Let’s take you back to 1969: Jack LaLanne was on every afternoon, followed by the very dashing Galloping Gourmet. We know him today as Graham Kerr, and in my mind’s eye, I can still see him flitting about the kitchen. One day he made Basque Chicken and my baby sister, who must have been around six, begged Mom to make this dish. I’m so glad she did! Poulet Basquaise Basque Chicken became a family favorite – I hope it becomes one of yours, too.
Had baby sis talked my Mom into writing down one of Jack LaLanne’s fitness routines, we’d probably all be buff to this day…instead, we all cook – but, hey, no one seems to care about much when they tuck into this incredible chicken dish!
About Poulet Basquaise – Basque Chicken:
Poulet Basquaise is a traditional Basque dish of chicken pieces (and sometimes sausages, or other items, too) braised in a hearty saucy mess of red and green peppers, onions, and tomatoes, along with a few spices. It’s basically a stew, and best served over rice (my vote) to soak up all the gorgeous juices, but can be served with potatoes, instead.
Poulet Basquaise is thought to have originated in the French Basque Country, an area straddling the border between South Central France and Northwestern Spain in the Pyrenees. I recognize elements of both Spain and France in this super flavorful dish.
About Recipe Changeups:
Graham Kerr took a cheffy approach and added a little wine and Csabaia sausage (which is from Hungary, by the way) to his Basque Chicken. Being from small-town Iowa, as you can imagine, there was no Csabai so Mom riffed and used a good pepperoni she sliced herself. If you can’t find a good pepperoni where you live, well this dish is good even using pepperoni from the presliced packages.
And if you have better resources, and maybe a little more scratch, maybe you’ll want to use a sausage from the Basque Region or from nearby areas. Maybe a Spanish chorizo. This is a regional recipe and every family will have their own special ways; some recipes don’t have any other meat than chicken, some include sausages and I’ve seen a few made with small bits of ham. So you do you.
I altered Kerr’s recipe a little more; I streamlined it so it’s all made now in one pan. I also add a little smoked paprika. Pimenton would be nice, too, but don’t take for granted how strong it can be; go by taste. I also use mostly red bells and one green and sometimes, that green is a sub of a Hatch green chilem or two.
I’ve always made this recipe with Pino Grigio or Sauvignon Blanc, which are my kind of go-to white wines for cooking – I often have an open bottle on hand. Check with your wine person (and you should have one or at least know where there is one) for some fun, regional options, especially if you’re serving wine with dinner. See hints at the bottom of the page for saving $.
And if I have some, I will always toss in a few strands of saffron. Yep, I said saffron – if I buy it for a special dish, I’m going to make the most of it, eking out a bit here and there! And yeah, even if I’m a frugal site!
Making Poulet Basquaise – Basque Chicken:
Making this recipe is straightforward, but there are a couple of small points I’d like to bring attention to.
First of all, chicken breasts these days are huge! The last package I used, I weighed and they came in at between 12 to 15 ounces each! One breast is too much for one person and the size is going to throw your recipe timing off, not to mention how will they fit in a pan? I trim them as usual of any fat and tendons and so on, and then cut them right in half. I have a sharp, heavy knife and I have to give it a tap (hammer or meat mallet works) to get through the bone, but a cleaver would be great.
You’ll season the chicken, then brown it; to save a little time, once the chicken is turned, toss in the pepperoni, then remove the chicken. In go most of the rest of the ingredients but you will hold back half the tomatoes and 1/4 cup of the total 3/4’s cup of wine called for. Those items are added in at the end of the recipe: the tomatoes add a bit of freshness and the wine fortifies the flavor.
If you happen to want to use chicken thighs or legs instead of breasts or wish to use boneless breasts, give the pepper and tomato mixture a few minutes head start.
Note that there’s quite a bit more olive oil in this recipe, or at least more in almost all standard American recipes that seem to start with one tablespoon of oil. The olive oil is integral to the recipe, adding both richness and flavor. Choose an olive oil that you like the taste of! If that’s a stronger-tasting extra virgin and that’s your preference, go for it. If you like a milder, more filtered olive oil, that’s fine, too. You do you, boo!
To Peel Tomatoes:
- Make a small X across the bottom center and drop them in boiling water for just about a minute. Watch the edges of the X and you’ll see the skin begin to wrinkle.
- Remove immediately and place in cold water to cool off. The skin will peel up at the X and is easily peeled off.
