julia’s chicken provençale

November 6th, 2008 · 45 Comments

like most of you who come here, i cook often. cooking is a joy in my life and i’m probably at my most centered and peaceful when i’m in my kitchen. but just the other night when faced with an upcoming gathering at my house, i got a bit anxiety ridden.  and you might wonder why… i mean i am a seasoned pro at feeding people and these were some of my closest friends.

well, here was the list of the dietary restrictions… no pork. no lamb or beef. nothing spicy, no eggplant, bell peppers or cauliflower. no squash, mushrooms or green olives. no sugar, eggs, dairy, wheat or gluten of any kind. and no yeast. which is in seemingly everything.

dear readers, i am not kidding here… and we were only 8 people.

so i decided we would have chicken. it felt safe. but still, this culinary task was a bit too daunting for the likes of me and i could come up with nothing. so i did what many a cook has done for three generations – i turned to julia child. and as you might expect, she had just the perfect dish for us. a sauté!

one of my favorite cookbooks of all time is ‘the way to cook’. i love how julia starts with a basic recipe and then builds on it, giving you options of where to go from there. so from her sautéed chicken she went to pipérade chicken (but peppers were a no, remember?) and then i came upon our dinner. chicken provençale. a perfectly glorious idea, julia. thank you.

it’s simple cooking. and it’s one of those dishes that i had forgotten about. provençale anything and all you need is some olive oil, garlic, tomatoes, olives and herbs de provence. i added sautéed onion and fresh basil, just because…

i bought 2 chickens and cut them into legs, thighs and breasts putting the scraps and wings in a ziplock and in my freezer for future stock. i heated my biggest cast iron pan and added some olive oil, browning the chicken on all sides. do this in batches so as not to crowd the pan.

WARNING: chickens are spiteful creatures that spit burning hot fat at you, aiming directly for your face. i got hit in 3 places and i have actual blisters to prove it. on my face. lovely. and you cannot sue a chicken. but you know this.

anyway, once the meat is browned, salt and pepper – interestingly, julia specifically does this after it is cooked – remove the meat from the pan and drain off as much oil and fat as you can, saving the juices. stir in a can of crushed san marzano’s (julia uses her own fresh tomato pulp – of course), add a generous amount of herbs de provence and some garlic. i pureed about 6 garlic cloves and added that to the pan. boil for several minutes to thicken the sauce, correct seasonings and add about 1/2 cup of dry white french vermouth. add the chicken back and simmer until it is cooked through. i served it with chopped kalamata olives and fresh basil with a side of simply roasted yukon potatoes, tossed with olive oil, salt and pepper.

it was delicious. i mean, this was a really good dish and a crowd pleaser amongst a hard to feed crowd. chicken provençale is beautiful food. it’s julia getting all rustic on us. it’s my kind of julia – french all the way, but with an italian edge.

the best line of the night was when my dear friend michael johnson and i were talking about food and cooking. michael was not the problem child at this dinner, his only food aversion being eggplant… so i asked him what else was on his ‘list’ and he said that he would pretty much eat anything. so then i got specific. would you eat tongue? and he replied yes. i asked, would you eat liver? and he answered, of course. and then i hit him with tripe. and he thought for 3 seconds and looked at me and said, well, maybe not as an entree…

a perfect answer.

Tags: chicken

45 responses so far ↓

  • 1 Robert // Nov 6, 2008 at 2:17 pm


    The perfect host.

    Curiously, the dismembered chicken fought back, go figure….

  • 2 lisaiscooking // Nov 6, 2008 at 2:41 pm

    Nice looking meal! Chicken is a perfect food-Switzerland, and this looks delicious.

  • 3 Kristie // Nov 6, 2008 at 3:23 pm

    I admire your resourcefulness. If I’d gotten that kind of list from people, I’d have just traced my middle finger on a piece of construction paper (8 times), cut it out, and put it on a nice square plate.

