Now that I teased you with some délicieux French wines, I have a quick and flavorful French dish today! Of the many Julia Child recipes I've pored over throughout my love affair with French food, Poulet Basquaise keeps bubbling up to the surface. The dish - which, in English, is called Basque Chicken - naturally comes from the Basque region of France. I found this particular iteration of the dish on a French website called Marmiton, which means 'scullion' in French, which means 'a servant assigned the most menial kitchen tasks'. And yes, I newly learned the word 'scullion' when making this recipe.
- 1 chicken, cut up (I used breasts and legs, but reserved the wings for stock later)
- about 8 Roma tomatoes, peeled and chopped
- 2 red bell peppers and 1 green bell pepper
- 3 yellow onions, chopped
- 3 cloves garlic, finely diced
- 1 glass of white wine
- 1 bouquet garni of fresh thyme and sage
- 3 dried bay leaves
The trickiest word that stood out was "peeled". Peeling tomatoes isn't difficult, but requires a little bit of setup. My mom taught me this well-known trick years ago and it is a simple but very useful one to add to your arsenal of kitchen techniques.
First, cut a small X at the base of the tomato (opposite from where it attached to the stem). Then, boil a pot of water. You'll basically dunk the tomatoes into the boiling water for at most one minute. For big tomatoes, you can do one by one. I just plopped the whole mess of Romas into the pot this time. After juuuust that quick trip into the jacuzzi, immediately transfer the tomatoes to cold water. For me, I drained them and then re-filled the pot with icy cold water from the tap. In the past, I've set up a cold water bowl and will just spoon the tomatoes directly into it. Whatever suits you - the point it so go from hot hot to cold cold. Once the tomatoes have cooled slightly, the skin of the tomatoes will very easily peel off. Once peeled, I quartered each tomato lengthwise and cut the quarters in half.
The second bit of prep I did was making the bouquet garni. This is basically a fancy term for Fresh Herbs Tied Together. The recipe called for fresh thyme, fresh sage, and fresh bay, but I only found the first two of the three. I tied the sage and thyme together with some twine.
Tomatoes and herbs prepped, I cut up my peppers, garlic, and onions and started cooking.
The original recipe requires two pans - one to cook the vegetables and one to brown the chicken. In the interest of (A) flavor (B) doing fewer dishes, I browned the chicken in a cast iron casserole, about 4 minutes a side, and reserved the pieces on the side.
It looks more like 'tanning' than 'browning', but go with it.
Once all the chicken was done, I added the chopped onions into the same pan and a good dash of salt. The salt helps the onions release juice faster which picks up all the fond (the outrageously flavorful brown bits left over from browning the chicken - why would you use two separate pans?!). After a minute or two of just onions, I added in the garlic and the peppers.
I let this cook, stirring periodically, for five minutes. Then, I added the chopped tomatoes, a little bit more salt and black pepper.
I covered the pot and simmered for 20 minutes, stirring once halfway.
After 20 minutes, the vegetables released so much of their juice and flavor - it all smelled perfect even at this stage. Instead of just grabbing a spoon and digging in, I added the browned chicken back into the mix. I used tongs to really nestle all of the pieces deep down and cover them with the sauce. The bouquet garni and the bay leaves dove in, and I also poured the end of a bottle of viognier into the pot, a little bit more than a cup.
I covered the pot again and this time simmered for 35 minutes. I served it up in bowls over some whole wheat couscous.
Is it weird to characterize this as "summer stew"? It was warm and filling but still tasted fresh and light. The sauce of the vegetable juices plus wine really lent to that lightness. This would have admittedly been delicious brothy vegetable soup on it's own without any of the chicken. Nonetheless, I loved using the whole bird in the mix, from light meat to dark meat and all the accessories. I ended up pulling the skin off of my pieces before eating (not crispy = not edible in my book) but the skin and the bones both added incredible depth to the overall flavor of the dish.
Like most French dishes I attempt, they look fancy, but are quite easily broken down into technique-heavy and flavor-focused smaller steps. Plus, they always say to cook with the wine you'll drink with it - this dish worked perfectly with viognier. Bon appetit!