That's the Way the Chicken Crumbles

When Mark and I were in Provence for my 50th birthday - before this blog even existed - we met a wonderful couple through our mutual friends, Susan and Towny.

Muriel and Pierre are pretty much kindred spirits when it comes to enjoying food and wine.

We dined at their home a couple of times, and had them to dinner once while we were there.

We keep hoping they will come visit us in the Southwest.

Pierre works for a winery that is part of a Relais et Châteaux property. Muriel works in a bookshop in Manosque, where they live.

In an earlier incarnation, she and Pierre had opened a small bookshop and salon de thé called Le Thé dans l'Encrier. (Tea in the Inkwell)

Muriel was the cook at Le Thé and, even though they were no longer there when we visited, her recipes lived on under the new ownership.

Susan and Towny's daughter, Alex, loved going down the street to Le Thé for a slice of their Tarte aux Tomates.

At first we thought it was just her excuse to use the wifi to e-chat with her boyfriend. But then we had the Tarte and knew Alex's intentions were honorable. It was amazing.

When we dined at their home, Muriel served us another of the café's specialties: the Crumble au Poulet.

Here in the States, crumbles are pretty much dessert fare - peaches, apples, berries, and the like.

Pierre and Muriel the day we met them in Roussillon.
In France, they have crossed over the line to the savory side of life. I actually think of them as pot pies with a crumble topping.

On the street where we lived (for those two weeks) in Lourmarin.
This recipe for Crumble au Poulet is from Susan and Towny; they originally got it from Muriel. It is the essence of comfort food, and easy to pull together using leftovers or a rotisserie chicken from the market. I served it with a wonderful organic Côtes de Provence wine - Domaine les Fouques. You can read more about the pairing on the Provence WineZine.

Sipping rosé at Les Deux Garçons in Aix-en-Provence. (It's what you do...)
Like many comfort food dishes, the possibility for creativity is great. Turkey, beef, lamb, pork, shrimp, smoked salmon, scallops. If you try this with fish or seafood, you don't need to pre-cook the fish. It will cook fully when baking. You can use all kinds of vegetables, too, or make it completely vegetarian. Varying the herbs and spices can also change its character completely.

Market day in Cucuron - our favorite Provençal market.
For my friends in the Southern Hemisphere, this is perfect for your approaching winter. For those of us on the northern side, a crumble works really well as make-ahead room temperature summer fare or a picnic dish.

Pétanques in Saignon.
Either way, I hope this brings you a little comfort when you make it.

~ David

Crumble au Poulet

1 whole rotisserie chicken (purchase at the grocery store)
3 medium zucchini
4 large carrots
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 large shallots, chopped
1 cup chicken broth
1 cup flour
1/2 cup dried bread crumbs
1 cup grated Comté or Gruyère cheese
1/4 teaspoon curry powder or other blended spice mixture to taste
10 tablespoons unsalted butter

Remove the butter from the refrigerator. Preheat oven to 375°F.

Remove the skin from the chicken, take the meat off the bones and cut the chicken into matchsticks.

Wash the zucchini and peel the carrots. Grate both vegetables on the coarse side of a box grater but do not grate the seedy center of the zucchini. You should have an equal quantity of both.

Sauté the vegetables a few minutes in the olive oil, then add the shallots for an additional 30 seconds. Add the chicken and mix well. Add the broth and let reduce a bit and place in a 10-inch deep-dish pie-pan, baking dish, or an oval gratin dish.

In a large bowl, blend the flour, bread crumbs, grated cheese and spice mixture with your hands. Then, with your fingertips, mix in the somewhat softened butter; the mixture should be somewhat crumbly. Sprinkle this mixture evenly over the vegetable and chicken mixture and bake for about 30 minutes or until the crumble is golden.

Serves 4-6.

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