Chicken Basquaise or Chicken Basque is a very popular French casserole dish from the Basque country, although you will find many variations of it all across the Mediterranean. Basque country is the area of the Pyrenees that straddles the border between France and Spain, with the French part known as Northern Basque country and the Spanish part, Southern.
Basque cuisine has its own history and traditions, with the mountainous and coastal geography playing a huge part, and is therefore, somewhat different from the food in the rest of the country.
Today’s recipe, Chicken Basquaise with Merguez, is very much based on the French standard but with my spin on it with touches of Spain and most certainly North Africa, with the use of Merguez.
The basis of a traditional Chicken Basquaise recipe is Pipérade, or Piperrada (Spanish), which is a very typical Basque sauce of tomatoes, onions, peppers and Piment d’Espelette, or Espelette chilli pepper.
Piment d’Espelette (Espelette chilli pepper)
Maxing out at only 4 000 units on the Scoville scale, I would class the Piment d’Espelette as mild. It is apparently produced in only about 10 French villages and is highly sought after as the key ingredient in many Basque recipes as well as for curing Bayonne hams. Mmm, I think a whole post on Pipérade is needed soon!
LinsFood’s Chicken Basquaise Recipe
While our recipe here does indeed start with the Pipérade, I opt for hot smoky paprika instead of the Espelette pepper, for the Spanish influence.
We are also using Merguez sausages, lending it a spicy, North African character. If you can’t find merguez, you have 2 options:
- use any sausages, but chorizo would be especially good.
- make your own using my recipe here!
If you have been following me a while, you’ll know that I’m a huge fan of using grilled vegetables and sundried tomatoes. So instead of the fresh peppers that this recipe usually calls for, I use grilled/roasted peppers, the sort you would get for Italian antipasti. You can also make your own, instructions here.
And I also use a little sundried tomato paste, as well as some sundried tomatoes (in oil), for even more depth in flavour.
And finally, instead of fully cooking the pipérade, we only half cook it, then we add the chicken pieces in to cook along. I feel that this allows the chicken to better absorb the flavours of the sauce.
The alcohol – if you don’t do the alcohol, just use the same amount of light stock or even just water. There is enough depth in the sundried tomatoes and paste and sausages, losing the alcohol won’t make much of a difference.
That’s all the “technical stuff” out of the way, now …
How to serve Chicken Basquaise?
I have eaten this recipe on a couple of occasions in the Spanish Basque country with rice being a part of the recipe, probably a paella influence. While it took care of the starch issue, I felt that the rice mixed into the casserole kind of stole away some of the limelight from the sauce. You don’t get to appreciate the chicken flavoured piperrada as much.
So definitely without the rice cooked in. Rice on the side, while good, is just a bit dull. Crusty bread and French baguette are my favourite two options; the gloriously flavoured piperrada is just begging for some bread, as far as I’m concerned. My two older kids love it with garlic bread, while my husband loves it with anything potato: mash, chips or sautéed!
Definitely improves the next day, just like curry. So I reckon make it a day ahead, cool, cover and keep in the fridge or anywhere fairly cool. If it’s summertime, definitely in the fridge! Heat gently on medium low heat before serving.
Ready? Let’s go catch us a chicken!Print
Chicken Basquaise recipe, a very popular French casserole dish from the Basque country. Here I put a Spanish and Moroccan spin on it.
- 1 large onion
- 4 cloves garlic
- 3 Tbsp EV olive oil
- 1 kg (2.2 lb) chicken portions, on the bone or a mix of on and off
- 6 merguez sausages
- 1 bay leaf
- 1 Tbsp brandy (optional)
- 150 ml (⅗ cup) dry white wine
- 2 x 400 g (2 x 14 oz) cans chopped tomatoes
- 2 Tbsp sundried tomato paste
- 1 jar of grilled/roasted antipasti peppers, about 300 g (10 oz), drained
- 5 sundried tomatoes in oil, drained and halved
- 1 tsp hot smoked paprika
- half – 1 tsp salt, to taste
- pinch of sugar
- freshly ground black pepper
- handful fresh parsley, chopped
- Halve, then slice the onion thinly.
- Finely chop the garlic. Or crush it.
- Heat the olive oil on high heat and brown the chicken portions well. The crispy chicken will add to the final flavour and texture. Do this is 2 – 3 batches if your pan isn’t wide enough, as we want the chicken frying, not stewing. Set aside and keep warm.
- Do the same with the sausages, just about a minute, lightly browning, as we don’t want the sausages to overcook. Set aside on a separate plate and keep warm.
- Lower the heat to medium and in the same pan, sauté the onion slices and the bay leaf for 2 minutes, adding a little more oil if necessary.
- Add the garlic and cook for 30 seconds.
- Add the brandy (if using) and the wine and deglaze the pan by scraping all the lovely caramelised and dark bits at the bottom.
- Let the alcohol cook down for about 3 minutes, to reduce by half.
- Increase the heat to high and add the chopped tomatoes, the sundried tomato paste, the peppers, the sundried tomatoes, the hot smoked paprika, the salt and the sugar.
- Bring to boil, then lower heat down and cook for 5 minutes for the flavours to intensify a little.
- Increase heat back up to high, add the chicken, along with all the juices in the plate, and stir to coat the chicken with all that tomato sauce.
- Lower the heat right down, cover and cook for about 40 minutes, until the chicken is done. This does depend on the size of the portions you have.
- When the chicken is done, add the merguez sausages, increase the heat to bring back to boil.
- Lower heat right down again and simmer for 10 minutes until the sausages are cooked through. To cover or not depends on how much sauce you want out of your basquaise. If you think it’s too runny, simmer uncovered. If you want all that sauce, as I do, cover.
- When the sausages are done, check seasoning, add more salt if necessary, add some freshly ground black pepper because it makes everything better!
- Garnish with the parsley and serve hot.
- I would take the whole casserole dish and place it on the table for the diners to dish up themselves.
- Cuisine: French Basque with Moroccan/Spanish twist