We’ve cooked up a storm over the summer at our little pop up restaurant La Petite Bouchee and one of the favourite dishes on our menu during this time has been our Basque Chicken. Slightly sweet from the peppers, sour from the vinegar and punchy from the Piment d’Espelette a fabulous basque spice which is hugely popular in the kitchen now ! Poulet Basquaise is a Chicken Casserole Recipe popular in the Basque Country. This the region that straddles the French-Spanish border along the western Pyrenees and the coastline of the Bay of Biscay. It is both a mountainous and coastal region. The Basque region has its own history and cooking traditions that are somewhat distinct from the rest of France. It features lots of seafood (squid in its own ink, for example), garlic, and olive oil and tends to be a bit spicier than most French cooking and, as with all good French cooking, the emphasis is always on quality, fresh ingredients.
One of the key ingredients of this dish from the Basquue is the Piment d’Espelette, a hot chilli pepper that will definitely give you some heat. This particular hot French chilli pepper,is produced in only ten villages in France with a total growing area of just 3,000 acres, earning it the coveted Appellation d’Origine Contrôlée (AOC) designation because, like champagne, the chillies are unique and grown in only that one well-defined geographic region. In any event, piment d’Espelette is harvested in late summer, when the bright red peppers are strung like the chile ristras of the Southwest US, and hung on the lovely white houses of the villages to dry in the sun.
The Espelette chilli pepper was classified as an AOC product On 1 June 2000, it and was confirmed as an APO product on 22 August 2002. This chilli pepper was introduced into France from the New World during the 16th century. After first being used medicinally, it subsequently became popular for use as a condiment and for the conservation of meat and ham. It is now a cornerstone of Basque cuisine, where it has gradually replaced black pepper and is a key ingredient in piperade. Espelette peppers are cultivated in the following communes: Ainhoa, Cambo-les-Bains, Espelette, Halsou, Itxassou, Jatxou, Larressore, Saint-Pée-sur-Nivelle, Souraïde, and Ustaritz. It is harvested in late summer and, in September. An annual pepper festival, attracting some 20,000 tourists, is held in October. This pepper attains a maximum grade of 4,000 on the Scoville scale, so is only mildly hot.
- 3 tbsp of plain flour
- A large pinch of piment d’Espelette ( more if you love heat)
- A large pinch of sea salt and freshly milled black pepper or to taste
- 1 kg of chicken legs and thighs
- 5 tbsp olive oil
- A whole head of garlic, cut into thin slices
- 300ml of good chicken stock
- A large glass of dry white wine
- A splash of Sauvignon Blanc vinegar
- 2 green peppers, finely sliced
- 2 red peppers, finely sliced
- 2 onions, thinly sliced
- A handful of chopped fresh parsley
- 1 can of premium chopped tomatoes
- 2 bay leaves
- A couple of sprigs of thyme, finely chopped
- A sprigs of rosemary, finely chopped
Place the flour, Piment d’Espelette, salt, and pepper together in a small mixing bowl and stir.Evenly coat the chicken pieces with the spices flour mixture and set them aside. Heat A large glug of olive oil in a large casserole over medium-high heat. Brown the chicken pieces evenly on each side until they have a good colour all over. Turn down the heat then add the garlic, wine, vinegar and chicken stock to the casserole, cover and cook for 15 minutes on a high heat. Mix the sliced peppers into the chicken, add the herbs and continue cooking for an another 15 minutes, until the peppers are just soft. Next add the onions to another sauté pan, reduce the heat and cook the onions until they are soft. Add the tomatoes and continue cooking for another 35 minutes. Add to the chicken and combine. Serve with plain boiled rice or some sourdough bread.