- This can be served any way you wish but I like to do what my Mom did. Place the rice around the edges of a large platter, something with a bit of a rim, and add the chicken and sauce in the center.
- Garnish, of course, with a little parsley. If all the pepper/tomato mixture doesn’t fit, just serve any extra on the side.
Storing and Reheating:
The dish doesn’t look quite as attractive once it comes out of the fridge, but tastes even better the next day! Refrigerate for up to three to four days (it will be safe longer but chicken can start to taste not as fresh when kept) and reheat slowly, either in the microwave (try the defrost setting and turn the chicken in the sauce now and then) or on the stove.
If you wish to freeze, remove the chicken from the bone and store it mixed in with the peppers. Thaw overnight and reheat.
Saving Money on Poulet Basquaise – Basque Chicken:
- Chicken: Chicken regularly goes on sale, so make it a habit to know the lowest price it drops to and what’s a good buy in your area. Break it down into packages that suit your family size and freeze. There’s no need to ever pay full price for chicken!
- Bell Pepper: Bell peppers can be super pricey! Know both When (in season or on sale) and Where (discount stores like Aldi or Lydl or maybe your buyer’s club) to buy them. If you’re budget-minded and aren’t concerned about the bright red color, use what is cheapest; although the recipe calls for red and green bells
- Tomatoes: Any tomato will do in this dish but if you’re wallet-watching, nix the smaller, perfect grocery ones. This is a great recipe to use imperfect farmer’s market or garden tomatoes since they are cut into chunks, and therefore any less-than-perfect areas are easily worked around and discarded. At the very least, buy your tomatoes on sale! Sub in canned tomatoes if needed; just use more because they are usually smaller.
- Wine: I’m budget-minded but always manage to find a way to use a bit of wine in this dish! It pays to sign up for emails, watch the flyers, and know when the best sales are, usually a minor one in the fall and the major one in the Spring, often late February to early March. Check the bargain bins, too. And don’t be afraid to use leftover wine in recipes. It’s always a good thing to not waste! Most importantly, talk to the wine guy in the store; his/her job is to keep you coming back not to sell you the priciest thing. A good one will ask you your price range and what you’re making and direct you to options from the classic pairings to more unusual ones you may not have thought of or known about.
Poulet Basquaise – Basque Chicken
- Prep Time: 20 minutes
- Cook Time: 35 minutes
- Total Time: 55 minutes
- Yield: 6 servings 1x
- Category: Main Chicken
- Cuisine: Basque
- 1/4 cup olive oil
- 4 bone-in chicken breasts, cut in half if over 10 to 11 ounces
- salt & pepper
- 3 to 4 ounces diced pepperoni (originally Csabai) or pepperoni slices, roughly chopped
- 3 to 4 bell peppers, sliced thinly (try 3 red and 1 green or sub 2 Hatch chiles for the green one)
- 4 large tomatoes, skinned, deseeded, and chopped, divided
- 1 large garlic clove, crushed and minced
- 3/4 cup of dry white wine, divided (recommend Pinot Grigio or Sauvignon Blanc)
- 1 teaspoon smoked paprika
- good pinch of saffron, optional
- 2 tablespoons of chopped parsley, divided (optional)
In a large Dutch oven, heat olive oil, season breasts with salt and pepper and add chicken breasts to the hot oil. Brown on all sides. When ready to brown the final side, add pepperoni. Continue to cook until the chicken is browned on all sides and until fat is rendered from the pepperoni, then add garlic and saute until fragrant.
Remove the chicken and add peppers, 1/2 of the tomatoes, and 1/2 cup of the wine. Add in the smoked paprika and saffron if using. Stir and return chicken to the pot. Cover and bring to a simmer for about 20 minutes, until chicken is just done. Remove the chicken to a platter and tent to keep warm.
To the skillet, add in the rest of the tomatoes and the remaining 1/4 cup of wine and simmer for a few minutes to concentrate the sauce; keep an eye on the peppers. The dish is basically finished when the peppers and onions are tender. Stir in half the parsley.
Serve the chicken over a bed of rice topped with the pepper mixture and pan juices. Garnish with additional parsley.
Cal 665, cal from fat 50%, tot fat 36g; sat fat 9g; chol 152mg; sod 1535mg; pot 1871 mg; tot carb 26.23g; fib 7g; sug 16g; prot 50g
Keywords: Alcohol, Basque, Bell Peppers, Chicken, Family Recipe, French, Galloping Gourmet, Graham Kerr, Green Chili, Olive oil, Saffron, Tomatoes, Wine