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IMG_9136The perfect one-dish meal! Poulet Basquaise is a standard plat du jour in many bistros across France and there must be at least a hundred interpretations of this classic dish. It originates in the Basque country and is traditionally made with a little Bayonne ham. The generic term Bayonne applies to any salt-cured ham that is air-dried for five months. You may use any unsmoked ham such as prosciutto or Serrano if you cannot find Bayonne. The difference between poulet basquaise and many other chicken and tomato stews is that here the onions and tomatoes are cooked separately from the chicken and peppers and the cooked chicken is served on a bed of the tomato and onion sauce. Additionally the dish tastes especially good due to the addition of Espelette pepper. It is a mildish pepper with lots of flavour and not much heat. If for some reason you cannot find ground piment d’Espelette, substitute 4 small, mildly hot peppers such as serrano peppers or use 1/2 teaspoon hot red pepper flakes. As with all spicy recipes, do feel free to adjust the amount of hot peppers to your taste! This dish is typically served with plain, white, boiled rice. It is a great do-ahead dish and tastes even better the next day.

Serves 6

Ingredients:

6 chicken legs (1 1/2 to 2 kg / 3 to 4 lbs)
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
Flour for dusting
3 tablespoons plus 2 tablespoons (5 total) rendered duck fat or vegetable oil
4 garlic cloves, peeled and thinly sliced
250g / 8oz Bayonne ham or prosciutto, diced
2 large onions, coarsely chopped
1kg / 2lb red and green bell peppers, cored, seeded and thickly sliced
1kg / 2 lb tomatoes, peeled, seeded and chopped (or 1 large can 750g / 28oz plum tomatoes, drained)
Pinch of sugar
1/2 teaspoon ground piment d’Espelette
Parsley, fresh and coarsely chopped for garnish

Preparation:

Season the chicken generously with salt and pepper and lightly dust with flour
In a large, deep and heavy skillet or dutch oven, heat the oil over moderately high heat
Add the chicken and cook on one side until a deep golden brown, about 5 minutes, then turn the pieces over and brown the other side, about 5 minutes more
Work in batches if to avoid overcrowding the pan
Return all the chicken to the pan
Add the garlic, bell peppers, chillis and ham
Cook, covered, over medium low heat until the chicken is cooked and the peppers are soft, about 45 minutes
Stir occasionally and adjust heat to avoid scorching
Meanwhile in another large skillet, heat the remaining 2 tablespoons oil over medium high heat
Add the onions, reduce heat and cook until very soft, about 5 minutes
Add the tomatoes, sugar and piment d’Espelette
Cook for 30 minutes
Season to taste
(The dish can be made ahead up to this point – reheat both mixtures separately before serving)
To serve, spoon the tomato and onion mixture into a deep platter, cover with the chicken, garnish with parsley and serve immediately, with white rice
Enjoy!

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