover with the sauce. Put lid on the pot. place it into the oven and cook for 60 minutes.
- Retrieve pot and add olives. Cook for another 15 – 30 minutes until chicken is cooked through and tender.
- Peel potatoes, rinse under cold water. Coat with oil, salt, thyme and rosemary in a bowl. Place potatoes in an oven tray and cook for 45 minutes until crispy golden brown.
- Spoon a piece of chicken on each plate, drizzle with sauce and olives, top with a spring of fresh thyme.
We had no idea how to cut the chicken the first time we did this, we just went to town on it and it seemed to work out. There are a few tips we've learned since that you might want to take heed of. Firstly, it’s a good idea to trim any excess fat and skin. Then, using a sharp knife (or chicken shears), put the knife at the top of the chicken, and slice along the backbone. To cut into quarters, cut through the skin separating the thighs from the breast.
Alternatively, get your friendly butcher to quarter the chicken for you.