Monday, September 10, 2007

Thyme Roasted Chicken & Fingerling Potatoes with Panfried Tapenade

My aunt and uncle have lived in the Bahamas for longer than I can remember – a reasonably remote and unspoiled area at that – and my family often gathers there for holidays. I spent countless spring breaks there when I was young, I’ve watched my cousins’ children grow up on the powder-soft beaches, and my husband and I were married there almost 2 years ago. It’s pretty great.

This March, nine of us swarmed my enduringly welcoming aunt and uncle’s home to celebrate my father's birthday. We feasted and lolled about; we hopped around to neighboring islands; sipped rum; sauntered sandbars for shells; and then we feasted some more. It was blissful in the easy way family trips can be when they take place in an utterly familiar, time-honored, fairly deserted paradise, but it was also blissful because of the food.

It may come as no surprise that my family likes good food (what family en masse doesn’t, after all?), and I still remember most of the long, drawn-out evening meals we shared in surprising detail considering said rum. Freshly caught grouper on the grill, conch salad from Miss Vivien, and one night, my mother’s brother – a gourmet chef - made a sublime roast chicken. Not exactly island food I hear you say? Let me explain.

This chicken was roasted to golden perfection, as roast chickens tend to be, but instead of invoking the cozy comfort I associate with the dish, this was an exaltation of warm weather and earthy refreshment. My uncle’s chicken was served forth on a bed of coarse, pungent, panfried black olive tapenade. Provence was come to the Caribbean, and we licked the platter clean.

The salinity of the anchovies and capers and the richness of the oil-cured olives pairs with the sweetly aromatic (and seasonal) peppers and thyme to create a feast fit for the light-drenched days of early autumn. If there’s a nip in the air, this dish will warm you, and if summer won’t quit, this revives. When I asked my uncle and aunt for the recipe, I learned it had been inspired by one for Poulet aux Olives in an old Robert Carrier book Feasts of Provence.

Here is my own variation – as close as I can get to the version my uncle made that night. I’ve added fingerling potatoes to roast in the fragrant chicken-y juices – the tubers are at their most fresh and flavor-rich in autumn, and so they bring a mineral savor to the meal. In colder months, I might use bacon in the tapenade as Carrier suggests, but it’s still early days for that from where I stand in the first half of September. Many thanks to my uncle and aunt for their recipe.

A quick note:
Although I will continue to post this week, I won't have much access to the internet. I'm off bridesmaid-ing on the rocky coast of Maine. I look forward to receiving and responding to all of your comments and questions - as well as to catching up on all of your fabulous sites - when I'm back online next Monday. Have a great week!

Inspired by Uncle Neil, Aunt Gladys, & Robert Carrier

Serves 4

1 lb fingerling potatoes or other waxy potatoes, rinsed but not peeled
1 3 – 4 lb chicken, rinsed and patted dry inside and out, giblets reserved
extra virgin olive oil
kosher salt
freshly ground black pepper
8 sprigs fresh thyme, leaves minced and stems reserved
2 lemons
1 medium yellow onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, chopped
4 oil-packed anchovy fillets, chopped
1 cup black, oil-cured olives, pits removed, meat roughly chopped
½ red bell pepper, small dice
2 tbsp capers, rinsed well
crushed red pepper flakes
1 small handful fresh parsley, chopped
½ cup white wine
1 cup chicken stock

Preheat oven to 425 F.

Halve the potatoes lengthwise (non-fingerlings may need to be quartered), and put them in a medium saucepan of cold water. Place over high heat, cover, and bring to a boil. Boil for 10 minutes and then drain. Swirls the potatoes in the colander or sieve a few times – roughening up their surface makes them go crispy in the oven. Toss them into a roasting pan with the chicken and drizzle both with olive oil. Arrange the potatoes halves so that they are skin-side down – they’re less likely to stick this way.

Season the chicken cavity, the chicken skin, and the potatoes with a generous amount of salt and pepper, and half the thyme leaves. Quarter one of the lemons and stuff the quarters into the chicken cavity along with the reserved thyme stems. Place the chicken in the oven for 1 hour. Remove and turn the potatoes – they won’t stick now. Return to the oven for another 30 minutes.

