Chicken Dishes

This is the chicken version of the Piedmontese dish, vitello tonnato. It’s less trouble to make, less expensive, and some would say equally delicious. It’s best made with poached chicken breasts which are then thinly sliced and layered in a mayonnaise-like tuna sauce. In a pinch you can use a store-bought roasted chicken or – as I often do here in France –  a smoked chicken, readily available at supermarkets. With a green or tomato salad and some crusty bread, it’s perfect for a summer lunch or light supper. For a larger gathering or festive occasion, it can even be made a day ahead of time, knowing that the flavors will only improve with time. In fact I think that, like vitello tonnato, it’s at its best if allowed to sit for a while so that the chicken absorbs the flavors of the sauce.

Serves 4


 4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, 5-6 oz. each

2 cups chicken stock, salted

For the tonnato sauce:

1 – 6 oz. good quality canned tuna

6 anchovy filets

1/2 cup mayonnaise, preferably homemade

1/2 cup light olive oil

2 tablespoons lemon juice

For the garnish:

2 – 3 tablespoons capers

Lemon slces

Remove any fat or unpleasant bits from the chicken breasts.  Heat the chicken stock to boiling point in a shallow pan that will just accommodate the chicken breasts. Add the chicken and when it comes back to the boil, turn down the heat and simmer the chicken very gently for two minutes.  Turn the chicken breasts over, turn off the heat, cover the pan and let the chicken rest for a further 5 minutes.  Check that it’s cooked by cutting into a piece or by pressing it with your finger tips.  If it doesn’t give at all, it’s cooked.  Drain the chicken, saving the stock. Slice the chicken crosswise into thin slices (5-6 to each breast).  It doesn’t matter if the slices aren’t perfect – no one will know when you layer it.

Make the tonnato sauce:

Put the tuna and anchovies in a food processor and reduce to a thick puree. You can add the oil from the tuna can if it’s good quality. Add the mayonnaise, then the oil and the lemon juice. You want it to be a thick but pourable sauce; so you’ll need to thin it with a couple of tablespoons of the chicken stock. Taste for seasoning – you can add some pepper, but won’t need much salt (maybe even none) because of the anchovies.

Assemble the dish:

On a deep platter that will take all the chicken, spoon a few tablespoons of the sauce and spread it around.  Cover with a layer of chicken.  Spread enough tonnato on the chicken to cover it.  Sprinkle with some of the capers.  Continue to layer the chicken and tonnato, ending up with a layer of tonnato.  Sprinkle with the rest of the capers and decorate with lemon slices. Refrigerate the dish for at least 3 hours, preferably overnight, making sure you remove it from the fridge at least an hour before consuming it. You may have some tonnato left over — it’s especially delicious with hard-boiled eggs or sliced tomatoes.


This dish is unusual, delicious, and simple to make.  It can easily be expanded for a bigger table.

In West Africa, groundnut is the local name for peanut, and variations of this dish abound.  Some countries add veggies such as yams or cabbage, but I think this muddies the spicy peanut flavor.  It’s best made with thighs or legs which add to the richness of the sauce. You can use breasts, but you will need to shorten the cooking time by about half. Garnish with chopped peanuts and cilantro. We like to serve it with rice so the sauce can shine through. We also add a simple salad of chopped tomatoes, red onion, and green pepper (roughly equal amounts of each), salt to taste, and and a bit of minced green chili.

West African Chicken Groundnut Stew

Serves 4 – 6


Vegetable oil (not olive)

4 chicken thighs (skinned, halved along the bone if large)

1 medium white onion, chopped fine

2 cloves garlic, chopped

2″ piece of fresh ginger, peeled  and grated

1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper

1 cup canned tomatoes, chopped

1/2 cup peanut butter

1 cup chicken stock (or a stock cube dissolved in a cup of water)

2 tablespoons chopped cilantro

2 tablespoons chopped peanuts

Salt the chicken thighs and brown them in the oil on both sides, about five minutes.  Set aside.  Add the onions to the pan – use more oil if needed – and cook them until softened.  Add the garlic, ginger, cayenne and tomatoes.  Simmer until well blended.   Dissolve the peanut butter in the warmed chicken stock, add to the tomato mixture and bring to the boil.  Add the browned chicken pieces, then simmer gently for 45 minutes to an hour (about a half hour for breasts) until the chicken is cooked but not falling off the bone. Garnish with the cilantro and chopped peanuts and serve with plain boiled rice and the optional salad.