Sunday Starts: Chicken Basquaise, Parts I and II
What a Pot of Piperade Can Do
Wednesday, September 26, 2007
Whenever you see the word "Basquaise" on a menu, you can be pretty sure that the dish contains a ragout of red and green bell peppers, onions, tomatoes and a hit of heat, usually from the region's famous chili pepper, the piment d'Espelette. Called "piperade," the melange turns up alongside rice (think "Spanish rice") or mixed with scrambled eggs (when, just to confuse things, the finished dish of peppers and eggs is also called piperade). It also can be the base of a stew including tuna, a treasured catch along the Basque coast, or, as in the recipes here, chicken.
In other words, with a pot of piperade, you can play mix-and-match for a couple of meals, which is what I've been doing since returning from my recent trip through the French Basque country.
In addition to adopting Chicken Basquaise and Piperade With Eggs as go-to recipes, I've also taken to the Basque custom of putting a little bowl of piment d'Espelette on the table instead of the usual peppermill. The dried red, mildly hot pepper takes its name from the village of Espelette, where the freshly harvested chili peppers are tied into braids and hung to dry against whitewashed houses before they're ground.
Piment d'Espelette is available at specialty stores and online; and, no matter where you buy it, even in Espelette, it's expensive. Fortunately, a pinch packs a lot of flavor. If you don't have piment d'Espelette, don't let it stop you from making the piperade; use Anaheim or regular chili powder instead.