where France meets Spain
September 21, 2012 § 11 Comments
I’ve always been a little confused whether the Basque region is part of Spain or France. Turns out it’s part of both. Called the Basque country, it straddles the northern Pyrenees mountain range and borders the Atlantic ocean. Here’s a map courtesy of Wikipedia.
The FFwD group made chicken basquaise this week. When you see ‘aise’ appended to a country’s name, that simply means “in the style of” in French. Basquaise implies peppers and tomatoes and lots of them, so it’s a perfect late summer dish to use our locally grown vegetables which are in abundance and great variety right now.
Here are the ingredients to make the pipérade which is the aromatic base for this stew – three kinds of peppers (green, I used my favorite Jimmy Nardello’s for the sweet red, and chiles for some spice), onion, garlic, thyme, oregano, bay leaf, dried Espelette pepper from the region and tomatoes. I used the juice from a zested orange since I had it.
Dorie Greenspan, the author of Around my French Table, gives very precise instructions to thinly slice the onion crosswise. When onion doesn’t need to be chopped or diced in small pieces, I tend to use a cut the French call émincée. Peel the onion, cut it in half lengthwise and then remove the core by cutting out a small wedge from the bottom of each half. Then slice thinly also lengthwise following the hemisphere shape of the onion so that each slice is a thin wedge. I like this shape, and the thin pieces cook quickly and evenly. Start sweating the onions in a little olive oil while you prep the rest of the vegetables.
The different peppers are sliced, along with the chile. I tasted the chile and it was hot enough that I decided to only add one, not the three the recipe called for. The peppers go in with the onion to also sweat, then the tomatoes, herbs and spices are added and the mixture simmered for about a half hour to meld their flavors. The chicken is separately browned and then combined with some of the pipérade and braised long enough to become tender 45 minutes or longer, depending on your chicken.
To me chicken basquaise served over rice is a colorful version of the more familiar Latin or Cuban arroz con pollo.
I made a second FFwD recipe with the breast meat and carcass from the whole chicken I got from Cure Farm for the basquaise recipe. Spicy Vietnamese Chicken Noodle Soup (Oct. 2010) was a fantastic flavorful and exotic version of a chicken soup.
I modified the recipe to use the aromatics to make a quick Asian influenced chicken broth with just 20 minutes of pressure cooking. Do you end up with what my friend Marcia calls “ginger turds” in your vegetable drawer (the leftover pieces you don’t use and they dry out or spoil)? I finally learned to peel all the ginger and then freeze whatever was left in small pieces. These thaw out quickly and are firm enough to slice, chop or mince for future dishes, instead of going to waste.
I made the curry variation of this soup. A key technique to enhancing the flavor of many spices is to cook them first (dry toast or in oil) before adding the rest of the ingredients. It’s absolutely critical to not burn them of course, you are just heating them enough to bring out their flavors. Instead of using bean sprouts for garnish, I used some fresh raw corn and tiny currant tomatoes, along with mint, cilantro and lime wedges. Oh, and since I had rice leftover from basquaise night, I used it instead of rice noodles. Now that it’s starting to cool down it will be fun and tasty to make this soup again and vary the seasonal garnishes.