Chicken Provencal. Photo by Alan Bennett

’Tis the season for good friends and good gatherings. In my book, that means food, simply made, that’s both easy to prepare for weeknights and also elegant enough to serve to company. These kinds of meals are what I call timeless staples, ones that come together fast enough for family dinner on a Wednesday or for a Saturday night dinner party with your most esteemed guests – meals that can be recycled, reimagined and tailored to your needs.

This quick-and-snappy recipe for chicken thighs is at once a recipe for roast chicken and also for a delicious, seasonal (yet simple) side of marinated artichokes that come together to showcase the flavors of Provence. It’s the stripped-down version of a whole-bird variety I’ve prepared several times, to great fanfare from friends and guests alike.

I call for canned artichokes in this recipe – they’re far easier to come by and prepare than fresh, but use fresh if you like – and serve the whole dish alongside potatoes roasted in the chicken fat. But feel free to pair it with any of your favorite starches; rice, mashed potatoes or couscous would all be great.

The star of the dish, however, is the artichoke and olive salsa, which comes together in seconds with the aid of a food processor (though you can finely chop the ingredients, if you like or need to). Heavily influenced by tapenade, sans anchovies, the salsa provides punchy, briny flavor to both the chicken and canned artichokes, transforming them into a delicious side that takes minimal effort to prepare. It’s also versatile, perfect as a dressing for other proteins such as pork or fish. Or you can spoon it over store-bought hummus, use it to top off your game-day sandwiches, or make it the base for a pasta puttanesca.

This kind of versatility is what my cooking is all about. Everybody should feel welcome to experiment in their kitchens, to make one thing and deploy it five ways to suit their own needs and wants. A sauce that can be turned into the base of a soup, or vice-versa; leftover noodles that get any variety of special treatment, cold or hot; cheap ingredients turned into lush main courses; and decadent braised meats served on paper plates with mediocre Champagne – all have been (and continue to be) regular guests in my kitchen. It’s not the vessel, but the thought, that counts.

It’s my hope that the following recipe encourages you to play with your food; we all do it, and you should, too. Your guests, and your appetite, will thank you.


Artichokes in salsa for Chicken Provencal. Photo by Alan Bennett

Pan-roasted Spring Chicken Provençal

Time: 1 hour

Serves 4-6

For the salsa and marinated artichokes:
4 cloves garlic
1-2 Fresno chiles, seeds removed
1 tablespoon capers, drained and rinsed
1/2 cup pitted olives, such as Kalamata, Castelvetrano, or a mix
1 (14-ounce) can quartered artichoke hearts, drained, rinsed and patted dry
2/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil, more as needed
1/3 cup red wine vinegar, more to taste
Zest of 1 lemon
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

For the chicken:
2-3 pounds bone-in, skin-on chicken thighs (4-6 pieces)
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
Freshly torn basil leaves and crumbled feta cheese, for serving

Prep the chicken: Season both sides of the chicken thighs generously with salt and pepper, about a half teaspoon of salt per pound of chicken. Allow to sit, uncovered, at room temperature while you prepare the salsa and artichokes.


To make the salsa, finely chop the garlic, chiles and capers in the bowl of a food processor. Add the olives and pulse until the mixture is the texture of coarse sand. Add half the artichokes and pulse until coarsely ground. Transfer the contents to a bowl and add the olive oil, vinegar, lemon zest, oregano, and a half teaspoon each kosher salt and black pepper. Adjust the seasonings to taste. Add more olive oil if the mixture looks dry (it should be spoonable).

For the artichokes, place a large, oven-safe skillet over medium-high heat. Add 2 tablespoons olive oil and heat until shimmering, then add the remaining artichokes, cut side down, and sauté until deeply golden brown, 5-6 minutes. Place the artichokes in a shallow bowl and top with enough salsa to thoroughly coat them. Set aside until ready to eat.

Heat the oven to 400 degrees.

Add 2 tablespoons of olive oil back to the skillet in which you cooked the artichokes. Place the chicken, skin-side down, and cook over medium-high heat until deeply browned and the skin is crisp, 8-10 minutes, checking to make sure it doesn’t burn. Flip the chicken and place the skillet into the oven to finish cooking, about 15 minutes more, until the internal temperature is at least 160 degrees.

Remove the chicken and place on a plate to rest. Serve the chicken with the marinated artichokes in salsa, freshly torn basil leaves and crumbled feta cheese.

Alan Bennett at the top of Smith Tower in Seattle. Courtesy of Alan Bennett

MEET THE COOK: Alan Bennett

I am a local public relations strategist, food writer and photographer who lives in Westbrook. The kitchen is the center of my home, and I aim to fill it with friends as often as possible. Beginning in my early twenties, I was able to bond with my friends through food in a way I saw others bonding over sports or a mutual interest in, say, Crypto. I continue to share those bonds and form new ones through food nearly every day, hosting an annual Friendsgiving that goes way over the top, and simple brunches from my tiny Westbrook apartment. Food has always been the glue that holds my group together. My style in the kitchen is “Maine millennial meets Manhattan,” à la Alison Roman if she were from Maine. I believe in good ingredients treated well, keeping recipes simple while finding ways to boost flavor, and, ultimately, having as much fun as possible.

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