On Eating and Loving Food

Chicken Provencal, compliments of Maya Liteplo

“I wouldn't keep him around long if I didn't feed him well.” - Julia Child
Posted:  Wednesday, June 14, 2017 - 8:45am
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Maya Liteplo’s chicken Provencal – one of the reasons she’ll keep him around for a while. Courtesy of Maya Liteplo

I went to the opening at the Boothbay Harbor Oceanside Golf Resort (phew, that’s a mouthful – luckily they’re just calling it Oceanside) on May 27.

I met some great people.

I rendezvoused with my friends, Tom Cramer and Ron Sanchez, at the entrance. As I had promised Michelle Amero, they were the two best-dressed men there. Those two are chick magnets – they always seem to draw a group of women – not that they’re interested in “that” way. They’re married and have been together for 42 years.

A few of the women I met that day professed to be great cooks, and they agreed to assist me with a couple of my columns. One of them is Greek, and she loves to make Greek dishes at her home on Southport. She promised to cook for me and her bestie soon. Of course now I don’t remember her, or her bestie’s names.

I also met Maya and Merrill Liteplo, from Boothbay. They were just sitting out on the deck looking cool and friendly, so I sauntered over and introduced myself. Of course the subject of food and cooking ensued, and Maya told me about one of her favorite recipes: Chicken Provencal. And it just so happened she was planning to make it the next day. Merrill looked pretty excited. Apparently he loves her chicken Provencal.

I found this quote from Julia Child when I was surfing the net looking for stuff about chicken Provencal: “I wouldn't keep him around long if I didn't feed him well.”

And guess what. They knew Julia Child! Serendipity. I love it.

So anyway – lucky me. Maya made it, and emailed me the recipe and some before and after photos.

She said the recipe came from the NYT Cooking site, and she’s been making it for years. She uses chicken thighs – not the usual breasts. That site cites: “The chicken breast might get all the press, but it's the humble chicken thigh that really delivers in terms of flavor, versatility and economy.”

Also on the NYT Cooking site was this, from Sam Sifton: “(Chicken Provencal) is a perfect dinner-party meal: chicken thighs or legs dusted in flour and roasted with shallots, lemons and garlic in a bath of vermouth and under a shower of herbes de Provence. They go crisp in the heat above the fat, while the shallots and garlic melt into sweetness below.”

As I was reading Maya’s recipe, it occurred to me that I've never used, or owned, Herbes de Provence, which is, of course, a necessary ingredient in chicken Provencal. So I could either head to Hannaford and buy some, or make my own. I started surfing again.

This is what epicentre.com had to say: “Herbes de Provence, or Provençal herbs, is a traditional blend of aromatic herbs that flourish in hills of southern France during the hot summer months. Used by the handful when fresh, Herbes de Provence is also good using dried herbs.” Bay leaf, thyme, fennel, rosemary, chervil, oregano, tarragon, mint and marjoram were all in the running. Lavender was mentioned as a contender too.

Here’s Martha Stewart’s recipe for herbs de Provence: 3 tblsp. dried thyme, 2 tblsp. dried savory, 1 tblsp. dried oregano, 3 tsp. dried rosemary, 2 tsp. dried marjoram, 1 tblsp. dried lavender flowers (optional). As I happen to have all those herbs, minus the lavender, I’ll make my own. I’m cheap, remember?

And here’s Maya’s recipe for chicken Provencal (originally from the NYTimes):
8 bone-in, skin-on chicken thighs, 2 tsp. kosher salt, 1 tsp. ground black pepper, 1/2 -3/4 cup flour, 3 tblsp. olive oil, 2 tblsp. Herbes de Provence (do not skimp), 1 lemon, cut into wedges, 8-10 cloves of garlic, peeled, 4-6 shallots, peeled and halved, 1/3 - 1/2 cup dry vermouth, sprigs of thyme, for serving
1. Heat the oven to 400 degrees. Season the chicken with salt and pepper. Place the flour in a shallow dish and dredge the chicken in it, shaking off the excess.
2. Swirl the oil in a large, shallow roasting pan, and place the chicken pieces in it. Arrange the lemon, garlic cloves, and shallots around the chicken, and season with the Herbes de Provence. Add the vermouth to the pan.
3. Place the pan in the oven and roast for 25-30 minutes.  Baste with the pan juices and continue roasting for another 25-30 minutes, or until the skin is very crisp and the meat is fully cooked. Garnish with thyme sprigs.

“It's special enough to serve to dinner guests, fragrant and flavorful, and one of the easiest dishes to prepare and serve,” Maya said in an email. “I always serve lots of French bread and encourage guests to dip it into the fragrant oil and juices in the pan. My husband Merrill pairs the chicken with a white Rhone wine, such as a Crozes Hermitage made from marsanne grapes.

Okay, I’m convinced, Maya. Going to make this the next time I have dinner guests, and I’ll get back to ya!

Oh! And I got a Facebook message from Eliza Soeth about the rhubarb custard pie column: “Your rhubarb custard pie sounds like heart attack pie for mom look on Pinterest and you can probably find a healthier version.” I probably could, Eliza, but it wouldn’t be nearly as yummy!

And from Julia Child: “I think one of the terrible things today is that people have this deathly fear of food: fear of eggs, say, or fear of butter. Most doctors feel that you can have a little bit of everything.”

See ya next week!