Meanwhile, heat a large saucepan over medium heat. Add a good glug of olive oil and then the chopped onion. Sprinkle with a little kosher salt and sauté, stirring occasionally, until translucent. Add the garlic and anchovies and sauté for 1 minute more, stirring often. Add the olives, red pepper, capers, and the remaining thyme leaves. Sauté, stirring often, for another minute or two. Season to taste with crushed red pepper and a little black pepper. You may need some more salt, depending in how saline your anchovies, olives and capers are. Remove from the heat, stir in the parsley, and set aside.

When the juices of the chicken run clear and the thigh moves loosely from the breast, set the bird aside on a carving board (preferably wood) and tent with tinfoil. Remove the potatoes to a bowl and cover to keep warm.

Place the roasting pan on the top of the stove with the heat off. Pour the white wine into the hot pan, turn the heat on to high, and reduce the liquid by half, scraping up the caramelized juices on the bottom of the pan. Reheat the tapenade over a low heat. Add the chicken stock to the roasting pan and reduce by half again. Season to taste with salt, pepper, and lemon juice. Carve or separate the chicken and plate with the potatoes over the black olive tapenade. Ladle the pan reduction sauce over the whole, and serve immediately.


Jan said...

Concentrated briny flavors for a simple roast chicken - I love it. Great for fall!

Diane said...

Having a chicken roasting in the oven for a weeknight dinner is a true sign of the Fall food season for my kids. I also stuff the cavity with quartered lemons or limes or oranges...what ever is hanging around. But your tapenade and sauce sounds delicious and would add a certain elegance to the chicken...something to try for a weekend meal. As always, your photos are wonderful.

swirlingnotions said...

Panfried tapenade . . . what a wild concept! Can't wait to try it.

Wendy said...

I'm a roast chicken fanatic. Love the stuff more than I can express. :) And, though I know a way to cook it perfectly, I like to try out new versions every now and again (roasted with chorizo is D's favourite). This will be my next experiment. Yum!
You're aunt's place sounds like heaven too. :)

Figs Olives Wine said...

Jan, thank you! That pungent flavor you describe is so great this time of year!

Diane, thank you so much! Roast chicken is my absolute favorite - and this time of year it's so perfect!

Swirlingnotions, thanks! It's a little rough, which keeps the flavors big. Hope you enjoy!

Wendy, me too! I think it's my all time favorite food, and often I don't like to mess with simple perfection. Occasionally I do get creative though, and chorizo sounds fabulous! You should post the recipe - please excuse if you already have. Chorizo anything this time of year is divine!

David Hall said...

Absolutely delicious. I always make the mistake of popping over to your Blog after eating our tea and it makes me hungry again. This has me drooling as, like Wendy, I love a simple roast chicken too. I;ve never made a pan fried tapenade before, this one is something I am going to try very soon. I'll report back! As always, brilliant.


bea at la tartine gourmande said...

Now the main question that I have is when I am going to invite myself for dinner. You and I seem the have pretty similar food tastes, from what i can see ;-) Delicious looking.

David said...

I love that Robert Carrier book!

Sophie said...

The chunky tapenade idea sounds really unusual (not what you'd expect in the bahamas). I'll have to give it a whirl.

Anh said...

Delicious, just sooo delicious! I have bookmarked this recipe!

Figs Olives Wine said...

David, thank you! You must let me know how you like panfried tapenade. Roast chicken is my all-time favorite, and it's pretty impossible to improve upon, but it's nice to have these saline, pungent flavors against it this time of year!

Bea, aren't you lovely! I'm driving from NYC to Maine tomorrow, so I could probably drop you some chicken on the way through...
And yes, I often find myself thinking we've got similar palate leanings too!

David, it looks like a beauty. I just got a copy after writing this recipe, and I've been drooling over it!

Sophie, let me know if you do! Hope you enjoy it.

Anh, thanks so much! Do let me know if you make it!

tribecachef said...

Nice one here! Great idea for the time of year.

Jen said...

Enjoy the wedding and I can't wait to try this recipe... love the idea of the pan-fried tapenade!

Maryann said...

Wonderful dish Amanda! Great ingredients. I like :)

The Passionate Palate said...

We'll miss you while in Maine, but something tells me that a good post will come of it. Enjoy!

I love the poultry-thyme combination...once again, we are on the same "food page". However my husband prefers rosemary with his chicken, and he usually wins out. :-(

sognatrice said...

