Two words that elude me in the dog days of winter here in the Midwest: fresh produce. Oh sure, walk into the produce section of any supermarket, and there are displays piled high with apples, berries, lettuce. Artfully arranged pyramids of pears, oranges and lemons. Asparagus in January? Yep, it’s there. Craving some watermelon on a snowy day? No worries, I’m sure your supermarket has it. So shiny and colorful, like they were plucked from Mother Earth mere seconds ago.
Thanks to the marvels of science and transport, this produce is beautiful to behold but sadly, so lacking in flavor that the term “fresh” is often a misnomer. Perhaps a more appropriate term would be “not frozen” or “not canned” or better yet just…”meh.”
And in my book, nothing epitomizes meh, more than an out-of-season tomato.
Oh sure they’re red. They look ripe, don’t they now? But biting into a mid-winter supermarket tomato is a bit like eating an unsalted saltine cracker and washing it down with a swig of lukewarm tap water. It’s enough to make one swear off fruits and vegetables for the next five months and just down a few V-8® cocktails every day.
Thankfully, I have come to save the day. Step off that produce cliff, turn on your oven and reach into your spice cabinet. All is not lost my friends.
Roasting and seasoning do amazing things to bland, out-of-season produce, and this recipe is a shining example. Grape tomatoes get a healthy dose of olive oil, herbes de Provence, salt and pepper. After quick roast in a 450° oven they are magically transformed into sweet, juicy tomatoes that actually taste like, well…tomatoes! And FRESH tomatoes at that!
Oh yes, there’s chicken in this recipe too and it’s all served over linguine and garnished with more fresh herbs. But of course it’s the tomatoes that make the dish. Like summer in a bowl, I tell you. Actually make that summer in the South of France in a bowl.
Linguine with Chicken and Roasted Herbes de Provence Tomatoes
- 1 1/2 pounds cherry or grape tomatoes
- 6 tablespoons olive oil, divided
- 2 tablespoons herbes de Provence <see Note>
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt plus more
- Freshly ground black pepper
- 1 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
- 1 pound skinless, boneless chicken breasts
- 1 small shallot, minced
- 2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
- 3 tablespoons flat-leaf parsley leaves
- 3 tablespoons fresh tarragon leaves or fresh basil
- 1 lb. dried linguine pasta (or thick spaghetti pasta), cooked according to package directions
Preheat oven to 450°F. Combine tomatoes, 2 tablespoons oil, and herbes de Provence in a large bowl. Season with salt and pepper; toss to coat. Heat 1 tablespoon oil in a large heavy ovenproof skillet until oil shimmers. Carefully add tomatoes to pan (oil may spatter). Transfer skillet to oven and roast, turning once, until tomatoes burst and give up some of their juices, about 15 minutes. Transfer to a medium bowl and drizzle with Worcestershire sauce.
Meanwhile, season chicken all over with 1 teaspoon salt and pepper. Heat 2 tablespoons oil in a large ovenproof skillet over medium-high heat. Sear chicken on both sides until golden brown, 6–8 minutes. Transfer pan to oven and roast chicken until cooked through, 8–10 minutes. Transfer chicken to a cutting board and let rest for at least 5 minutes.
Add remaining 1 tablespoon oil to same skillet; heat over medium heat. Add shallot and cook, stirring often, until fragrant, about 1 minute. Deglaze pan with vinegar, scraping up browned bits from bottom of pan; add tomatoes and their juices and simmer until sauce is just beginning to thicken, about 1 minute. Season sauce to taste with salt and pepper.
Divide linguine equally among plates. Slice chicken and place atop linguine. Spoon tomatoes and sauce over; garnish with herbs.
Note> Herbes de Provence may well be the most heavenly blend of dried herbs available on this planet . While variations exist, most blends contain thyme, savory, fennel, rosemary, marjoram, basil, tarragon and (my personal favorite) lavender. Talk about aromatherapy! One whiff of this blend will immediately transport you to the south of France. In the past decade it has become more widely available in most every supermarket chain, although you will benefit greatly by getting a fresh, quality blend from a fine spice purveyor. If you love it as much as I do, check out Savory Spice’s Herbes de Provence Seasoning Salt. It’s terrific on roasts, lamb chops, roasted potatoes and vegetables.