You might think stews are for cold winter nights, but this Braised Basque Chicken Stew is made for hot summer days. Smoky flavors and fiery colors are the signature of this iconic dish of the French Basque Region Cuisine.
Between France and Spain, in the heart of the Pyrenees, the French Basque Country has probably one of the most resourceful cuisines in France. The region takes advantage of its warm climate and ideal location – one foot in the Altantic sea, one foot in the Pyrenees Mountains – to offer a cuisine with as many outstanding fish dishes as there are signature cured meats and chicken stews (and let’s not forget its iconic desserts like the Basque Cake!).
Like very often in terroir cuisine, it is impossible to find a unique recipe for this Braised Basque chicken stew. Many variations exist of this French Regional classic, with every family putting their own twist on it: black olives, cured ham or even sliced chorizo. However, the basic ingredients remain the same: braised chicken, red peppers, tomatoes and of course, the Espelette pepper.
The light and fragrant Espelette pepper is an AOC Chili pepper, grown only in the little town of Espelette and its nearby towns. It is a cornerstone of Basque cuisine, very often used as a replacement of black pepper. Some non-AOC Espelette powder can be found outside of France, but the taste is not quite authentic (often too dull). If you can’t get your hands on Espelette pepper, smoked paprika will do the trick, admirably.
This yesteryear French recipe is very home-cook friendly and a nice introduction to French stews. The use of seasonal peppers, tomatoes and dried herbs create vibrant sun-kissed flavours – very different from classic earthy stews.
This dish is meant to be enjoyed on its own – usually with a generous slice of bread. I like to serve it on a bed of rice. If you’re longing for some extra sun-kissed flavors, add some black olives or cured ham …
Braised Basque Chicken StewPrint This
6 skin-on chicken thighs
2 skin-on chicken breasts
2 yellow onions
2 garlic cloves
2 tablespoons Olive oil
2 red bell peppers
1 green pepper
2 large thyme sprigs
1 bay leaf
2 teaspoons Espelette pepper (or smoked paprika)
10cl dry white wine
1 pinch salt
1 pinch black pepper
2 tablespoon flat-leaf parsley for garnish
Peal, halve and thinly slice the onions. Peal and mince the garlic cloves. Halve and seed the peppers, and cut them into thin slices. Cut the tomatoes into small cubes.
Preheat your oven to 450F.
Meanwhile, in a Dutch oven or high-sided cast iron pan over medium heat, heat up 1 tablespoon of olive oil. Season the chicken with salt and pepper, then place in pan skin side down. Cook until the skin turns dark-brown, 5 to 7 minutes. Transfer the chicken to a plate.
In the same pot, over medium-high heat, add the other tablespoon of olive oil. Add in the garlic, onion and peppers, and cook until soft (about 5 minutes). Add in the cubed tomatoes, the thyme, the bay leaf and smoked paprika. Cover and let simmer for 15 minutes.
Add the chicken back into the pot, and pour in the white wine. Cover and let simmer again for 45 minutes.
After 45 minutes, the stew should have thickened and left a glistening and almost creamy consistency.
Remove the thyme and bay leaf.
Serve on its own, with a slice of bread or with some white rice.
This recipe is translated and adapted from the book “100 recettes classiques de la cuisine francaise”, by Hachette Cuisine.