It's just about time for fresh chickens around here (yes, that's a euphemism), so this recipe is just in time--we *love* the birds roasted ;)

And yes, how lucky to have an aunt and uncle in the Bahamas! If only I were closer to the US, my family could use my little paradise similarly....

Figs Olives Wine said...

tribecachef, thank you! Those deeply saline flavors are great at the end of summer/ start of fall!

Jen, thanks so much! Do let me know if you try it - hope you enjoy!

Maryann, thanks so much for letting me know! I'll miss you guys this week.

Passionate Palate, thank you! I'm really going to miss everyone too! I think you could definitely add rosemary here! It's used in tapenade quite often, so you shouldn't hesitate to make the substitution. And if you do, please let me know how you like it!

Sognatrice, hee hee. Wouldn't it be wonderful if America and Europe weren't so terribly far away? I miss the UK half of my family, and I wish it was easier to hop on a plane for my research too. I envy the casual way Europeans pop over to Greece or Bordeaux or southern Italy without giving it a second thought.

Cynthia said...

Amanda, you've made me hungry for roast chicken and potatoes. I'm going to make some tomorrow :)

Thank you for waxing and waning so elegantly about the Bahamas, it reminds me of what paradise I live in that we sometimes take for granted. Thank you.

See you next week!

Rose said...

I have yet to find "The perfect" roast chicken recipe and yours might be the one, especially with the tapenade. Will have to try it one day.

Garrett said...

Oh my, thyme is my favorite herb! I can't wait to use this recipe when it gets cold outside!

Lucy said...

That Carrier book is a classic! Panfried Tapenade? My God woman, how fabulous is that!

Boy I used to love a good roast chicken. Difficult to get something that is essentially so simple, so right. Great celebratory food.

JennDZ - The Leftover Queen said...

That sounds really really wonderful!

Have a great time in Maine! We will miss you!

Casey said...

I'm pretty proud of my chicken roasting skills (honed on instructions in the Zuni Cafe Cookbook) but this tapenade recipe sounds sublime.
Off to www.abebooks to look for a copy of the Carrier cookbook,

Joanne Rendell said...

can i join you for roast chicken in the bahamas next time? delicious!

winedeb said...

Ah, conch salad and grouper on the you are talking my part of the world! Wow, your tapenade sounds delicious and a bit different from what I am used to making. Must give it a try! Have fun on your Maine escape. I bet the weather is lovely up there this time of year.

Antonia said...

This looks absolutely fantastic - I am always looking for summery versions of roast chicken and this sounds like a winning combination. I would never have thought of making a pan-fried tapenade. Thank you for the idea!

Great Big Veg Challenge said...

Isnt is strange how the a good chicken recipe attracts everyone - the leaves are starting to turn in London and the weather is getting a little cooler and this looks perfect.

Figs Olives Wine said...

Thank you all so much for your comments while I was gone. I must say I really missed you all, and everyone’s questions and kind words have been truly wonderful to come home to! I’m looking forward immensely to visiting all of your sites and catching up on what I missed while I was in Maine.

Cynthia, thank you! You do live in paradise – and it’s lovely for the rest of us to read about it on your site!

Rose, I think roast chicken is perfect when plain, but this is a wonderful variation! Hope you enjoy, and do let me know.

Garrett, I love it too – works well for savory and sweet. Hope you enjoy the chicken whenever the season is right out there!

Lucy, for me it is the most comforting food in the world, but I love that I can use it for special occasions too! It never fails to please, does it?

Jenn, thank you! I really missed all of you too.

Casey, it is a nice variation for this time of year – I roast a chicken about once a week, so it’s nice to switch it up every now and then!

Jo Jo, I would love that!!! It’s what I’ll make when we all live down there some day.

Winedeb, it is a slightly different tapenade than what I make too – but I like that it’s almost more like a relish with the same pungent savory flavors. And thanks – the weather was unbelievably beautiful, and the wedding was magnificent.

Antonia, thank you! It really does take the dish into a more summery/ warm weather place, which is why I love it this time of year. We’re supposed to be in the 80s later this week, but the pungent saturated flavors of Provence work perfectly with the heat.

Charlotte, how fabulous that autumn has started for you. Maine was such a tease – the nights were in the 50s, days in the 60s/ low 70s, and the leaves were just beginning to change. So cozy and invigorating. Back down here in NYC, we’ve got hot weather coming still. Blech.

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