    And I am a PICKY eater. Just not the “no gluten, no yeast, no dairy, no eggs, no meat” variety.

  • 4 cookiecrumb // Nov 6, 2008 at 3:38 pm

    Doable! You did it.
    I was gonna say “get new friends,” until I read michael’s remarks.

  • 5 becky and the beanstock // Nov 6, 2008 at 3:46 pm

    Wow that’s a harsh list of restrictions! i thought my close pod of friends was rough — we have a celiac, a pescetarian (that’s me), two who won’t touch shrimp, one who hates onions and can (and will) pick them out no matter how finely minced they are (she once used a strainer — no joke), one who gets the heebie jeebies from mushrooms, and then there’s the friend who hates cheese. All of it. Even on pizza. Oh, wait, and we can’t have more than 15 carbs in the entire meal. Dear god…

  • 6 becky and the beanstock // Nov 6, 2008 at 3:48 pm

    And Kristie, that’s hilarious. I’m going to try that next time. I’ll put some onion-free tomato sauce on it, since everyone will eat that…

  • 7 Julie // Nov 6, 2008 at 4:07 pm

    That is an amazingly large list of restrictions for only eight people. But there is something sort of fun about designing a menu around a lot of restrictions and coming up with something really great. At least I think that’s fun.

    Chicken provencal looks fantastic. Obviously you aced this test.

  • 8 claudia // Nov 6, 2008 at 6:19 pm

    julie – it was a test of sorts. but see? meat and potatoes… the ol’ faithful.

    becky – what is it with us? are we more informed or full of silly information? i do know that when i lay off a bunch of wheat, sugar and fat i feel much better. speaking of which i’m about due for a detox…

    cookie – harder to get new friends. but i did think of writing something along those lines… dietart restrictions due to illness is one thing. but the folks with the looooong list of ‘i don’t likes’ is annoying. my bff has one of those…

    kristie – snarky yet brilliant. as usual.

    lisa! yes! chicken = switzerland. except for the vegetarians out there…

    robert – i am scarred for life. and was even almost blinded. see what i risk in the kitchen?

  • 9 Peter // Nov 6, 2008 at 7:28 pm

    It’s hard work cooking for non-omnivores. Next time you saute chicken, you should wear a hazmat suit and face shield, or, better yet, make the finicky guests do the dangerous part while you drink and mock them.

  • 10 Marie // Nov 6, 2008 at 9:28 pm

    I have a SIL whos food resrictions are half of what you mentioned, so I’m always challenged on what to make her. I’ll have to remember this one pot wonder, that we can all enjoy!

  • 11 Choosy Beggar Tina // Nov 6, 2008 at 10:00 pm

    I had a group of 10 coming over once with similar restrictions..but add in things like 1 person would not eat anything with sauce, 1 person would ONLY eat things with sauce, no fish, no pork (half were Jewish), no red meat, no . I drove myself CRAZY trying to come up with what to feed them, and in the end it didn’t matter. One of my Jewish friends brought chicken nuggets wrapped in bacon and EVERYBODY ate that and loved it. They picked at what they didn’t like, they ate massive amounts of what they did like (which did not match the list they gave) and in the end I just shrugged and said whatev…after the rage subsided and I realized that as long as they’re eating, that’s what counts.

  • 12 Ethel // Nov 6, 2008 at 10:31 pm

    I’m still working on the yogurt meatballs but this is indeed easy which I am all for.I know the feeling of being zapped with got oil. Yikes that hurts,

  • 13 krysta // Nov 7, 2008 at 12:08 am

    i know other people have said this but… i would’ve said,’ screw it bring your own damn food! i’m not a miracle worker.’ and as for the oil i have a lovely scar on my arm from some chicken but i manned up and kept on cooking and that’s why tony would love me more, you know, ’cause i’m a bad ass chick like that. BUT, if it hit me in the face i’d go running to mommy and that’s why you’ll always kick my ass.

