Thursday, January 20, 2011

Chicken Basquiase

Chicken Basquiase

As promised, here is a recipe adapted from Dorie Greenspan's latest: Around My French Table. As an ignorant American, this was a dish that was completely new to me... but I found it to be both a straightforwardly classic braise to prepare and also a dish that came out pretty uniquely spiced and multilayed flavor-wise. The key element that makes this "Basquaise" is the ragout of sweet and spicy peppers, onions, tomatoes, and garlic called pipérade (pee-pay-RAHD). The preparation of this pipérade is also what makes this dish best suited to a Sunday dinner or as a two day affair, as it's a little time consuming to make, but keeps for a good bit.

Note that another thing that makes this dish "Basquaise" is a stupidly rare chile powder called Piment d'Espelette (1 ounce = $38). Now, I'm not above spending ridiculous amounts of money on specialty ingredients in the name of authenticity... I subscribe to Saveur after all and I've spent more on beans for cassoulet than I'd care to admit... and you shouldn't have to look to far for rhapsodic tales of Piment d'Espelette's pure awesome... but there is no reason something so simple as a particular type of chili powder should keep you from making this dish. Seriously. The dish pictured above was made with some ancho and allepo chili powders, because that's what I had, and it was great. I bet it would be just as great with paprika or cayenne, and those are what I have listed in the ingredients below...  but if you want to make the real thing, Piment d'Espelette is your choice here.

Also, in regards to peeling the peppers: charring the skin of the peppers on a gas burner (without cooking the flesh) and letting them cool (some suggest in a paper bag to let them steam a bit) before rubbing off the skin... is the best way to accomplish this. It's way better than peeling with your standard vegetable peeler, and I think I can say this with some authority. Greenspan calls peeling the peppers optional... and I suspect you'll not burn in foodie hellfire if you don't... but I've come to believe that in a long simmered ragout like this you'll be a lot happier if do.


  • 2 large Spanish or Vidalia onions, sliced lengthwise into 1/4" strips
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 4 green bell peppers, peeled, cut into 1/2" strips
  • 2 red bell peppers, peeled, cut into 1/2" strips
  • 3 serrano chiles, seeds removed, diced small
  • 6 whole peeled tomatoes from a 32 ounce can, cut into chunks
  • 4 medium garlic cloves, minced or pressed through a garlic press
  • 2 teaspoons kosher salt (or 1 teaspoon table salt)
  • Pinch of sugar
  • 2 thyme sprigs
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1/2 teaspoon of a "pure" chili powder, spicy paprika, cayenne, or aleppo 
  • 8 bone-in chicken thighs, about 2 pounds, at room temperature and patted dry
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • Salt and pepper
  • 3/4 cup dry white wine
  • White rice, for serving
  • Minced cilantro or basil, for garnish

  1. Heat 2 tablespoons of the oil over medium heat in a dutch oven or other large high sided pan with a lid. Cook onions in heated oil, stirring often, until softened but not colored, about 10 minutes.
  2. Add remaining tablespoon of oil, stir in the peppers and chiles, cover, reduce the heat to medium-low. Cook, stirring occasionally, until all the vegetables are quite soft, about 20 minutes.
  3. Add the tomatos, garlic, salt, sugar, thyme, bay leaf, chili powder, and freshly ground pepper. Stir to well, cover, and cook for another 10 minutes.
  4. Remove the cover and let simmer for another 15 minutes.
  5. Remove the thyme and bay leaf before tasting and seasoning to taste with more salt, pepper, and/or chili powder. The pipérade can be refrigerated for up to 4 days.
  1. Heat the oil (2 tablespoons - pay attention to how much this covers the bottom of your pot) in a Dutch oven over medium heat and brown the chicken pieces in batches (don't overcrowd!). Start skin side down and brown until golden, about 5 minutes, and then turn the pieces over and cook for another 3 minutes. Transfer the browned pieces to a bowl, season with salt and pepper, and continue until all batches are browned.
  2. Discard the oil, set pot back over high heat, add wine, and scrape up all browned bits with a wooded spoon. Continue cooking down wine until it has reduced to about 2 tablespoons (you paid attention to how much space those 2 tablespoons of oil took up, right?).
  3. Return the browned chicken to the pot, along with any accumulated juices, and spoon the pipérade over top.
  4. Bring the mixture to a boil, reduce the heat to produce the barest of simmers, cover, and simmer gently for 40 minutes.
  5. Adjust salt and pepper to taste and serve over white rice, sprinkled with your garnish of choice.

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