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Friday, February 3, 2012

February 2, 2012: Chicken Herb Provence ala Crockpot and Experimenting Before the Mash Potato Throwdown!

I had a lot of errands to run yesterday, so I had to come up with some recipes that did not take all day.

For the entree, I decided to do a crockpot chicken. This is so easy, it is embarassing. I took two large chicken thighs with the skin on (but you could use breast if you prefer) and covered them with dried herb de provence by putting the herbs in a paper lunch bag, moistening the skin of the chicken with just a little olive oil and shaking it up. Leaving the skin on preserves the moisture. If you want to take it off after cooking, no worry and it is fewer calories. If you KNOW you will remove the skin after cooking, I suggest rubbing some of the herbs beneath the skin for flavor and decor.

Afterwards, I laid the thighs in a crockpot which had about a 1/2 cup of chicken broth and a diced onion in the bottom. I cooked on low for 4 hours.

Herbs de provence are dried basil, dried thyme, marjoram, dried summer savory, dried chervil, rosemary, dried lavender flowers, dried tarragon, dried mint, dried oregano, crumbled bay leaf, fennel seeds (optional), and dried sage (optional) all mixed up and available dried in most grocery stores and on-line if you cannot find it there. It is such a nice mixture and a French cooking essential. It adds so much flavor even with just small amounts.

Then I went and ran errands and kicked butt! When I got home, I started on the mashed potatoes. I am going to be running quite a few mashed potato recipes over the next two weeks, because my house is going to be the site of a future MASHED POTATO THROWDOWN....I love that TV show, Throwdown with Bobby Flay. He is such a great chef, but still, if it is YOUR specialty, you might out-cook the master. We conceived the notion of a mashed potato throwdown when we discovered at Thanksgiving that one of my students, Bindhu, had no idea how to cook mash potatoes. Everyone kept insisting that they or their spouse had the best recipe, so we came up with a way to find out who indeed had the best and to TEACH Bindhu how to make that recipe. If you got only one tool in the box, make it a good one, right?

So of course, I googled best mashed potato recipes. I only want to attempt the 5 star recipes too. No compromises when you "throwdown." Because the second place chef will also be called FIRST LOSER!

I found a recipe at that was very highly rated, but when I read the ingredients, I was saying to myself, "No way. That won't have near enough flavor." But since it was highly rated, I went ahead and trusted the public. Ends up, the public was RIGHT. (After a number of our recent national elections, I sometimes have problems with trusting my fellow Americans, but they came through here!)

Here is the recipe for one pound of potatoes. Peel them (if you want) and boil them in water for 20 minutes until softened. Take them out. Add a tsp of salt (I used truffle salt, but you know I loves me some truffles) and then gradually, while using a whisk or electric mixer, add sour cream until they reach the desired consistency. This might vary from about 1/4 to about 1/2 cup. Pepper to taste. Place in a baking dish and sprinkle LIGHTLY with cheddar shredded (not more than 1/2 c). Place in 350 degree oven until bubbly then remove (It took about 20 minutes.) Serve hot.

This was so amazingly good. Really!

I served the meat and potatoes with a side fresh green salad. For dessert? What goes with meat and potatoes? CHOCOLATE!

I made Ina Garten's OUTRAGEOUS CHOCOLATE WALNUT BROWNIES exactly as the direction state. (recipe at the end of the blog) No changes. ANd they came out great.

My husband's opinion of this meal:

Chicken: Good.
Mashed potatoes: Ummmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmm
Brownie: Chocolatey! Delicious.


1 pound unsalted butter
1 pound plus 12 ounces semisweet chocolate chips
6 ounces unsweetened chocolate
6 extra-large eggs
3 tablespoons instant coffee granules
2 tablespoons pure vanilla extract
2 1/4 cups sugar
1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
3 cups chopped walnuts


Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

Butter and flour a 12 x 18 x 1-inch baking sheet.

Melt together the butter, 1 pound of chocolate chips, and the unsweetened chocolate in a medium bowl over simmering water. Allow to cool slightly. In a large bowl, stir (do not beat) together the eggs, coffee granules, vanilla, and sugar. Stir the warm chocolate mixture into the egg mixture and allow to cool to room temperature.

In a medium bowl, sift together 1 cup of flour, the baking powder, and salt. Add to the cooled chocolate mixture. Toss the walnuts and 12 ounces of chocolate chips in a medium bowl with 1/4 cup of flour, then add them to the chocolate batter. Pour into the baking sheet.

Bake for 20 minutes, then rap the baking sheet against the oven shelf to force the air to escape from between the pan and the brownie dough. Bake for about 15 minutes, until a toothpick comes out clean. Do not overbake! Allow to cool thoroughly, refrigerate, and cut into 20 large squares.



  1. Oh man, why does everything have to taste so good? And I was feeling pretty good about myself because I knew all those spices you were using for the Chicken until you got to Savory spice. I thought savory was a generic descriptor, like bitter, or sweet. It's an actual spice? Whoa.

    And potatoes are the single greatest thing in the world. Because even a horrible preparation of a potato is still good to me. I used to pull them out of the garden, wash them, peel them, and eat them like they were round carrots or something. Your mashed potatoes sound awesome.

    Crap. I'm reading while I'm hungry again.

  2. It is an actual spice. I am going to send you some seeds.

    You are right about potatoes. I think the French call it the ground apple a day!