Everyone goes to the Louvre when they are in Paris, but I found myself visiting Musee D’Orsay along the river Seine two out of the four days I spent in the city l’amour. One is not better than the other, but I prefer D’Orsay because it is more accessible, and the site itself is stunning. The building was once a railway station and expresses the neoclassical architectural style taught at the school of Beaux-Arts in Paris. Think arches and balustrades, acroteriums, symmetry and sculptural elements. It is so grand and elegant.
I’m also really into post-impressionist art.
Back in Jakarta, my grandparents have a print of Cezanne’s Nature morte avec oignons – Still life with onions – hanging in the guest dining area. I’ve always loved it, and I think it paved way for a bizarre obsession with beautiful brown onions. The painting makes the onions look sweet for some reason, and I want to eat them raw. I’m a strange one, I know.
I was lucky enough to see the original Cezanne in person at the Musee D’Orsay a couple of years ago, along with several other works of his. I stood in a room surrounded by paintings of fruit, vegetables and farmhouses in Provence. The tones are warm and the colours are rich. My over-imaginative mind filled the room with the tantilising scent of a comforting soup, bubbling away and enriched with bouquet garni. I could smell a mirepoix caramalising away in butter, and the smell of freshly picked apples. Buckets and buckets of crunchy, sweet french apples.
It was intense. I stood there for at least an hour – hearing the sounds of cutlery scraping against plates, and the whoosh of crisp white linen being laid out over a rustic dining table. I felt the heat of the Summer sun on my face, as I pictured myself in a garden depicted in one of the paintings. I could smell jugs of wine.
I’ve made the following dish many many times. Not just because it is utterly delicious, but also because it transports me back to the Cezanne room at the Musee D’Orsay. Chicken Provencale is bold in flavour and simple to make. It fills your kitchen with a warm and hearty scent that instantly makes your mouth water. The sauce works with seafood as well, and I like to serve it with simple, clean blanched veggies, a fluffy cauliflower rice or polenta. If I have the time to make some homemade bread, I would serve this with a bit of that as well.
Happy feasting, and do mind your table manners.
Prep time: 20 minutes
Cook time: 1 hour
Total Time: 1 hour 20 minutes
Difficulty: Very easy
- 4 tablespoons of olive oil
- 2 small cloves of garlic, finely chopped
- 2 tablespoons of chopped flat leafed parsley
- 4 free-range chicken legs
- fleur de sel and ground pepper to taste
- 2 tablespoons of organic plain flour
- 1 brown onion, finely chopped
- 1/2 cup of dry white wine
- 400g tin of diced tomatoes
- 1 cup of black olives
- A handful of basil leaves
- Create a garlic oil by combining 1 tablespoon of olive oil with the chopped garlic and parsley. Mix with a pinch of salt and set aside.
- Joint the chicken so the thighs are separated from the drumstick
- Combine flour, fleur de sel and pepper in a shallow bowl and toss the chicken through one my one, until each one is fully coated in the seasoned flour mixture. Shake off any excess coating.
- Heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil in a large cast iron pot over medium heat. When heated, fry the chicken pieces until golden brown roughly 10 minutes each side. When the colour on the skin is even, reduce the heat to low and cook for a further 10 minutes with the lid on.
- Set the cooked chicken aside on a separate plate for later use.
- Keep the pan on low heat and cook the onion with a pinch of salt. When the onions soften and begins to colour, pour in the wine.
- Raise the heat to high and deglaze the pan, scraping the fond (brown caramalised bits at the bottom of the pan) with a wooden spoon until it emulsifies into the reduced wine sauce.
- Add the tomatoes and return the chicken to the pan, nestled in with the sauce. Let it simmer for 10 more minutes to allow the sauce to season the protein.
- Add the olives and the garlic oil and stir through the sauce. Simmer for a couple of minutes.
- When shopping for organic chicken, don’t be put off if it looks less plump than their supermarket counterparts and the price per kilo. Supermarket chicken can be injected full of water, so you end up actually paying more money for less meat. I buy my meat from various markets. Prahran in Melbourne has a good selection of quality organic butchers, as does South Melbourne.
- I grow basil leaves at home and they thrive in Melbourne weather! Herbs are easy to grow and care for, as the require minimal space and effort. Growing your own herbs reduces food wastage and unnecessary packaging (think how quick herbs spoil in your fridge and the packaging the come in when you get them from the supermarket!)