Test your college cooking skills with chicken Provencal


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Photo by John Zoppina |

Let’s be honest: loving to cook and being a college student don’t exactly align. You might even say that these things are at odds with each other. Combine the average student’s limited resources with homework, exams and projects, and you have a recipe for a group of people almost guaranteed to give up on cooking before they’ve even turned the knob on their stoves.

But, it doesn’t have to be that way. Flexing your college cooking muscles requires just a few small kitchen hacks. Finding recipes that allow you to use food in the same quantities that the food is actually sold in, knowing how to deal with less-than-ideally equipped kitchens and knowing the equipment substitutions you can make to achieve the same results all contribute to your success in the kitchen.

Roasted Provençal chicken is a rustic dish that highlights the Mediterranean flavors you’d normally find in the south of France: artichokes, tomatoes, olives, a little white wine and some heat all come together to form a sauce that is most accurately likened to magic.

In some ways, this dish is as much of a kitchen paradox as the college cook: many fresh ingredients taste best at the height of summer, when turning on an oven is almost the last thing many people would want to do. But as summer gives way to fall — and our appetite for roasted dishes returns — the fresh ingredients we would have loved are long past their prime.

This Provençal chicken flies in the face of all those limitations. It uses ingredients in the same amounts in which they are sold, so you don’t have to figure out what to do with leftovers. A 12-inch stainless steel or cast iron skillet makes for a serving vessel with panache, and you can find decent ones that are downright cheap.

Roasted Provençal chicken is a quick and easy crowd-pleaser that you can adapt to fit your preferences, cooking skill, and the kitchen tools you already own or can purchase. Dress it up for a dinner party, or dress it down for yourself: it only needs about 20 minutes of your time before it goes into the oven.

Roasted Provençal chicken, adapted from versions by Melissa Clark and Sam Sifton:

Ingredients

2-3 pounds of chicken (about six thighs or four breasts — thighs retain moisture better)

Salt and pepper

1-1½ cups of flour

1 package of frozen artichoke hearts, thawed and pat dry (7-10 ounces)

1 pint of grape tomatoes, halved

2-4 cloves of garlic, crushed (Don’t have a garlic press? Smash the garlic a few times under the tines of a fork.)

1 small can of sliced black olives (about 2 ounces), drained

¼ teaspoon of crushed red pepper flake, or to taste

1 tablespoon herbes de Provence (Don’t have this? Substitute some dried or fresh rosemary and thyme. Bear in mind that dried herbs are stronger than fresh ones.)

1 Tablespoon of olive oil (or a neutral oil, like canola)

1 lemon, halved

3/4 to 1 cup of dry white wine or vermouth

2 tablespoons of butter

Directions

1. Preheat the oven to 400-degrees Fahrenheit.

2. Trim excess fat and skin from chicken. Season both sides with salt and pepper (two good pinches of salt should do it), and dredge lightly in flour. Discard any unused flour.

3. Put half of the oil into the bottom of an ovenproof skillet set over medium-high heat until the oil shimmers. Brown the chicken lightly, about five minutes per side, then remove to a plate.

4. Drain about half the fat from the pan, then add artichokes, tomatoes, garlic, olives and red pepper flakes. Allow to brown, then return chicken to the pan, skin side up (if applicable). Sprinkle with herbes de Provence.

5. Slice one of the lemon halves into rounds and distribute between the chicken pieces.

6. Add white wine or vermouth to the pan.

7. Roast uncovered about 25 minutes, then spoon pan juices over the chicken. Continue roasting until chicken is well browned, 25-35 minutes more.

8. Remove from oven. Move all the chicken to one side of the pan, or remove to a platter.

9. Place the pan over medium-high heat, whisk or stir in butter, then bring sauce to a rapid boil and allow to reduce. For brighter flavor, juice the remaining lemon half over the dish. Serve with rice, crusty bread, or boiled potatoes.


John Zoppina

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