Monday, December 31, 2012

Recipe: Basque Style Chicken and Ham

It has been said: The whole is more than the sum of its parts. It is more correct to say that the whole is something else than the sum of its parts, because summing up is a meaningless procedure, whereas the whole-part relationship is meaningful. – Kurt Koffka

This is the result of cooking for one hour. Eggplant is an amazing thing.

So when we add two plus two in the kitchen we may get four, but we may also get something else as well. Something new…

What goes into a pot and what comes out never ceases to amaze me. The world is a culinary adventure just waiting for you to take part. I love it.

This is what it looked like before cooking.
This night I took a culinary trip  to the Basque region of northern Spain. My connecting flight was the grocery store.

Basque cuisine is among the best international cuisines. Much like Italian cuisine, traditional Basque food is not complex or elaborate. It is a food from the common people.

Basque cuisine is based on the best ingredients available in the region. As such it revels in simplicity of preparation, yet complexity of flavours.

Basque cooking is not based on elaborate sauces or spice combinations. The most important ingredient in Basque cuisine is the fresh ingredient.

Being a Maritime people (like Nova Scotians), a great deal of Basque cooking involves seafood. But seafood is not the only specialty.

I can sympathize. Many tourists think we just sit around eating lobster and cod all the time. Au contraire, monsieur et madame. The “coast,” although important, is always just a part of what makes a maritime community.

Like us, meat, poultry and game also hold their places of pride in Basque cooking. Cured and preserved meats like hams and sausages are also produced. Bayonne ham is one such famous export. (The recipe calls for it, but you’ll be lucky to find it in Nova Scotia.)

This recipe combines some ingredients you may not think of sticking in the pot all at once. They all go together in a most magical and satisfying way. What goes in is certainly different that what comes out!

Basque Style Chicken and Ham
Prep: 5 min  |  Cook: 1 hour  |  Serves 6
Cook long, low and slow to develop flavours.
vegetable oil
2 chicken breasts, boneless and skinless
1 lg sweet onion
3 garlic cloves
375 g smoked ham, sliced 1/4” thick (like Bayonne, if possible)
5 plum tomatoes
1 small eggplant
1 lg green pepper
3/4 cup cured black olives, whole
1/2 cup white wine
1/2 chicken stock
2 bay leaves
1 star anise
1 tsp thyme
1/2 tsp sage
1/2 tsp paprika
1/2 tsp chilli pepper flakes
salt and pepper

Heat the oil in a Dutch oven or other large pot with a lid.

Brown the chicken and then remove to a plate. Soften the onion and garlic for about 3-4 minutes. 

Chop the tomatoes, eggplant and green pepper into large pieces and then add to the pot. Cut the pork slices into 1” squares.

Cut the chicken breast into bite-sized pieces. Add, with the remaining ingredients, to the pot. Cook, covered for 40 min, and then uncovered for 20 minutes more.

By the end of the last 20 minutes the liquid will have reduced to a delicious, thick sauce.

Taste and adjust salt and pepper.

Serve on top of white rice in soup bowls.


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