Wednesday, March 9, 2016

Chicken Provençal with Saffron, Orange, and Basil

Chicken Provençal is perhaps one of the best examples of true French peasant food. Bone-in chicken is simmered in a tomato broth and infused with typical Provence flavors of herbs de Provence, thyme, garlic and of course olives.

For a more traditional Chicken Provençal, leave out the saffron and substitute lemon zest for the orange zest and chopped fresh parsley for the basil. If you compare this version to the traditional dish, we found the saffron, orange zest and basil added a new dimension to the dish as well as brightening it up, making it a nice dish to serve in the early spring.

Niçoise olives are the best choice of olives, but if they aren’t available, kalamata olives will do in a pinch. I find it handy to keep a tube of tomato paste in my refrigerator for recipes such as this that don’t call for a lot of tomato paste. If you’re concerned about fat, don’t fret about the chicken skin; it’s removed & discarded after the chicken is browned. If you want to jazz it up, add a few drained capers. Whatever you do, please don’t leave out the anchovies. They bring an air of richness to the sauce without being noticeable in the least.

We like something green on the plate and suggest either perfectly cooked haricots verts (French green beans) topped with slivered almonds or fresh asparagus, which we’ve shown here. Or you can opt for a more rustic approach and serve it in a bowl with a scoop of rice placed in the same bowl on the side shown here.

We love slow braises such as this. They can be made in advance and almost always, we have leftovers. I hope you’ll give this recipe a try. We loved it and think it would make an attractive dish for company.

Chicken Provençal with Saffron, Orange, and Basil
Adapted from Cook’s Illustrated All-Time Best French Recipes, serves 4
Printable Recipe

8 (5 to 7 ounce) bone-in, skin-on chicken thighs
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
1 small onion, finely chopped
6 garlic cloves, peeled and minced
1 anchovy fillet, rinsed, dried and minced
Pinch of cayenne pepper
1 cup dry white wine
1/8 teaspoon saffron threads
1 (14.5 ounce) can whole tomatoes, drained (reserve juice) and broken apart with a knife or spoon
1 cup low-fat, low salt chicken broth
2 ½ tablespoons tomato paste
1 ½ tablespoons chopped fresh thyme leaves
1 teaspoon chopped fresh oregano
1 teaspoon dried herbs de Provence
1 bay leaf
1 ½ teaspoons grated orange zest
½ cup pitted niçoise olives
1 tablespoon chopped fresh basil plus more for garnish

Adjust oven rack to lower-middle position and heat oven to 300 degrees F.

Season chicken with salt. Heat 1 teaspoon olive oil in a Dutch oven medium-high heat until shimmering. Add 4 thighs, skin side down, and cook without moving them until skin is crispy and well browned, about 5 minutes. Using tongs, flip chicken and brown on second side, about 5 minutes longer. Transfer to a large plate and repeat with remaining 4 thighs. When done, transfer them to the plate with the other thighs and set aside.

Pour off all but 1 tablespoon fat from pan. Add onions to pot and cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until browned, about 4 minutes. Add garlic, minced anchovy and cayenne and cook, stirring constantly, until fragrant, about 1 minute. Add the saffron threads to the wine, then add to the pot, scraping up any browned bits. Stir in the tomatoes, chicken broth, tomato paste, thyme, oregano, herbs de Provence, and bay leaf. Remove and discard skin from the chicken, then submerge chicken in the liquid and add any accumulated chicken juices to the pot. Increase the heat to high, bring to a simmer, cover and transfer pot to oven and cook until chicken offers no resistant when poked with the tip of a paring knife but still clings to the bone, about 1 ¼ hours.

Using a slotted spoon or tongs, transfer the chicken pieces to platter and tent with aluminum foil. Discard bay leaf. Set pot over high heat, stir in 1 teaspoon orange zest and olives, then bring to a boil and cook, stirring occasionally until the sauce is thickened and reduced to 2 cups, about 5 minutes.

Cook’s notes: At this point, if your sauce is too thin, thicken with a cornstarch and water slurry (equal amounts of cornstarch and water, stirred to incorporate). If your sauce is too thick, add some of the retained juice from the tomatoes.

