Julia Child’s Bouillabaisse de Poulet with Pistou

Julia Child’s Bouillabaisse de Poulet with Pistou


I think the first time I saw Julia Child was on an episode of Martha Stewart more than 15 years ago.  That’s tantamount to sacrilege if you love food as much as I do and I’ve had to think about why I never knew about her.  Her television show ran for a decade beginning in 1963, and that was about the time my family moved to Spain.  We had no television for the four years we lived there.  And once we returned to the States mesmerized by the general idea of television, we were busy watching reruns of shows we’d never seen — most of which were situation comedies.

Now that I think of it, I did watch Graham Kerr, The Galloping Gourmet, so maybe it the culprit was our less than stellar reception in the pre-cable television days.  Who knows, but it wasn’t until I was much older and wanting to put together a multiple course dinner for six with wine pairings (I knew almost nothing about wine) that I bought both volumes of Mastering the Art of French Cooking and began to decipher its then unfamiliar recipe structure. I was fascinated by just how many ways a basic recipe could become something completely different with a few adjustments.

Years passed before I really had the opportunity to get to know Julia —  I tackled her French Bread recipe and have had nothing but admiration for her since.

In celebration of her 100th birthday, I chose a recipe from Volume Two of Mastering the Art of French Cooking:  “Bouillabaisse de Poulet” (Chicken Poached in White Wine with Provencal Vegetables, Herbs, and Flavorings) which included a “Pistou” (Herb, Cheese, and Garlic Finish).

If you enjoy flavorful chicken served in an amazing light sauce, you will love this classic recipe.

Here’s to Julia on her 100th birthday!

Bouillabaisse de Poule with Pistou

Serves 4

Bouillabaisse de Poulet Ingredients

1/2 white onion, sliced

1/2 c. sliced leek, white part only

1/4 c. olive oil

4-5 whole tomatoes, peeled and seeded

2 cloves garlic, smashed

2-1/2 lbs. chicken, cut into parts

salt to taste

1-1/2 c. dry white wine

2 c. chicken stock

1 bay leaf

1/2 tsp. thyme

1/4 tsp. fennel seeds, smashed

2 pinches saffron

a 2″ piece of orange peel

big pinch of pepper

pinch of cayenne

more salt to taste

Pistou Ingredients

2 large cloves garlic

12 large fresh basil leaves

1/4 c. Parmesan, freshly grated

3 T tomato paste

4 dashes Tabasco sauce


  1. In a large covered pan or casserole which can do double duty on the stove top and oven, cook the onions and leeks in the olive oil over low heat, about 10 minutes.  Do not let them brown.
  2. While the onions are cooking, prepare the tomatoes by adding them whole to a heat proof measuring cup and pouring boiling water over them.  Allow them to sit about a minute before pouring off the hot water and adding cold.  The peelings should rub right off.  Cut each in half and scrap out the seeds.  Discard peelings and seeds.
  3. Add the tomatoes and garlic to the onion mixture and cover, allowing to cook for 5 minutes.  Remove the lid and increase the heat to medium and allow the released juices to nearly evaporate.
  4. While the tomatoes are cooking, lightly salt the chicken pieces, then add them to the tomato and onion mixture.  Nestle the pieces down into the pan and spoon some of the tomatoes over the top of the chicken pieces.  Cover and cook for 10 minutes, turning the pieces once about half way through the cooking time.
  5. Pour the wine and the broth over the chicken making sure the pieces are completely submerged.
  6. Add the herbs and other seasonings, stirring lightly to mix them into the liquid.  Cover and bring to a simmer, allowing to cook 25 minutes more either in a preheated 325 degree oven or on the stove top until the chicken is done.
  7. While the chicken is cooking prepare the pistou by mincing the garlic with a bit of salt until it is a paste.
  8. Stack the basil leaves on top of one another, roll them together, then slice very thinly.
  9. Add the garlic past and basil to a small bowl and combine with the Parmesan, tomato paste, and Tobasco sauce.  Mix well.
  10. When the chicken is done, stir the pistou into the broth.
  11. Taste to correct seasoning and serve directly from the pot.


Recipe Notes

  • Although the name of this dish may sound fancy, it’s quite a simple dish that is easy to prepare.  The recipe allows for many options such as canned tomatoes instead of fresh, dried herbs in place of fresh, and French vermouth instead of white wine.
  •  The broth is truly heavenly!  We enjoyed this with pieces of crusty bread we used to soak up the broth.
  • Bouillabaisse is traditionally a type of fish stew made with vegetables similar to Julia’s chicken version presented here.  Essentially, the technique involves bringing the ingredients to a boil, then simmering them with Provencal herbs before serving it poured over bread and a rouille which Julia describes as a “garlic, pimento, chili pepper sauce.  I decided to go with the pistou instead.
  • I left the skin on the chicken during the cooking process, so there was fat that needed to be spooned off before serving.  If you decided to make this dish a day before, the fat would solidify in the fridge, so removing it before reheating it would be easy.
  • I wanted to use my Emile Henry covered casserole for this dish, but it’s not flame proof, so confess I prepared the dish in my dutch oven and right before it was time for the final cooking, I poured it into the casserole and popped it in the oven.  The nice thing about the casserole is that it’s earthenware (very French!) and it keeps the food very hot which is nice.
  • Julia states that this dish is actually quite good served cold, but we loved it so much there were no left overs to find that out for ourselves.
  • I normally don’t peel or seed tomatoes when I cook, but every once in a while decide not to be so lazy.  The technique I describe in the recipe is actually one I learned from Gordon Ramsay and it works quite well.  Julia asks that the tomatoes also be “juiced” and I’m not sure about what that means other than scraping them against a grater or running them through my food mill.  I decided to just quarter them.  I like chunks of tomatoes in a dish like this.

Celebrating Julia Child’s 100th Birthday from Around the Web

PBS Food — Cook for Julia

The Perfect Pantry — Chocolate Chip Spice Pound Cake

Kalyn’s Kitchen — Julia Child’s Eggplant Pizzas

Andrea Myers — Eggplant Gratin

The Endless Meal — Julia Child’s Coq au Vin

Living Tastefully — Charlotte Chantilly aux Fraises