Why can you find a recipe only when you’re not looking for it? I feel as though I’ve spent my life avoiding chicken à la Basquaise. I remember that whole slew of recipes to involve olives and paprika and a whole chicken cut up and slow-cooked. Turns out when I go to look for a Spanish style chicken and olives recipe, though, that Basque chicken has little in common with what I imagined.
First off there’s a bunch of ham involved. Then there’s flour to thicken. And most don’t even have olives. I did happen to have Espelette pepper, that mild paprika-like spice that only Spain seems to know about and calls for in most of its recipes.
So I made a hybrid. I knew what I wanted so I took the gist of a Spanish chicken recipe and a Basquaise recipe and I slow-cooked the heck out of it (aka, slow-cooked it just enough). And it worked just fine. I’d even go so far as to say well. Best, however, was the BBQ-rubbed chicken wings, though (recipe to come), because what else are you going to do with those deliciously fatty pieces that yield not enough meat to justify tossing them in the Basque chicken pot? And when you buy a whole chicken and get your butcher to chop it into 6 or 8 pieces for you, you’re not going to say, “Keep the wings,” are you? I didn’t think so. Unless you’re planning on making shmaltz, though, or you really love gloopy chicken flesh floating in your soups and stews, you can let them keep the rest of the skin – what’s not on the wings, I mean. They won’t bother removing that anyway, since there wouldn’t be much wing left.
Spanish (Basque-ish) Chicken with Olives
1 whole chicken (a smaller one), hacked into 6 or 8 pieces, as you wish, skin removed
1/2 teaspoon salt
Freshly ground black pepper
2 tablespoons olive oil or sunflower oil, divided
2 stalks celery, chopped
2 carrots, peeled and chopped about the same size as the celery
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 cup dry white wine, or chicken broth
1/2 cup chicken broth (or 2 cups if cooking on the stove)
1/8 teaspoon Espelette pepper (or Spanish paprika, or sweet paprika, or smoked paprika if you want)
3 sprigs thyme (or 1 tsp dried)
1 can diced tomatoes, drained, or 1 can whole tomatoes, drained and diced
1/3 cup olives (a mix or your favourites. I love the green Italian ones, but I threw in some brown ones and black ones and stuffed ones to test them all…They all passed)
1/3 cup chopped parsley
Sprinkle chicken pieces (except wings) with salt and pepper. Preheat cast-iron skillet or large pot to medium-high (use pot if cooking on stove istead of in a slow-cooker and your skillet is not large enough to easily hold all chicken pieces plus 2 cups liquid). When hot add 1 tbsp of the oil and the chicken pieces in batches and sear on each side for 3 minutes. Remove from pan as they finish and transfer to a slow-cooker, or a plate if cooking on the stove.
Pour off excess fat if there is any and add the remaining 1 tbsp oil to the pan. Add the celery, carrots and garlic and reduce the heat to medium low. Cook, stirring occasionally, for 5 minutes.
Add the wine and stir for 1 minute (If not using wine, skip this step). Add the chicken broth, Espelette pepper, thyme and tomatoes. Bring to a boil and either transfer to slow cooker with the chicken or add the chicken back to the pot and reduce heat to medium-low, partially cover skillet, and simmer for 25 minutes, or until the chicken is cooked through (use a meat thermometre – it should read 165 F when inserted in the thickest part of the breast meat). Stir in olives and half the parsley. Garnish with more parsley on individual servings if desired. If slow-cooking, cook for 4 hours on high or 8 on low. Then add olives and half the parsley. Stir and cook 20 minutes more on low or 10 on high. Garnish with more parsley.
Serve with rice (I did red rice, but that’s far from traditional). Makes 6-7 servings.