The Musette: Basque chicken

On this year’s centenary Tour de France the riders tackle the Pyrenees ahead of the Alps. Sunday’s stage finishes in the spa town of Bagneres-de-Bigorre, which is where we’ve based ourselves whenever we’ve ridden in the region. On every occasion the weather has been extreme, one day brilliantly sunny, the next pouring with rain.

Tour de France 2010 ascent of Galibier (image: Richard Whatley)

Tour de France 2010 ascent of Galibier in the rain (Image: Richard Whatley)

This casserole is yet another of my meal-in-a-pot recipes which you can cook the night before you need it and reheat on your return from a ride, or which can happily bubble away in a slow oven while you’re out cycling. Again, you’ll find numerous iterations of the recipe and I would encourage you to add more of what you like and leave out what you don’t! It’s a dish I cook all year round but tend to vary the accompaniments depending on the season. This weekend I’ll be serving it with a crisp green salad and a hunk of crusty baguette.

My version of Basque chicken (image: Sheree)

Some of the ingredients in my version of Basque chicken (Image: Sheree)

Ingredients (serves four hungry cyclists)

  • Approx 1kg (2.2lbs) fresh organic chicken chopped into eight (ask your butcher to do this)
  • 200g (8oz) spicy chorizo sausage, skinned and cubed
  • 2 sobressade  – spicy uncooked – sausage (approx. 150g/6oz) skinned and cubed
  • 1 tsp freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 tbsp freshly ground sea salt
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 3 cloves of garlic, finely minced
  • 1 medium white onion, finely chopped
  • 250ml (1 cup) of dry white wine or sherry
  • 1 fresh or dried bouquet garni
  • 1 x 400g (14oz) canned chopped tomatoes
  • 1 x 400g (14oz) skinned red bell peppers, drained and cut into strips
  • 2 x 400g (14oz) cans cannellini or haricot beans or chick peas, rinsed and drained
  • 1 tbsp tomato paste
  • 1 tbsp sweet paprika

Method

1. Pre-heat the oven to 140ºC /120ºC fan/gas mark 1 (275ºF/225ºF fan). Place a large frying pan on the hob over a medium heat and add the olive oil. When it’s warm, add the chorizo and sobressade. Cook over moderate heat until it starts to give up its glorious rust-coloured oil. Add the chopped onion and cook until translucent, but not browned. Then add the minced garlic and cook for a further 30 seconds. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the sausage mix into an ovenproof casserole dish.

Hot and spicy! (image: Sheree)

Hot and spicy! (Image: Sheree)

2. Season the chicken pieces with the salt and pepper and add to the frying pan, cook over a moderately high heat, turning until well browned, approximately 15 minutes. Remove the chicken with a slotted spoon and add to the cooked sausage mix.

Nicely browned (image: Sheree)

Nicely browned (Image: Sheree)

3. Drain off any excess fat and deglaze the pan with the white wine/sherry. Let it bubble away for around five minutes to burn off the alcohol.

4. Add the bell peppers, tomatoes, beans, tomato paste and paprika to the frying pan and cook for five minutes or so.

5. Add the bouquet garni to the casserole along with the tomato, pepper and bean mixture and stir gently to combine.

6. To prevent the casserole from drying out, cover the contents with a circle of crushed, damp greaseproof (parchment) paper (cartouche) and pop on the casserole lid or tin foil. Slide it into the oven and leave to cook while you’re out riding. This will cook happily from 2-4 hours in a cool oven without drying out.

Ready for the oven (image: Sheree)

Ready for the oven (Image: Sheree)

7. On your return, remove the casserole dish from the oven and leave to stand with the lid still on while you’re having your shower.

8. Discard the bouquet garni and serve with a green salad or another green vegetable on the side and, if you must, some crusty bread or a baked potato. It all depends on how much energy you’ve expended on your morning ride!

Lunch is served (image: Sheree)

Lunch is served (Image: Sheree)

Sheree’s Handy Hints

1. Don’t forget to taste and season as you cook. Unseasoned food is bland and you use less salt and pepper if you season at the start and during the cooking process, rather than at the end.

2. This dish can be cooked the day before, left overnight in the fridge and then reheated the following day. This also makes it easier to remove any excess fat which will harden on the surface.

3. The recipe works equally well made with chickpeas (garbanzo beans). Again, you can used tinned or cook from dried the day before.

4. As this is cooking rather than baking, feel free to play around with the ingredients. To make the dish go further I might add 100g (4oz) diced pancetta and 10-12 frozen or tinned artichoke hearts.

5. Only cook with wine you’d be happy to drink.

6. Go easy on the rosemary in the bouquet garni as an excess tends to give the beans a soapy flavour. I use a mixture of bay leaves, thyme and a little rosemary.

7. I serve the finished dish with some small pickled spicy green peppers called piparras which I picked up in the Basque country.

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