When we visited Lourdes in 2008, we ate a chicken dish at this restaurant, but I don’t remember much about it except that it had a winey sauce with a bit of bite, and that it had peppers, which I disliked as a child but now love as an adult. So when I was looking for a chicken recipe to prepare for St. Bernadette’s Feast, I chanced upon this Poulet Basquaise, that does have the spicy winey sauce, and the peppers. Parfait!
It starts out with a classic chicken sauté, and then come the peppers, and finally the finishing sauce, with everything heated gently together at the end to allow flavors to blend more fully. Excellent over rice or potatoes, or accompany with some French bread.
I used organic boneless chicken thighs here, which we keep in stock in the freezer to make daily meal prep easier, but you can easily adapt the recipe to bone-in chicken parts; just cook the chicken a few minutes longer to make sure they’re cooked through. You can also use boneless chicken breasts, but watch that you don’t overcook .
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
3 lbs. boneless chicken thighs, patted dry
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 cup sliced onions
1 tablespoon minced garlic
1/2 cup chopped Bayonne ham, or substitute prosciutto
1 bay leaf
2 red bell peppers, sliced into strips
1 green bell pepper, sliced into strips
2 pinches piment d’espelette, or substitute red pepper flakes
1 cup red wine (I used a combo of Rioja & some leftover French Merlot)
4 tablespoons tomato paste
4 tablespoons minced parsley
Heat olive oil in a large, deep skillet, over medium heat until hot but not smoking. Add chicken thighs in one layer, leaving enough space between chicken pieces to ensure that they sauté properly and not steam. (Cook the chicken in batches if you have to.) Cook until golden on one side, 7-8 minutes. Carefully turn and cook the other side, seasoning with salt and pepper as you go, another 7-8 minutes. Remove to a platter. Add onions and sauté until just becoming limp, then add garlic. Cook 2-3 minutes to release aroma, then add ham and bay leaf. Cook a few minutes to meld flavors. Add sliced peppers and cook, 5-6 minutes, stirring, until peppers are just limp. Do not overcook or they will turn to mush. Season with piment d’espelette and a bit of salt, stir and cook a couple minutes more, then remove to platter. Pour in wine, deglazing skillet to incorporate browned bits. Increase heat to medium-high and boil down to about 3/4 cup. Whisk in tomato paste. Taste and adjust seasoning, then return chicken and pepper mixture to skillet. Fold to coat everything with the sauce. Remove from heat, transfer to platter, and sprinkle with chopped parsley. Serve immediately.
Note: French sauces are often enriched with a bit of butter at the end. Though truly delicious and gives the dish that extra OOMPH, I’ve omitted this step because of dairy allergies here. If you wish to add butter, swirl in 3 tablespoons of it, cut into small pieces, after adding the tomato paste and correcting for seasoning. Continue as above.
I’ve found different recipes for Poulet Basquaise; some call for white wine, others no wine at all, and still others use chicken stock. I’ve picked the red for this dish as the one I remember eating in Lourdes definitely had red wine and not white.