Julia Child's Recipes. My Kitchen.

Follow along as I cook from volumes 1 and 2 of the culinary classic - with a modern makeover.

Chicken Bouillabaisse

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Julia Child and her husband Paul moved to France in November, 1948, and their lives were never the same. Of course, I'd like to think that if anybody moved to France their lives would never be the same, but you know what I mean.

If Julia hadn't fallen in love with living in Paris, Americans might never have fallen in love with Julia - quelle horreur! Julia might have decided to pursue a career in government service as Paul did, and Mastering the Art French Cooking would never have been written.

As it turned out, the Childs left France when Paul was transferred to Germany in 1955, but they returned frequently. They later bought a second home in Provence on a piece of property owned by Julia's collaborator Simone Beck, and it was there that Julia tested many of the recipes that would appear in the second volume of MTAOFC.

How lucky for us that she did, since certain flavors and ingredients of southern French cooking make their way into her recipes, adding regional flavor and spicing up the volumes. Without some saffron, a few cloves of garlic and Mediterranean herbs, the book might have verged on becoming a primer for an outdated version of la cuisine bourgeoise. What Julia describes as the fundamentals of "expert French home-style cooking" others have criticized as fussy recipes bogged down with too many steps and details.

This recipe for Chicken Bouillabaisse is a good example of how the book teaches a basic technique - poaching chicken - and then shows you how to create endless variations just by using different ingredients.

I love the Proven├žal flavors of saffron, garlic and fennel and didn't see the need to re-master much in this recipe. I used a bit more garlic and added fresh fennel to the vegetables, as I'm sure Julia would have if it had been readily available in the States in 1970. I also decided to throw a sweet, juicy orange into the poaching broth - it adds fragrant acidity and a touch of sweetness.

Chicken Bouillabaisse

Printable Recipe here
Serves 4
  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 small onion, sliced
  • 1 fennel bulb, trimmed and sliced
  • 4 finely chopped garlic cloves
  • 2 teaspoons chopped fresh thyme
  • ½ teaspoon ground fennel seed
  • ½ teaspoon saffron threads, crushed lightly with back of a spoon
  • ¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 1 cup dry white wine
  • 1 ½ cups canned diced or crushed tomatoes
  • 3 bone-in, skin-on chicken thighs
  • 3 bone-in, skin-on chicken drumsticks
  • Fine sea or kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • About 2 cups chicken stock
  • 1 small orange or tangerine, halved
1. Heat oven to 325 degrees.

2. In a large, deep skillet or in a Dutch oven, heat the oil over medium heat. Cook the onion and fennel slowly until tender – watch the heat so they don’t brown. I like to cover the pot slightly to help them sweat it out.

3. Stir in the garlic, thyme, fennel seed, saffron and cayenne and cook for a minute or two, until the mixture is fragrant.

4. Turn up the heat to medium-high and add the wine to the pan; cook for one minute and add the tomatoes. Bring to a lively simmer and cook until the tomato juices are reduced by half, about 3 minutes.

5. Season the chicken generously on all sides with salt and pepper. Arrange the chicken in the pan, nestling the pieces among and under the vegetables. Pour in enough stock to just barley cover the chicken. Toss the orange halves in the pan and bring to a simmer. Cover the pan and transfer to the oven.

6. Check the chicken after 25 minutes – it should be very tender when poked with a fork. It not, return the pan to the oven for another 5 to 10 minutes. Check the seasoning and add more salt and pepper if needed.

7. Serve the chicken over buttery couscous with lots of the sauce spooned over. If you can make this a day ahead or save some leftovers, the chicken will soak in the aromatic sauce and it will taste even better!

Inspired by a recipe in Mastering the Art of French Cooking, Volume 2 {page 261}


elfinpdx said...

I am SO hungry! Can you make this for me when I come to visit?

Somebody said...

I love this, mom! my mouth is watering!! great pictures, i know how hard you working on this!!

Etnier said...

Cook raw chicken in the oven for 25 minutes at 325 degrees? Presumably a typo, but I think this recipe should be checked for accuracy overall. It sure made a mess of our evening.

Even after turning up the heat and adding another 30 minutes or so, the ingredients really hadn't pulled together: too much liquid.

Loved the boeuf bourgignon, but this recipe needs serious work.

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