Meanwhile mix basil and remaining ½ teaspoon orange zest together. To serve, place chicken thighs on individual plates, spoon some sauce over and sprinkle with basil mixture and serve accompanied by fluffy white rice.

For better viewing, click photos to enlarge.

I will be sharing this with Foodie Friday at Rattlebridge Farms & Miz Helen’s Country Kitchen Full Plate Thursday.

Have a nice weekend everyone 
and thanks for visiting My Carolina Kitchen.


  1. Sounds very fancy Sam, wish it was in front of me right now:@)

  2. C'est beau!
    We ate eary this eveningand I topped my fish w/ an olive..caper..tomato..olive onon..garlic..parsley..etc.. fresh and good!
    It 's a style I love Sam.

  3. Sam, That is a beautiful plate of goodness! Everything looks and sounds great... I'm not into olives but I'm sure that my better half will be glad to take them off my hands. We love the flavor that anchovy imparts. When we're ordering a Caesar Salad in a middle range restaurant, we also ask if there is anchovy in the mix. It is amazing how many 'Caesar Salads' lack that key ingredient! Take Care, Big Daddy Dave

  4. I'll tuck this away until fresh basil is in our garden. Lovely dish!


  5. Another keeper! My mouth is watering!

  6. I feel like I'm right back in Provence Sam! Everything about your dinner looks delightful!

  7. I love the idea of saffron and the orange in this chicken sure looks gorgeous!
    Hope you are having a great week Sam :)

  8. Oh my gosh Sam, you have outdone yourself. My mouth was watering too.

  9. Deliciously summery.



  10. Wow, what a combination! This looks delicious! Love that there is orange zest in this!

  11. Maybe you've watched the two Cook's Illustrated PBS shows, Cook's Country and America's Test Kitchen. And you've probably heard about Chris no longer being part of the shows. They've named the next host for America's Test Kitchen: Bridget and Julia. But they haven't named the one for Cook's Country yet.
    We received a call a little over a week ago from our daughter who told us about the new hosts and boy were we excited! You see, Bridget is our daughter and she and Julia are best friends in real life. So for all of you who watch the shows, thank you ever so much. Everyone I talk to who watches the shows or gets the magazines loves everything about them.
    So, keep on cooking those great meals. I've learned so much from the shows and it goes to say that you're never too old to learn.
    Bon Appetit!

  12. This is so delicious and I love how you present your food, Sam.

  13. Your French dishes always look so special.

  14. Hi. I'm a new subscriber. You asked for feedback about the new layout. The new background color is fine as is the regular typeface color. They're very easy to read, and the typeface itself is good. Unfortunately, the red links color is so bright it hurts my eyes.

    1. Wendelah, welcome to My Carolina Kitchen and thank you for subscribing. I sincerely appreciate your input as to the link color. I've changed the bright red to a darker red. I hope that helps. I didn't like the bright red either, but wasn't sure how to change it, so I just experimented until I found where to do it. Thanks again.

  15. The French do it so well---simple ingredients combined for a fabulous dish!

  16. This would be delicious with fresh tomatoes and basil from the garden! So fresh and lovely, Sam.

  17. I just bought fresh Saffron at Penzy Spice store this weekend so I will be making this amazing recipe soon, Sam! I like the way you molded the rice on the side--very elegant

  18. To me, peasant food is the best, no matter which nationality it hails from. However, I have to admit, the anchovies in your recipe stole my heart, Sam! I truly hope that you are doing well in FL USA! Spring has sprung in the Carolina's 'finally''s been a rough winter.

  19. Great flavors, amazing colors and such a pretty presentation, Sam!

  20. For some reason, I have never had a version of this (and I cook chicken about 4 times a week). I am loving the flavors in this - and the brightness of this. We are having an early spring - I might as well make the best of it in my kitchen! Thanks for bringing this beauty to my attention.

  21. This is a beautiful dish! I am making chicken on Friday...and this is it! Yummy flavors.

  22. Sam, This sounds delicious!! I love chicken and citrus and this also has one of my favorite flavors~~saffron. I must try it! Thanks for the recipe! Linda

  23. Hi Sam,
    This is a beautiful dish, with the orange and saffron combination, oh my. I will be trying this recipe very soon! Hope you have a very special week and thanks so much for sharing with Full Plate Thursday.
    Miz Helen


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