About four years ago, I roasted my first whole chicken on my own. I remember walking through the grocery store with my iPhone 3GS in hand, scrolling through Epicurious for a supper idea when I found Gourmet magazine’s Braised Chicken with Tomatoes and Olives (Poulet Provencal) recipe from its May 2008 issue. I’m not sure why they called it “braised” chicken because the recipe requires you to cook it in the oven, but one thing that I can agree on is that its delicious because of the tomato, onion, garlic and herb sauce that’s left at the bottom of the roasting dish. In fact, I loved the fixings so much that I re-created these flavors as a stand alone side dish, without any chicken, in the recipe below.
Tomato and Onion Provencal Gratin, serves 4 as a side
3-4 medium tomatoes, sliced into wedges
1 medium onion, sliced into wedges connected at the top
3-4 garlic cloves, sliced
1 tsp. Herbes de Provence
1 tsp. fennel seeds, crushed slightly
1 tbsp. olive oil
1/2 tsp. salt
1/3 cup Italian bread crumbs
1/4 cup grated parmesan
2 tbsp. melted butter, divided
2 tbsp. flour
1 cup milk
1 tsp. fresh thyme, chopped
1/4 tsp. freshly grated nutmeg
Preheat the oven to 400 degree F. Toss tomatoes, onions, garlic, Herbes de Provence, fennel, olive oil and 1/2 tsp salt in a baking dish until the oil, herbs and garlic are well distribute over the tomatoes and onions. Place into the oven on the middle rack and roast for 35-45 minutes.
Meanwhile, prepare the bread crumb topping and the roux. For the topping, combine one tablespoon of melted butter, bread crumbs and grated parmesan in a bowl and reserve.
Then, in a heavy-bottomed sauce pan, stir together one tablespoon of butter and two tablespoons of flour over medium heat to cook away the flour taste. When the mixture is golden, should only take a minute or two, add milk, thyme, nutmeg and some salt and pepper to taste. Keep stirring (to prevent lumps) until the mixture comes to boil and begins to thicken; at that point, remove it from the flame.
When the tomatoes have released their juices and the onions have begun to caramelize, remove from the oven, stir in the roux and sprinkle on the bread crumbs. Return the dish back into the to bake until the top begins to brown, about 15 minutes.
Serve as a side dish on its own or as an hor d’oeuvre with a baguette.