Poulet Basquaise

Joined Feb 13, 2008
The original impetus for this recipe was a gift of piment d’espelette; and the impetus for the gift was inspiration from a recipe for poulet basquaise on Chowhound. There are enough differences in both ingredient and explanation of technique to say that as it now stands it’s an original recipe, but credit where credit due. H/t to Chowhound.

The following impetus to post the recipe is from a CT moderator, Cape Chef. He posted a question to which piment d’espelette was the answer in the “Ask the person below” thread. H/t to Cape Chef.

Speaking of piment d’espelette, it’s THE French pepper. The only important pepper native to France, it even has AOC status. In the recipe, “medium paprika” is given as an alternative to piment d’espelette and “don’t bother.” Actually you could use any good paprika that isn’t extremely hot with good results, but piment d’espelette is the only one that makes the poulet officially basquaise. You can find it online if nowhere else – worth the trouble.

This is one of those simple assemblages which actually requires mastery of technique to do right. As a simple recipe, I'd call it "deceptively intermediate." But here, the technique is so exhaustively explained, an ambitious beginner can do a perfectly fine job.

Serves four as part of a multi-course meal; or as dinner for two, with leftovers

Difficulty Level: Beginner


Poulet Basquaise:
1 recipe piperade, follows
8 chicken thighs; alternatively, 8 chicken breasts; alternatively, 1 whole chicken cut into 8 pieces

6 - 8 ripe Roma tomatoes, or 28 oz can (preferably San Marzano) whole tomatoes.
2 red or yellow bell peppers
2 green bell peppers
4 tbs (1/4 cup) extra virgin olive oil, divided into 2 tbs portions
4 oz sliced prosciutto (jambon de Bayonne is traditional, but good luck finding it).
2 Spanish (aka brown or yellow) onions
2 cloves garlic
2 tbs parsley
1 tbs fresh thyme (or 1 tsp dried)
2 tsp piment d’espelette (you may substitute a good medium paprika if you must)


Prepare the piperade as follows

If you you’re using fresh tomatoes, peel and seed them. If you don’t know how to peel and seed tomatoes:

Bring a pan of water to the boil. Meanwhile prepare a large bowl of ice water. Wash the tomatoes, do not bother drying them. Using your “petty” if you have one, or a paring knife if you don’t, cut the stem off the tomatoes, if they have them. Very contingent, no? Cut a shallow cross at the tip (other end from the stem) of each tomato .

Put two tomatoes at a time in the boiling water, and “blanch” until the skin starts to pucker, about 20 seconds. Remove them from the boiling water, and plunge into the ice water bath – “shocking” them.

Remove the tomatoes from the ice water, to peel one at a time. Use your knife to start peeling where you incised the cross. It should go quite easily.

When you have the tomato peeled discard the peel, and hold it (the tomato not the peel) over the sink. Give it a good squeeze and the seeds, any mealy pulp, and the water will fall out. Reserve the tomato in a separate bowl. Continue until all of the tomatoes are peeled and seeded.

If you’re using canned tomatoes, drain them.

Use your chef’s knife or santoku to rough chop the tomato pulp, and reserve it in a bowl.

If you’re good with a knife, continue preparing your mise as follows: Use your chef’s knife or santoku, julienne the bell peppers and onions. Chop the garlic fine. Rough chop the hebs. You may chiffonade the prosciutto or cut it into paysanne (squares about 3/8" x 3/8").

If your idea of a sharp knife includes serration, or if onion always makes you cry (you’re cutting too slow and too dull), or the idea of actually cutting things as thin as “matchsticks” leaves you in the dust – don’t make yourself miserable. We’ll do knife skills another time. Meanwhile, use your mandoline or food processor to do the cutting for you. If you don’t have a machine to do it for you, there’s just no way the peppers and onions are going to be thin sliced. Just do your best and remember, plenty of great cooks aren’t great knife artists. It will be fine.

Preheat a rondeau, Dutch oven, or similar heavy, large diameter pot, over a medium-high flame, then add the oil. As soon as the oil runs thin and/or shimmers at the surface (about a minute), it’s ready to saute. Add the ham and cook until browned. Remove it with a slotted spoon and set aside.

Saute the onions and peppers until the onion is soft and begins to show color. Add the garlic, give it a stir and cook for another minute. Then add the remaining seasons, including the piment d’espelette, and two pinches of salt, stir, and allow to cook for another minute.

Add the tomatoes, stir, reduce the heat to medium low, and bring to a simmer. Salt to taste. Cook at a simmer, stirring occasionally, around 10 minutes until the tomatoes break down, the mixture thickens, and the flavors marry. Taste again, and adjust for salt if necessary.

Empty the piperade (minus the ham) into a bowl and reserve it on the counter.

Now, en fin, the Poulet Basquaise:
Clean your rondeau by wiping it well. You may rinse and dry if you like, but I wouldn’t waste the time. Dry is more important than absolutely clean.