  • 14 Lauren // Nov 7, 2008 at 8:27 am

    lmao at krysta’s comment. i gotta second that one. that’s a hefty list of restrictions to deal with.

  • 15 robin @ caviar and codfish // Nov 7, 2008 at 8:42 am

    Man… cooking with restrictions is so hard (we have good friends who are gluten-free vegetarians).

    Congrats Claudia.

  • 16 RecipeGirl // Nov 7, 2008 at 9:29 am

    I think people are getting pickier now-a-days! You did a fabulous job!

  • 17 lo // Nov 7, 2008 at 11:49 am

    See, this is why I pick friends who don’t have dietary restrictions! 🙂

    But, seriously, this is a lovely dish — so, resourcefulness is apparently the mother of amazing food!

  • 18 Lesley // Nov 7, 2008 at 1:27 pm

    One of the things I fear most is becoming gluten intolerant. Please, God no…I have been good.

  • 19 [eatingclub] vancouver || js // Nov 7, 2008 at 4:40 pm

    My, that is a laundry list of dietary restrictions! I think I would have buckled right then and there, but you nailed the challenge with this beautiful, beautiful chicken dish.

  • 20 Shannalee // Nov 7, 2008 at 5:58 pm

    I just wanted to tell you: I stumbled over her from another site and absolutely love, love your header image. Beautifully done. I’m going to have a little look around.

  • 21 Maffy // Nov 7, 2008 at 6:50 pm

    We have friends who are allergic to garlic and onions. The last time we made dinner for them, we did a braised veal with porcini and rosemary. The original recipe called for 8 cloves of garlic, but the dish was flavorful enough to eliminate the garlic and still come out great. Waiting for an excuse to do that again with the full flavor sensation, though…

  • 22 gan // Nov 7, 2008 at 11:05 pm

    isn’t acid + cast iron a big no-no?

  • 23 Heather // Nov 8, 2008 at 1:25 am

    Tripe is crunchy.

    One of my best friends can’t eat poultry or his throat swells up. He’s Filipino, too! So I cook fish and pork for him mostly. But sometimes I forget and there’ll be a little stock or something. It IS stressful!

  • 24 Jack // Nov 8, 2008 at 8:15 am

    The chicken looks lovely. Im sure your guests left nourished both in body and spirit. Tripe really doesnt sound so bad until you realize what it is. The word itself sounds like it would have been better used in naming a bird or a dessert like snipe or trifle which are both quite delicious. Haggis. now that is a dish appropriately named!

  • 25 Donald // Nov 8, 2008 at 9:13 am

    That sounds like a great chicken dish – not ordinary at all.

    With all those restrictions that was more like a test than a dinner party – wow.

  • 26 noble pig // Nov 8, 2008 at 11:42 am

    Hey you need a new group of friends…kidding…really kidding. But seriously I have no diet restricyions so you could cook me whatever!

    This was a great way to satisfy all those needs! You should have your own cookbook, or be like an Iron Chef or something.

  • 27 We Are Never Full // Nov 8, 2008 at 12:03 pm

    tripe… people just have to give it a try. it is SO good. and not that adventurous if you don’t know what it is. this dish is perfect for a group of friends. looks like you seared it perfectly (whihc you often do well). and you totally are not being ‘ordinary’!!!

  • 28 Judy // Nov 8, 2008 at 4:57 pm

    Wow, that’s a lot of restrictions!!! We generally have vegetarian or not. Much easier! The chicken dish looks so incredible!

  • 29 Melissa // Nov 8, 2008 at 7:19 pm

    I think I may have to buy a Julia Child book. I mean, why wouldn’t I?? Didn’t think about it before.

    I would so make this chicken… though thankfully not because I am presented with all those restrictions. Wow.

  • 30 canarygirl // Nov 9, 2008 at 3:17 am

    Well sheeeeeeit that is one long list of nos! Great save! And damn those vicious chickens!

