French Fridays: Poulet Basquaise

Easy Basque Chicken recipe on eatlivetravelwrite.comIf you’ve ever travelled in the Basque Country in Southwest France (you can read about one of our early trips to the Basque country and the Fêtes de Bayonne here) or northern Spain, you might have noticed a lot of red and green in everything from street signs to table linen. These are the Basque colors and this dish is a nod to them. This colorful, braised chicken is seasoned with the local-to-the-region Piment d’Espelette, which you can find at specialty food stores  or on Amazon if you don’t happen to be travelling to this region anytime soon.

Piment d espeltte on eatlivetravelwrite.comPiment d’Espelette (Espelette chili powder) is a spice you’ll see all over the Basque region in both France and Spain. It is not a super spicy pepper; the heat is subtle. If you travel in the region, you’ll see the peppers drying in the sun everywhere! According to an older article on Suite 101 (no longer available) the pepper has been grown in the village of Espelette (in the foothills of the Pyrenées Atlantiques) since the 1500s. By the late 1700s the pepper was heavily influencing the cuisine of the area. It has even been granted an AOC (Appellation d’Origine Contrôlée) by the French government which means that to carry the name of Piment d’Espelette it must be grown within one of the 10 listed villages in the valley and left to sun dry for a least 15 days. (According to locals, though, 12 weeks is best.) The peppers are harvested from mid-August onwards and are hand picked and sorted and then threaded onto long strings and left to dry naturally in the sun. The pepper is used at any stage of the drying process in different ways – fresh in cooking, as a paste or dried as a powder.

Pooulet basquaise made with chicken thighs on eatlivetravelwrite.com(note: can be made with chicken drumsticks or thighs)

In this recipe, the “spice” is definitely subtle – it’s actually a recipe I developed for In the French kitchen with kids that didn’t make it into the book 🙁 But it’s a recipe we make all the time at home – it’s colourful, flavourful and really easy!

Yield: serves 4-6

Poulet Basquaise

Easy Basque Chicken recipe on eatlivetravelwrite.com

Colorful, braised chicken seasoned with the local-to-the-Basque-region Piement d’Espelette.


  • 8-10 chicken drumsticks or bone-in, skin-on thighs
  • 4 tablespoons olive oil, divided
  • 1/2 cup (120 mL) warm chicken stock
  • 2 medium (400 g total) onions, halved and thinly sliced
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 large (400 g) red pepper, thinly sliced
  • 1 large (400 g) green pepper, thinly sliced
  • 1 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 2 teaspoons flaky sea salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon Piment d’Espelette or 1/2 teaspoon mild chili powder (see note)
  • 3 cups whole plum tomatoes and their juices (one 28oz/796 mL can)


  1. Preheat the oven to 375˚F.
  2. Heat 2 tablespoons of the olive oil in a 3-quart (2.8 L) ovenproof skillet, over medium-high heat.
  3. Place the drumsticks or thighs skin-side down and cook for around 5 minutes, or until browned. Flip the chicken and cook for a further 5 minutes. Set aside on a plate and cover with aluminum foil until you are ready to use it.
  4. Keep the skillet on medium-high heat and add a splash of the chicken stock to the pan. Use a wooden spatula to scrape up any of the browned bits. Do not discard these, they will add flavor to your dish.
  5. Once the liquid has evaporated, heat the remaining olive oil in the skillet.
  6. Add the onions and the garlic and cook, stirring occasionally, until soft but not browned, about 5-6 minutes. If the onions start to stick, add another splash of the chicken stock.
  7. Add the peppers, thyme, salt, pepper and Piment d’Espelette or chili powder. Stir to combine all ingredients well, then cover and cook on medium heat for 8 minutes. Keep an eye on the vegetables and add a splash of chicken stock if the pan starts to look dry.
  8. Add the tomatoes and any remaining stock, stir well and cook, covered, for 8 more minutes.
  9. Add the chicken back in, placing the pieces between the vegetables evenly around the skillet. Spoon a little of the juices on top of the chicken pieces.
  10. Cook, uncovered for 40 minutes. Remove from the oven, stir well and serve.


Piment d’Espelette (Espelette chili powder) is a spice you’ll see all over the Basque region in both France and Spain. It is not a super spicy pepper; the heat is subtle. If you travel in the region, you’ll see the peppers drying in the sun everywhere! In North America, you can find the Espelette chili powder in specialty food stores or on Amazon.

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Basque Chicken recipe on eatlivetravelwrite.comI often serve this with plain white rice but it’s also good on its own. The pepper sauce is like a vegetable stew and really, a good piece of baguette is all that’s needed to soak up the juices. So, so good!

Pooulet basquaise made with chicken thighs served on white rice on eatlivetravelwrite.com

Happy (French) Friday!


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3 Responses to French Fridays: Poulet Basquaise

  1. Mr. Neil April 26, 2019 at 08:33 #

    This is indeed a favourite, and I’ll admit my wine pairings have been all over the map – partly as we’ve eaten in all seasons, so many times!

    A nice rose from the region of Navarra goes well; if you up the piment quotient, a Gascogne off-dry white is perfect (though harder to find in North America). If you’re lucky, the Irouleguy white from the region will transport you immediately. (The red I find too heavy for this dish.) Other reds I like are a more fruity Pinot Noir (new world works) or Beaujolais.

  2. Geoff April 28, 2019 at 02:34 #

    So pardon my ignorance, Mardi… but does the chicken lie in a kind of soup? It looks nice and the recipe is appealing.

    • Mardi Michels April 28, 2019 at 05:45 #

      It’s not a soup, more like a sauce. Good with rice or baguette to soak up all the goodness!

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