The chicken must be dry as well. Dry the chicken pieces on both sides with paper towels. Then season them on both sides with a pinch of salt each. Because the piperade is already well salted, you can be conservative with the pieces.

Set the flame to medium-high again and return the rondeau to the heat. When the pan is hot, add the oil. When the oil is hot add 4 pieces of (dry!) chicken, skin side down. Brown the chicken. Brown it well.

Note: It will take something in excess of five minutes to brown the skin side of each piece, probably closer to eight minutes. Small pieces will brown quicker than large. Don’t hurry it. While a piece browns on the first side, DO NOT try not to move it with a spatula, tongs, spoon, fork or any other tool. This will cause the skin to stick and come off the piece. Rather, when you suspect the chicken is well browned, shake the pan. If the chicken doesn’t moved, it isn’t browned. Wait a minute and try again. No move? Wait another minute and try again. Finally, if you’re sure the skin is browned, you can use your tongs or spatula. Start by tapping a piece on its side to try and break it loose, rather than prying it off the bottom of the pot.

Turn each piece when ready, and brown the second side. It will go much quicker. Remove the pieces as they are browned. When the first four pieces are browned, do the second four. When they are browned, remove them as well.

Reduce the heat to medium low, add the piperade, add the chicken on top of it, bring to a simmer, reduce the heat to hold the simmer, cover and cook until the chicken is done – about 20 minutes more.

Plating (mirabile dictu):
Plate the dish by putting a little (or un petit peu, if you prefer) of the piperade on the plate, a couple of chicken pieces on it, then nappe the chicken with lots more piperade. Finally, sprinkle the browned ham (aka lardons) over. The traditional accompaniments are buttered, boiled rice; or mashed or sautéed potatoes.

Et voila

PS. This piece is original with me. If you like it and want to share it with someone else, you have my permission on satisfaction of both of the following conditions: First, your sharing is not for gain; and second, you attribute it to me, Boar D. Laze. I would consider it a kindness if you would also mention my eventually to be finished book, COOK FOOD GOOD: American Cooking and Technique for Beginners and Intermediates.

PPS. As always, I request your comments and feedback. If you enjoy my recipes, the best way to pay me back is to help me improve them. Thanks in advance.
Joined Jul 31, 2000
This really is how I prepare and teach this dish. The only thing I would change is substitute the "B" with a "M" for the tomatoes, and I love to serve it with simple steamed rice.
Joined Feb 1, 2007
Speaking of piment d’espelette, it’s THE French pepper

Funny how these things work, isn't it. Most people think piment d'espelette is Spanish. But of course you are right. Not only is it French, it's growing region is tiny, with the chilies only grown in and around the town of Espelette. As "paprika" goes, it's kind of pricy. But well worth the premium. There really is no substitute.

4 oz sliced prosciutto (jambon de Bayonne is traditional, but good luck finding it).

Wouldn't serrano be more in keeping with the Basque theme than prosciutto? It's getting to be more and more common. Heck, I can even get serrano in Lexington, which is saying something.
Joined Aug 25, 2009
Chef BDL,

I think your recipe is just terrific , enjoyed the terms and especially the technique.

My father is fond of these spices.....

I am glad there was mention of this in the thread.

A lovely dish to serve with rice on a day like today (snow storm).....a " Keeper".

Thank you,
Joined Feb 13, 2008
As in Spanish country ham is more like Bayonne ham than Italian country ham? Considering it's only lardon fodder, it probably doesn't make much of a difference in the overall quality of the dish. That said, you've raised a good point. Degree of authenticity should count for something, and details most definitely do count.

If the dish were on the menu of my own (hypothetical) restaurant, would I bother searching out Bayonne ham, or use Serrano rather than relatively inexpensive, domestic prosciutto? Don't know.

When wrote the first draft yesterday I had a couple of sentences about it. But at some point discussing ingredient alternatives makes even the longest recipes too long. I thought the piment d'espelette discussion was enough for a recipe which already went into enormous detail in terms of technique. There's an old Latin phrase, coined by Horace I think, with which you're undoubtedly familiar: "genug shoyn."

I'm glad the topic was brought up after the recipe as it certainly has a place in the discussion. Thanks for raising it. You personally, and posts like this one of yours, are two of the great things about Chef Talk.

Joined Feb 1, 2007
You personally, and posts like this one of yours, are two of the great things about Chef Talk.

Shucks. Now I'll have to go out and buy a bigger hat. :eek:
Joined Dec 23, 2000
Pretty soon you two are going to be "all hat and no cattle"... :roll:

And - my Latin is a little rusty, but doesn't "genug shoyn" roughly translate as

"Enough, already!" ??

Mike :lol:
Joined Feb 13, 2008

LOL, I'm already there. Good job on the Latin translation, by the way. Let's see how you do on this phrase from Ovid:

A brocheh ahf dein kop, a freylikhe nitl un a guter nayer yor.
Joined Aug 7, 2008
Maybe in the next life I will get to go bird hunting in the basque region. The dish sounds great. I'm marking this one to try in the future with partridge.
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