The Serial Entertainer Confesses
This morning, I was greeted by a text message from a friend, alerting me that my recipe for Chicken Provencal, one that was beautifully written about by the New York Times' Sam Sifton in connection with my book, "Confessions of a Serial Entertainer," had been reposted as one of the 50 most popular recipes over the last 2 years- possibly THE most popular recipe.
Now, I used to make Chicken Provencal A LOT- so much so that I stopped making it. Honestly, up until last week when I served it to my in-laws at a dinner party at our house outside of Milwaukee, I probably hadn't prepared it in years.
Chicken Provencal was one of my go-to dishes that I knew would always come out just fine without a lot of fuss. It was part of a rotation of dishes that I had in my repertoire for last minute pickup dinner parties- the kind that I used to host with frequency when I lived on East 72nd Street on New York's Upper East Side, in an apartment that I could kick myself for not holding on to.
It was a small, modest, prewar building that was dwarfed by the deluxe apartment buildings that surrounded it- definitely the poor relation in a rather ritzy neighborhood. I had a one bedroom apartment on the top floor that had hissing radiators and leaky windows, but it was bright and, in its own way, a bit fancy, yet affordable. I had friends who lived in the building, and, rare for New York City, I actually knew my neighbors. It would have made for the perfect sitcom.
The apartment had a long galley kitchen that ended with a little breakfast nook and, best of all, it had two doors- one at either end of the kitchen- so it was perfect for buffet dinners served off of the stove top. Along with Chicken Provencal, I would make curries, a riff on cassoulet, coq au vin- any dish that didn't require anything more than one mad dash to the neighborhood supermarket on the way home from work.
Over the ensuing years, I made Chicken Provencal less and less. And when my other half Rich and I decided to try to gain some control over our diets, first going vegan but then settling on pescatarian, I stopped making it altogether.
I would apply the same recipe to shrimp, scallops, tofu, ANYTHING- but nothing compared to the original dish- one that would always come out of the oven fragrant and sizzling. So last week, when I was confronted with a last minute family dinner for a visiting uncle from Detroit, I relented.
Needless to say, it was a hit. Even our young niece and nephew, who have the usual kids' food suspicions, ate it up with gusto. My mother-in-law cooed over the sauce, which we brought over to her in a plastic container as part of our routine "leaving town" refrigerator purge. And so it was that I was reminded why Chicken Provencal has resonated with so many; it truly is the ultimate comfort dish that has more friends that foes.
So chicken has crept back into our lives courtesy of Sam Sifton and the New York Times. Considering that I'm the grandson of a poultry purveyor on my mother's side and a chicken farmer on my father's side, it's a welcome return.