Friday, October 26, 2012

Chicken Basquaise

This is a classic dish from the Basque region in France and one that I have not made in years.  The recipe I made years ago contained red and green peppers, onions, tomatoes, a little heat from spices and some chopped up ham.  The current recipe I used had the same traditional ingredients with the exception of the ham which I actually liked better.  I used to find the ham a little too salty and overwhelming for the dish.  This is a good, hearty fall dish that scented the entire motor home while I was making it.

Chicken Basquaise
Makes 4-6 servings

2 big Spanish or Vidalia onions
3 tablespoons olive oil
4 green bell peppers
2 red bell peppers
3 mild chiles (or another red pepper)
6 tomatoes, peeled and cut into chunks
2-4 garlic cloves, minced
2 teaspoons sea salt, or more to taste
Pinch of sugar
2 thyme sprigs
1 bay leaf
1/4-1/2 teaspoon Anaheim chile powder or plain chili powder
Freshly ground pepper
1 chicken, about 4 pounds, preferably organic, cut into 8 pieces or 8 chicken thighs, at room temperature
2 tablespoons olive oil
salt and freshly ground pepper
3/4 cup dry white wine
White rice, for serving
Minced fresh basil and/or cilantro, for garnish (optional)

Cut the onions in half form top to bottom.  Lay each piece flat side down and cut in half again from top to bottom, stopping just short of the root end; cut each half onion crosswise into thin slices.

Put a Dutch oven or large high sided skillet with a cover over medium heat and pour in 2 tablespoons of the oil.  Warm the oil for a minute, then toss in the onions and cook stirring, for 10 minutes, or until softened but not colored.

Meanwhile, cut the peppers and chiles in half, trim the tops, remove the cores, and remove the seeds.  Cut the bell peppers lengthwise into strips about 1/2 inch wide.  Thinly slice the chiles.

Add the remaining tablespoon of oil to the pot, stir in the peppers and chiles, cover, and reduce the heat to medium-low.  Cook and stir for another 20 minutes, or until all the vegetables are quite soft.

Add the tomatoes, garlic, salt, sugar, thyme, bay leaf, chili powder, and freshly ground pepper to taste, stir well, cover, and cook for 10 minutes more.  Remove the cover and let the piperade simmer for another 15 minutes.  You'll have a fair amount of liquid in the pot, and that's fine.  Remove the thyme and bay leaf.  Taste and add more salt, pepper, or chili powder if you think it needs it.

Pat the chicken pieces dry.  Warm the oil in a dutch over or other heavy casserole over medium-high heat.  Add a couple of chicken pieces, skin side down (don't crowd the chicken - do this in batches), and cook until the skin is golden, about 5 minutes.  Turn the pieces over and cook for another 3 minutes.  Transfer the pieces to a bowl, season with salt and pepper, and continue until all the chicken is browned.

Discard the oil, set the pot over high heat, pour in the wine, and use a wooden spoon to scrape up any bits that might have stuck to the bottom.  Let the wine bubble away until it cooks down to about 2 tablespoons.  Return the chicken to the pot, add any juices that have accumulated in the bowl, and spoon in the piperade.  Bring the mixture to a boil, then reduce the heat so that the piperade just simmers, cover the pot, and simmer gently for 40 minutes, or until the chicken is cooked through.  Taste for salt and pepper and adjust the seasonings as needed.

Serve over white rice, sprinkled with the basil and/or cilantro, if using.

Adapted from Around my French Table

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