Saturday, January 7, 2012

Chicken Provencal Melt on Sourdough Bread

Ah, bonjour, mis amis!

Chicken Provencal Melt on Sourdough Bread is an easy, delicious twist on a classic tuna melt. Serve it with a good soup – more on that below – and you’ve got a hearty, healthy homemade meal everyone can enjoy! It’s so good you may have trouble believing it is made from reduced-fat ingredients that, truth be told, would probably have a traditional French chef chasing me down with a meat cleaver.

Some cook’s notes before the recipe itself:
  • Although it’s possible to make this recipe with boneless chicken breast, since the chicken is made more moist and flavorful by being cooked bone-in, and by being baked with the herb rub between the skin and the meat, I used drumsticks. (Two pounds of drumsticks gave me about one pound of meat after the bones and skin were removed after roasting. If you decide to use a boneless cut, remember to use the smaller amount.)
  • Provencal (pronounced “proe-ven-sahl”) herbs are dried herbs typical of the Provence region of south-eastern France. It would be easier if there were only one mixture of herbs called Provencal but, alas, it is not to be. The mixture I’ve used here is but one of several generally accepted combinations.
  • As always when working with raw proteins, and poultry in particular, use safe food-handling practices to prevent cross-contamination.

It’s also worth noting that a delicious hot soup is the perfect accompaniment to the Chicken Provencal Melt. In the photo at the top, it’s shown with a favorite Cream of Tomato soup made from an outstanding recipe generously shared on-line by the Michelin-starred Bistro Jeanty in Yountville CA. You’ll find the recipe at (I make it without the puff pastry, and reduce the fat by using fat-free half-and-half instead of heavy cream, and by replacing the butter with butter substitute. (If you make this with the fat-free half-and-half, add it a little at a time, making sure each amount you add is incorporated into the soup before adding more. Also, after adding the half-and-half, heat the soup only till steam begins to rise from the surface. Add the half-and-half too quickly, or letting it boil, can cause the half-and-half to separate and harm the soup.)

Back to the Chicken Provencal Melt. This recipe makes 4 servings.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Combine the following to make the Provencal herb mix: 4 tsp dried marjoram; 4 tsp dried thyme; 4 tsp dried savory; 1/2 tsp dried basil; 1/2 tsp dried rosemary; 1/4 tsp dried sage; and 1/4 tsp dried fennel. Grind the mixture by hand or with a spice grinder (or small coffee grinder dedicated to grinding herbs and spices.)

Add 3 tablespoons of olive oil to the herbs to form a wet rub. Set half of the rub aside in a separate container for later use.

While the oven is heating:
  • Dry the chicken drumsticks with a paper towel. Pull back the skin and apply the wet rub to the chicken meat. Fold the skin back over the meat after the rub has been applied.
  • Prepare 2 tablespoons minced celery; 2 tablespoons minced green onions; 2 tablespoons of grated carrot; 1 tablespoon of toasted chopped pecans or walnuts; and 1 teaspoon minced flat-leaf parsley. (The celery and carrot stalk portions left over can be used to line the bottom of the baking dish you use for the chicken in the next step.)

Bake the chicken in a baking dish until cooked through, about an hour and ten minutes.

Let the drumsticks cool enough to touch, then remove the meat and skin and cut the meat into small chunks. Combine in a bowl with the remaining chicken salad Provencal ingredients: 1 teaspoon fresh lemon or lime juice; 2 tablespoons sweet pickle relish; about ¼ cup reduced-fat mayonnaise (added a bit at a time until the desired texture is reached); and salt and fresh ground black pepper to taste. Set the mixture aside until ready to use.

Lay out four slices of sourdough bread. Spread a light coating of the reserved herb rub on one side of each bread slice. Place the bread on a baking sheet and place in the broiler till lightly toasted, turning the slices over half-way.

Remove the baking sheet from the broiler and place two tomato slices on the top (seasoned side) of each slice of bread.

Spread the chicken mixture on top of the tomato slices, and drizzle each with a little balsamic vinegar.

Top each serving with a fat-free cheese slice (American or cheddar), and return the baking sheet to the broiler till the cheese is melted and bubbly, about 3 minutes. Serve immediately.

Now break out the soup and a nice white wine, and enjoy a glorious gastronomical experience! (And remember that the leftovers make a great next-day chicken salad sandwich.)

See you next week with another offering for your cooking and eating pleasure! Till then, stay well, keep it about the food, and always remember to kiss the cook. ;-)


  1. Hi, Ben! Hope you and your family are having a great new year. This looks SO good. I wish I had that sandwich and soup RIGHT NOW. I'm going to have to try that, in this new year... meaning, eat the chicken meat, get rid of the skin! I know that's the worst part of the chicken for a person. Hopefully, your healthy recipes will rub off on me soon! I've been following you long enough, so maybe one day your healthy recipes WILL penetrate. ;)

  2. A happy new year to you and yours as well, Gloria. And thanks for your kind thoughts and being with me so long! I have to admit taking off the chicken skin does require some will power. My grandmother used to make a traditional treat by cutting the skin into pieces and frying them, and it tasted mighty good. lol. In the meantime, let us keep exploring that reduced fat path!