How to Make Roast Chicken with Tomatoes and Olives (Poulet Provencal)

Poulet Aux Herbes de Provence.  A very simple recipe, one we make often.

But first, a short note about Provencal cooking, from Richard Olney’s Provence: the Beautiful Cookbook

     While Provencal cooking enraptures poet and traveler alike, it does not put on airs.  Indeed, from the Alps to the Mediterranean it is often dubbed the “poor man’s cuisine.”  This is exactly what gives it strength and imagination.  Other regions of France possess more obvious wealth and traditions, and to the eyes of the world are seen as the culinary power brokers and custodians of the science of taste.  They will keep you at the table for hours.  Here, impetuous winds (the mistral off the water and the tramontana from the north), a burning sun, dry earth and the brisk, choppy sea have dictated other, more immediate rituals and knowledge.

     Provence, before it became a pacific territory to be conquered only by the tourist, experienced much unhappiness and many invasions in the course of its history.  It learned from such excursions to nourish its men and women to live long and to live on little.


Recipe, from Gourmet magazine, March 2008.

yield: Makes 4 servings
active time: 25 min
total time: 1 1/2 hr 

Featuring olive oil and the combined herbs and produce of the south of France, this one-dish country dinner will transport you to a café table in Aix in a heartbeat.


  • 1 pound tomatoes (3 to 4 medium), cut into wedges
  • 1 large onion, cut into wedges, leaving root ends intact
  • 1/2 cup drained brine-cured black olives, pitted if desired
  • 4 large garlic cloves, sliced, plus 1 teaspoon minced
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil, divided
  • 2 teaspoons herbes de Provence, divided
  • 1/2 teaspoon fennel seeds
  • 1 whole chicken (about 3 1/2 pounds)


  • Equipment: kitchen string
  • Accompaniment: crusty bread
  • Garnish: chopped flat-leaf parsley


Preheat convection oven to 400°F for regular oven to 425°F with rack in middle. 
Toss together tomatoes, onion, olives, sliced garlic, 2 tablespoons oil, 1 teaspoon herbes de Provence, fennel seeds, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and 1/4 teaspoon pepper in a 13- by 9-inch or other 3-quart shallow baking dish. Push vegetables to sides of dish to make room for chicken. 
Stir together minced garlic, 1 teaspoon salt, 1/2 teaspoon pepper, remaining teaspoon herbes de Provence, and remaining tablespoon olive oil. 
Remove excess fat from chicken and pat dry, then rub inside and out with seasoning mixture. Tie legs together with string, then put chicken in baking dish. 
Roast until an instant-read thermometer inserted into thickest part of a thigh (do not touch bone) registers 170°F, about 1 hour in convection oven; 1 to 1 1/4 hours in regular oven. 
Let chicken stand 10 minutes before carving. Serve with vegetables and pan juices.


– I never use canned olives.
– You can use commercially-prepared herbes de provence (Cost Plus World Market has them), but according to Richard Olney, these usually contain too many herbs, including rosemary, lavender and sage.  For Olney, a good mixture is composed of thyme, oregano, savory and marjoram, in descending proportions.

Here’s a picture of a roast we recently made.