Poulet Basquaise (Basque chicken) brings together the flavours of France and Spain to create a fabulous meal.
Basque chicken is a wonderful, one-pot, stewed chicken dish from the inland Basque region, which straddles both France and Spain across the Pyrenees. Thus it combines both French and Spanish flavours in a dish that is simple to make and can easily become a family favourite.
The chicken is stewed in a piperade sauce made from onions, sweet bell peppers, and tomatoes. It also includes a wee hit of spice thanks to the inclusion of piment d’Espelette (Espelette chili powder), a pepper cultivated in Espelette, in the Pyrénées-Atlantiques region. This is a rather mild chili powder with a lovely flavour. If you can't find it in local stores it can be purchased online, or swapped with paprika if necessary. However, I highly recommend trying to find it if you can as paprika doesn't quite match the flavour of piment d'Espelette.
I make my Basque chicken slightly differently than is traditional. I prefer to use the fat from rendered bacon as the oil used to cook this meal. The cooked bacon is reintroduced later in the preparation to add even more flavour. Other fats that could be used are duck, or goose if these are readily available. Some other additional ingredients that can be included are mushrooms, diced Bayonne ham (a traditional addition), and a splash of white wine.
Basque chicken can be served along side just about anything. I enjoy it with couscous, but rice, potatoes, quinoa, etc. are all perfectly fine as well.
(Makes 6 servings)
6 slices of bacon, chopped
6 bone-in skin-on chicken thighs (can be any part of the chicken, or a mix)
1 medium sweet onion, cut into thin wedges
1 red bell pepper, deseeded and sliced
1 yellow bell pepper, deseeded and sliced
2 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
3 sprigs fresh thyme
1 teaspoon Espelette chili powder (or paprika)
1 can (28oz) San Marzano tomatoes, diced
1 tablespoon fresh parsley, chopped
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
Preheat the oven to 350°F / 180°C and set an oven rack in the centre position.
In a 3-quart, cast-iron casserole dish or skillet over medium-high heat, add the bacon. Sauté until the fat has rendered out of the bacon and the pieces start to crisp. Remove the bacon from the pan with a slotted spoon, transfer to a paper towel-lined dish and set aside.
Add the chicken thighs to the pan, skin-side down, and brown until the skin is golden. Flip and cook an additional 5 to 6 minutes on the opposite side. Remove from the pan and transfer to a plate. Lightly sprinkle the chicken with salt and pepper on all sides and set aside.
Chances are, there will be a large amount of oil in the pan after the chicken thighs are removed. Carefully use tongs and a wad of paper towel to absorb most of the oil, but not all. There should be a few teaspoons remaining to continue cooking. Carefully discard the paper towel.
Add the onion and sliced bell peppers to the pan and sauté until they start to soften (about 5 minutes). As the vegetables soften and release their water, use it to help lift the fond that formed on the bottom of the pan while the bacon and chicken cooked. Add the garlic and sprigs of thyme then sauté for an additional minute. Reintroduce the bacon and sprinkle the contents of the pan with the Espelette chili powder (or paprika), mix well, then add the diced tomatoes. (If you are unable to find San Marzano tomatoes diced or crushed, simply mash the whole tomatoes, purée them in a food processor, or squish them with clean hands as they are added to the pan.) Combine well and allow the mixture to come up to a boil. Cook for 7 or 8 minutes to allow the liquid from the tomatoes to reduce and the contents of the pan to start to thicken.
Nestle the chicken back in the pan, skin side up, then place in the oven, uncovered, to cook for 45 minutes, or until the chicken is thoroughly cooked (internal temperature of 165°F / 74°C). (Alternately, this can be cooked on the stovetop over medium-low heat, partially covered, until the chicken is cooked.)
Remove from the oven, remove the thyme sprigs, and taste for seasoning. Adjust with additional salt and ground black pepper as needed. Sprinkle with the chopped parsley and serve with your favourite side (rice, potatoes, couscous, quinoa, etc.).
Nutritional Information Per Serving:
total calories = 377 | total fat = 23.83g | saturated fat = 7.42g | cholesterol = 174.33mg | sodium = 656.74mg | net carbohydrates = 7.42g | dietary fibre = 1.41g | sugars = 4.24g | protein = 34.28g