Provençal Chicken Pilaf

Poulet Sauté au Riz à la Provençale

Preparation info

  • Difficulty


  • Servings:


Appears in

Simple French Food

By Richard Olney

Published 1974

  • About

Sautés, stews, trussed whole chickens, and chicken pilafs, all doctored to suit the Mediterranean palate with olive oil, tomato, cayenne, garlic, peppers, onions, olives . . . are abandoned to a confusion of names that shift aimlessly among ingredients and garnishes from one reference book to another, poulet à la Nimoise, à la Niçoise, or à la Basquaise in one becoming à la Vauclusienne, à l’Arlésienne, or à la Marseillaise in the other—none all that different from à la Portugaise or à l’Espagnole.

If prepared in a sauce, rather than as an element in a pilaf, de-glaze with white wine after the vegetables have been sautéed, and add tomatoes at that time, preparing a pilaf, plain or saffroned, apart as accompaniment.

Butter-stewed artichoke hearts may be added at the same time as the olives; slices of eggplant fried in olive oil and drained and/or coin-thin slices of zucchini sautéed rapidly in olive oil provide a delicious terminal garnish. For a guestless meal, prepare it with wings alone—or leftover backs and necks.


  • 1 cut-up chicken (or 4 legs)
  • Salt
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 1 large sweet red or green pepper, emptied of seeds and cut into narrow strips
  • 3 cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • 1 cup long-grain rice (preferably non-treated), rinsed and well drained
  • 1 teaspoon crumbled oregano flowers
  • About teaspoon saffron (to taste)
  • 1 pinch whole saffron flowers (for effect)
  • Small pinch cayenne
  • Handful pitted rinsed black olives (not strongly flavored—the Niçoises are the best, but do not bother to pit them)
  • cups boiling water (or chicken stock)
  • 3 large ripe tomatoes, peeled, seeded, and cut up (or, out of season, preserved tomatoes)
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • Pepper
  • ½ teaspoon sugar
  • Fresh basil (if unavailable, substitute chopped parsley)


Use a large heavy copper plat à sauter or a wide earthenware poëlon. Brown the chicken pieces, salted, in the olive oil, remove them to a plate, and replace them by the onion and pepper, cooking over low flame and stirring regularly until soft and lightly colored. Sprinkle with salt (if moistening with chicken stock, take its saltiness into consideration), add the chopped garlic and the rice, stirring regularly with a wooden spoon until the rice turns milky-opaque in aspect, sprinkle over the oregano, the two saffrons, and the cayenne, stirring until the rice is saffron-stained, scatter over the olives, pour in the boiling liquid, and put back the chicken pieces, adding any juices that may have drained from them. Cover and cook over very low heat, a bare murmur at the liquid’s surface, for 15 minutes.

Gently stew the tomatoes, seasoned, sugar added, in the butter, stirring or tossing occasionally. Add them to the pilaf, strewing them regularly over the surface with their juices, without disturbing the rice, and leave again, tightly covered, over low heat, for another 15 minutes. Remove from heat, sprinkle surface with torn-up basil leaves and flowers, cover, and let stand another 5 minutes or so before serving.