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Provencal Chicken with Pastis

Helene doesn't cook fancy or time-consuming food, and added potatoes to her stew, along with water to help them cook. When I make it at home, I'm may serve it with wide noodles, so will add less water, enough just to cover the chicken – perhaps 2 cups (500ml). The French tend to like lots of sauce, especially if there is good bread handy, so feel free to add 1 quart (1l) of water if you're using the potatoes. When I got home (and had an internet connection), I did notice some French recipes for Poulet au pastis call for the addition of things like star anise, fennel (fresh or fennel seeds), black olives, saffron, thyme, rosemary, or summer savory. The recipe is very flexible so you can use this recipe as a base, and add any other seasonings in step #4. Personally, I'm going to try swapping out fresh tarragon for some of the parsley and add fennel seeds next time I make it. If you don't have pastis, another anise-flavor liqueur, such as ouzo, arak, absinthe, or anisette, will do. You may need to adjust the quantities, depending on the strength of the liqueur or spirit that you substitute.
Servings 4 servings
  • 1 whole chicken, cut into 8 pieces; two legs, two thighs, and two breasts, cut in half crosswise (rather than lengthwise), with wings attached
  • kosher or sea salt
  • freshly ground black pepper
  • extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2/3 cup (160ml) pastis
  • 1 3/4 pounds (800g) fresh tomatoes, (about 3 large or 4 medium)
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 pounds (1kg) small potatoes, peeled or unpeeled
  • 3/4 cup (45g) coarsely chopped flat leaf parsley
  • 1 teaspoon raw sugar, (optional)
  • Rub chicken all over the salt and pepper. If possible, let sit overnight in the refrigerator, although it can be prepared right away.
  • In a Dutch oven or similar vessel, add enough olive oil so it covers the bottom of the pan. Over medium-high heat, when the oil is hot, brown the chicken pieces on all sides, turning them only when one side is brown. (Constant turning won't encourage browning as much as letting them stay in one place until browned.) If your pot isn't large enough, fry them in two batches and remove the first chicken pieces to a bowl while you brown the second. You may need to add additional olive oil to the pot while browning or in between batches.
  • Once the chicken is browned, wipe excess oil from the pot. Deglaze pan with about a third of the pastis, scraping the bottom of the pot with a flat-edged spatula to incorporate any dark bits.
  • Add half of the tomatoes to the pot, then the chicken, and any juices that may have collected in the bowl, the garlic, then the rest of the tomatoes. Pour in the rest of the pastis, and bring to a boil. Add 1 quart (1l) water. (See headnote about how much water to add if not using potatoes.)
  • Reduce the heat to a gentle simmer, cover, and cook for 15 minutes. While the chicken is cooking, slice the potatoes into pieces 1/3-inch (1cm) thick.
  • Stir everything in the pot gently to mix everything together, then add the potatoes, half the parsley, and the sugar, sprinkling a bit of salt over the potatoes.
  • Continue to cook, uncovered, basting the potatoes with the liquid in the pot while everything is cooking, until the potatoes are tender and the chicken is cooked through, about 20 to 30 minute, depending on the variety of potatoes and the chicken.
  • Taste the sauce, and add sugar (if desired) and more salt if it needs it. If you'd like, you could give the sauce a small squeeze of lemon, to add a nice note of acidity to the sauce.


Serving: Serve the chicken warm with potatoes and some of the sauce. If you decide not to cook potatoes with the chicken, you can serve this with pasta, rice, or a favorite grain.