All Right, Already

The single most common search query that pops up in my statistics is, unsurprisingly, “Poulet Basquaise.” Back in February my best friend’s husband asked if I had an actual recipe for it somewhere within the site, which, let us not forget, is named for the dish. Well, no. It’s not that I objected to having a recipe up, but that I haven’t made Poulet Basquaise in the entire time I’ve been writing the blog, so all of my posts were on things that I was currently eating.

After months of repetative search queries, though, I’m finally giving in.

Poulet Basquaise was my favorite meal when I was growing up, and one of the first things I learned how to cook on my own (I can’t remember if it was THE first–I think that distinction may fall upon beef stroganoff). I’ve made it for all of my friends at some point, and it was the basis of the first meal I ever made for Teacherman. It is definitely comfort food, of the best meat-in-sauce variety, and, in spite of my mother’s occasional claims that I can’t possibly like her ‘ordinary, plain’ cooking anymore, I adore it still. This recipe is entirely hers–I’ve only ever made one deviation* therefrom–taken straight from the recipe card I’ve had since I left home.

Poulet Basquaise

2 lbs skinless, boneless chicken thighs
8 oz fresh mushrooms, cleaned and sliced
sliced pepperoni to taste
1 large green pepper, chopped
1 large onion, chopped
32-48 oz of good quality tomato sauce
1/2 cup dry white wine
2 Tbsp olive oil

Remove any visible fat from the chicken and pound meat gently to tenderize. Cut each thigh into two pieces, then brown in the olive oil.

Remove chicken from the pan and saute mushrooms, onions and peppers. When onions are translucent, add chicken and all other ingredients to the pan. Use as much sauce as you need to get the consistency you want.

Simmer all ingredients on low heat (after heating on high for a few minutes) for about 45 minutes. Better when made the day before.

* Deviation: My mother dredges the chicken pieces in flour before sauteeing; I do not.

It may not sound like much (and indeed, an ex-boyfriend once turned up his nose at a description and called it “goop”), but the flavors work magic together. It isn’t altogether different from chicken cacciatore, but the pepperoni sets it apart. When I was growing up we always used a major brand of stick pepperoni, sliced into great chunks, but since I moved to the city I’ve used the pepperoni from my favorite butcher. The flavor profile is similar (one wouldn’t want to create an entirely unfamiliar dish), but the one is the platonic ideal of the other.

I usually use button mushrooms or creminis; for all that the former are scorned as common, I find that they have a pleasant meatiness that works well in this dish, adding an earthy contrast to the chicken without dominating. As for the tomato sauce, I use whatever plain, tomato-based pasta sauce I have on hand; marinara-style sauces work the best.

The vagueries of my childhood memory say that my mother always served this dish with rice, using the greater amount of tomato sauce in the preparation, but I prefer to serve it as a kind of stew, with no starch to take away from the intense flavors. And she is right–Poulet Basquaise, like almost all other tomato sauces, is better when left to mellow overnight before serving.

Writing this post has made me hungry, and I’m beginning to crave a bowl of my own. I will have no free time until Sunday, however, and on that day I leave for two weeks abroad. Forays into making Poulet Basquaise will have to wait, but wait they will, and so will I.

Published in: on June 20, 2007 at 8:06 am  Leave a Comment  

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