Gourmet's Braised Chicken with Tomatoes & Olives (Poulet Provencal)
There's something about olives. I enjoy them in the odd martini, although I generally prefer a lemon twist. I enjoy them on the side, marinated or cured, along with a cocktail. But I rarely cook recipes or even order dishes in restaurants with whole olives in them. In dishes, there is something about the dominating flavor that I just don't enjoy.
So, it was a rare occasion when I was looking for a roasted chicken recipe that I found this recipe on epicurious.com for chicken with tomatoes and olives. I felt like doing something simple and easy to prepare, but also a little different from the stand-by basic olive oil, salt, pepper. This recipe jumped out at me for it simplicity and it's comfort.
The whole chicken turned out spectacularly. The skin was crisp, the meat was moist, the flavors were exciting, the olives didn't bother me (I actually didn't eat many of them, but they added to the dishes complexity).
In making the dish, I didn't stray too far from the recipe. I didn't have herbes de provence, but made my own impromptu version using dried herbs (thanks to wikipedia) with fennel seeds (ground), basil, thyme, lavender flowers. I ended up grinding the fennel seeds myself, because that's all I had. Everyone's oven cooks things differently - but the timing in the recipe also was spot on.
This is a great dish to have with couscous, because there are fantastic pan juices from the tomatoes and the chicken that can be drizzled on top of the couscous. It was one of those simple meals, that didn't taste simple and everything came together.
Gonon is one of my favorite producers of Rhone wines and the inexpensive Gonon 2007 VdP de l'Ardeche Les Iles Feray was a delightful pairing to the provence style chicken. It's made from young vine Syrah in Saint-Joseph and older vine Syrah on the plateau in Ardeche. The smoky bacon characteristics came out beautifully with the roasted chicken. It's soft (don't be confused with new world soft though), but has lovely minerality, red fruits, and some worthwhile acidity to finish.