Sunday, December 13, 2009

Basque Chicken

A simply marvelous dish the other week: Basque styled chicken.

As usual, I headed back to the study of my wife's grandfather Pierre Franey for the fundamentals. In leafing through a number of his books I discovered some themes within his technique and sauces. There is definitely a Spanish, or Iberian, or Basque theme- whatever you want to call it really- but it comes when the classic French saute structure sees a hefty dose of garlic, both green and red peppers, tomatoes, olives and some form of heat- chiles, red pepper flakes, etc...

Here is the recipe below. I actually added a nice hefty dollop of Tabasco in at the end which really deepened the flavor.

You would think that you should serve something like Basque Chicken with a Basque red, yes? Well, maybe, but the Basque region is known for its whites called Txakolina. This is super crispy white made from the grape Hondarribi Zuri. Lemon acid, a little spritz, and a high saline quotient make this a no brainer when oystering, or chowing on shellfish.

So, your next thought might be a Rioja, or Ribera del Duero- classic Spanish reds. I would also pass on these. Garlic, olive oil and tomatoes scream the Mediterranean for me and that puts us closer to Barcelona and with the power of the sauce and the heat of the red pepper or Tabasco I would want a raw, earthy, sun roasted wine. In Spain, I'd look at the Monastrells of Alicante- the peninsula that sticks out in the Med, south of Barcelona. I'd also highly recommending heading North into the Languedoc-Rousillon area of France. (I actually had an amazing Costieres de Nimes, Chateau la Baume, with my Basque Chicken.) Anyways...the preparation is classic and can be done with pork, chicken, lamb, or steak...Make sure to adjust pan roasting time based on how long you need to cook the meat.

Basque Chicken (as adopted from Pierre Franey)

Take out a large roasting dish, a huge Creuset pot with a heavy lid will do. Put it on the stove and set the heat to high. Turn the oven on to 400 degrees. Take 2 chicken breasts (skin on) and lightly dredge them in flour. Add oil to the pot and add chicken breasts skin side down. Salt and pepper them. Let them cook until the skin has caramelized and is golden brown. Once brownness is achieved, flip the breasts and cook 2-3 minutes on the other side. At this point, the skin should looked cooked, but the meat will probably still look pretty raw.

While your browning the chicken do your chopping and prepping.
Chop up 1 large onion.
Chop up 3 cloves of garlic.
Chop up 1 green pepper.
Chop up 1 red pepper.
Get some pitted olives.
Open a can of San Marzano tomatoes and mash the whole tomatoes with a fork so that they're rather broken up.
Open up your beef stock and make sure its ready.
Make sure you have some white wine.
Check to make sure you have your spices- bay leaf, dried thyme, salt pepper.

Getting back to the chicken. After those 2-3 minutes on the meat side, take chicken out of the pot and set aside. Add onions and garlic to the pot. Stir around for about 2 minutes to coat. Add peppers to the pot. Cook about 3-4 minutes (let them start to cook.) Then add bay leaf and large pinch of dried thyme. Make sure mixture is thoroughly cooking by now- then hit it with a shot of white wine. Deglaze the pan by scraping up the bottom. Put the chicken breasts back in the pot. Add the tomatoes now. Add a shot of beef stock- not too want it to marry with everything, not water it all down. Add your Tabasco now. Add the olives. Salt and pepper some more.

Now, cover the pot with the lid and stick it in the oven (or per Pierre, you can let it cook on the stove if you don't want to start your oven.) For chicken, I like it really roasting for about 20 minutes. The flavors will come together and the chicken should be just done. Pork, maybe 25 minutes.

Make some rice.

Plate with rice and add breast over rice with sauce on top. Maybe finish with chopped parseley.

Serve with a Mediterranean red.

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