I thought it would be easy to duplicate the Basque chicken I had several times on the French side of the Basque region (the area straddles the border between France and Spain). But the versions I tried were all so different!
While they always include hot or mild peppers, tomatoes, and something meaty like ham or sausage, it was hard to pin down the mildly spicy sauce I prefer.
I ultimately decided I liked the mellow heat from roasted chiles along with a little ham simmered in a tomato-garlic sauce with chicken thighs.
I like Anaheim, poblanos, or Fresno peppers for this recipe – fairly mild, as far as peppers go. Broil the peppers until they’re charred all over, or char them over a flame as Elise is demonstrating in this video.
Any ham will do, as long as it isn't honey-basted. I usually buy Black Forest. Cut it into matchsticks before adding it to the sauce.
When it’s time to serve this Basque favorite, sprinkle the dish with chopped green olives and parsley. It’s wonderful today, better tomorrow, and even more beautifully mellow the day after that.
Basque-Style Chicken With Peppers and Olives
- 3 mild chili peppers (Anaheim, poblanos, Fresno, or another variety)
- Olive oil, for sprinkling
- 3 tablespoons olive oil
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
- 8 skin-on, bone-in chicken thighs (about 3 pounds)
- 1 medium red onion, thinly sliced
- 1/4 pound (one thick piece) baked ham, cut into matchsticks
- 1 clove garlic, thinly sliced
- 1 jalapeño or other small hot chili pepper, seeded and chopped
- 1 (15-ounce) can chopped tomatoes
- 1 cup chicken stock
- 1/2 cup pitted green olives, coarsely chopped
- 2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
Roast the chiles:
Turn on the broiler and set a rack about 5 inches from the broiler element. Brush the chiles with enough oil to lightly coat. Broil for 5 minutes, turning several times, or until they are charred. (Alternatively, roast the chiles on the open flame of a gas stovetop.)
Transfer to a bowl, cover with a plate to help steam and soften the skins, and set aside for 5 minutes.
Peel the chiles:
Carefully pull the charred skin of the chili by hand. Cut the chile open, remove and discard the seeds, and chop coarsely.
Brown the chicken:
Trim away the excess fat from the thighs. Sprinkle all over with salt and pepper.
In a large deep skillet or Dutch oven, heat the oil over medium-high heat. Working in batches, add half of thighs, skin side down. Cook for 4 minutes, or until golden on the undersides. Turn and brown the other sides for 3 minutes.
Transfer the chicken to a bowl. Brown the remaining thighs in the same way. Transfer the thighs to the bowl.
Make the sauce:
Discard all but 2 tablespoons fat from the pan. Add the onion, ham, and garlic. Cook, stirring often, for 5 minutes until the onions have started to soften. Add the roasted chiles and jalapeño. Continue cooking, stirring often, for 2 minutes.
Add the tomatoes and stock. Use a wooden spatula to scrape up the dark glaze from the bottom of the pan. Bring to a boil, lower the heat, and partially cover. Simmer 5 minutes.
Cook the chicken:
Return all the chicken to the pan, skin side up, along with any juices in the bowl. It’s ok if the thighs are a tight fit. Spoon some of the sauce over the chicken. Return to a boil, lower the heat, and partially cover.
Simmer for 20 to 25 minutes, or until the chicken is cooked through, opaque, and registers 165°F with a digital thermometer.
Finish and serve:
Taste the sauce for seasoning and add more salt and black pepper, if you like. Sprinkle the dish with the chopped olives and parsley. Serve hot.