  • 31 _ts of [eatingclub] vancouver // Nov 9, 2008 at 3:09 pm

    I think I’m leaning more towards Kristie’s suggestion. 😉

  • 32 Marc @ NoRecipes // Nov 9, 2008 at 11:58 pm

    Looks like you did okay given the restrictions. This looks delicious! I have a guest coming over for Thanksgiving that’s not able to eat glutten, so I’m reworking a few things on the menu.

  • 33 giz // Nov 10, 2008 at 12:06 am

    Most people couldn’t possibly accomodate all the dietary restrictions. You deserve a pat on the back. I know how stressful it is – everyone tells me I’m a pain – plenty of restrictions.

  • 34 Rachel (S[d]OC) // Nov 10, 2008 at 11:44 am

    I hear you on the dietary restrictions. I’ve had to work around a few at large dinner parties too and then of course you have the fact that Sir Pickypants and I often have such opposite food preferences. I once had to do a dinner party where I was dealing with a pescatarian and someone who was severely lactose intolerant!

    Even with the olives (I said I was picky) this looks like a really tasty crowd pleaser.

  • 35 Michelle // Nov 10, 2008 at 12:18 pm

    I say, if it’s free food, the cook is boss.
    Did u use a Julia accent while cutting the bird? I can’t resist.

  • 36 phillygirl64 // Nov 10, 2008 at 3:39 pm

    I have my own restrictions, but I got to the end of the list and wanted to add “no effin’ way!”

  • 37 democommie // Nov 10, 2008 at 6:50 pm


    Now that the election is over I am going to start putting up recipes and poems (some of which will be excrutiatingly normal) over at my place. My style of cooking is something like, “Things you can make pretty fast, from critters that weren’t fast enough!”

  • 38 Sara // Nov 10, 2008 at 8:54 pm

    This looks really delicious, your picture is great.

  • 39 zenchef // Nov 10, 2008 at 11:58 pm

    I turned my kitchen into a dictatorship long ago: no special request! (muargharghargh *evil laughter)

    Oh well, i’m only dreaming. I wish everyone would eat everything! Nice chicken there, Claudia. You should be a Chef and get paid for this! 🙂

  • 40 democommie // Nov 11, 2008 at 8:39 am


    Wait, you mean you get to come here for free?

  • 41 naomi // Nov 11, 2008 at 9:00 am

    Why green olives and not black? Tres strange no?

    Nice to see you straying into familiar territory for me, ie: how to feed the family without using, grains, pulses, beans, uncultured dairy, yeast, sugar, potatoes, parnips and foods containing a high level of salicylate…

    Luckily we can eat all kinds of critters, although I am still skirting past the tripe at the butchers, after first glancing over my shoulder to check Hugh Fearnley Wittingstall (a local) isn’t watching.

    I find meat balls are the meanest, especially fresh corriander ones – I have some bowling pin shaped blisters as proof.

    x x x

  • 42 joycooks // Nov 11, 2008 at 1:00 pm

    hey Claudia, haven’t been here in a while… been too busy! 😉 but this chicken looks like a winner and I will have to remember it. I wonder what kind of chickn you bought? they have a really good organic one I buy at the turnip truck. You gotta love Julia.

  • 43 jim voorhies // Nov 11, 2008 at 1:27 pm

    That looks fabulous.

  • 44 michelle @ TNS // Nov 11, 2008 at 10:35 pm

    it’s been a while since i graduated from law school – 4 whole years – but i’m fairly certain that i recall that in the correct circumstances, you ca, in fact, sue a chicken.

    if i didn’t hate olives i would love this. but i do, so there’s that.

  • 45 Mari // Nov 12, 2008 at 9:24 am

    I have to live with a fussy eater, lord help me. Granted, living with me has vastly broadened his culinary horizons, but the list is still quite long and includes everything in the genus Brassica.

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