This robust dish of chicken, chorizo, peppers, onion and spices borrows from both Spain and France. It is a one-pot recipe made in a cast iron skillet and layers the flavors of each ingredient over each other. And….if you don’t include the rice or potatoes that often accompany it in Spain, it is compliant with a Slow Carb Diet.
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Where is Basque Country?
Basque country is often said to straddle the border between Spain and France. The Basque people actually inhabited the region before those nations existed, but once Spain and France entered the picture, they brought their regional cuisines with them.
My daughter was fortunate enough to do a study abroad program in Spain, and her parents were fortunate enough to visit her and eat the wonderful dishes of the Basque region.
This Basque chicken and chorizo dish was inspired by that study abroad trip to Spain, and it turned out delicious, even though made in Minnesota!
What is Basque Cooking?
The Basque cuisine includes both a coastal influence of fish and seafood as well as a robust inland cuisine dominated by fresh and cured meats, as well as many vegetables and legumes.
Both the French and Spanish influence is strong, but the classic dishes are notably different on each side of the border.
Basques have incorporated ingredients from new settlers over time, like chocolate, potatoes, and various peppers. The Espelette pepper from France for example is strongly associated with Basque cooking and olive oil is the predominant oil used in cooking.
This recipe for Piperade is another classic Basque dish of tomatoes, onions, and peppers that is paired with many different meats or fish.
Basically the Basque cuisine is a local cuisine which draws from a rich, fertile inland area and a distinctive coastal area.
Pork, lamb, game meats and lake fish are abundant in the inland countryside and a wide range of seafood makes up the cuisine from the coastal area.
All in all, It is a very old cuisine with many traditional recipes passed down from generation to generation.
Spanish Chorizo vs Mexican Chorizo?
The chorizo that is typically used in the recipe below is Spanish chorizo—small, dense, smoked sausages made from coarsely chopped fatty pork and seasoned with mild Spanish paprika, salt and garlic. When you see the deep red chorizo in the store, that is going to be the smoky Spanish version.
Alternatively, the Mexican version of chorizo is fresh, raw pork which is typically seasoned with vinegar and a variety of chile peppers. Mexican chorizo can be quite complex with the brighter spiciness of chile peppers that are not smoked.
Mexican corizo and Spanish chorizo are indeed different flavor profiles, so they aren’t truly interchangeable.
They are both excellent however and if your dish calls for Spanish and all there is in the store is Mexican, use it! You will still end up with a robust flavor-filled dish.
Ingredients and Substitutions
Substitutions for Basque Peppers
Bell peppers native to Mexico and Central America became a classic pepper used in Spanish cuisine. The French added a different kind of pepper to Basque cooking, a pepper called piment d’Espelette, or Espelette pepper.
The Espelette pepper is sweet like the bell pepper, but also has a slightly smoky taste with a bit of heat.
I have grown the Espelette pepper on our farm, but it is not easy to find in an American grocery store. A substitute for this pepper would be to use sweet paprika with a little bit of a hotter pepper like cayenne.
Illustrated Step by Step:
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Basque Chicken and Chorizo Skillet Dinner
- 6 ounces chorizo sausage Ground (you could also slice it into coins if it comes in a sleeve)
- 2-3 tablespoons Olive oil
- 3 lbs. chicken I used 3 legs and 3 thighs; you could also use breast meat cut into bite-sized pieces (about 1 inch)
- ½ tsp salt
- ¼ tsp black pepper
- 2 large red sweet peppers can be from a jar
- 1 large onion sliced thinly or chopped
- 6 cloves garlic minced
- 14-16 ounce tomatoes diced (can use canned or fresh)
- 14 oz black olives drained and coarsely chopped
- ¾ cup dry sherry
- 2 tsp paprika
- ¾ tsp crushed red pepper
- 9 ounces artichoke hearts Frozen or jarred
- Over medium-high heat, heat up a large skillet with deep sides. Add the chorizo to the skillet and lightly brown for 3-5 minutes, rendering the fat. Transfer chorizo to a plate, leaving the fat in the skillet.6 ounces chorizo sausage
- Season the chicken with salt and pepper. Keeping the skillet at medium-high, add the oil and the chicken to the skillet and cook until browned on all sides (about 5-10 minutes). Remove the chicken to the plate with the chorizo.2-3 tablespoons Olive oil, 3 lbs. chicken
- Add the red sweet peppers and chopped onion and cook until softened (about 5 minutes). Add the garlic, tomatoes, olives, dry sherry, paprika and crushed red pepper and cook for 1 minute, scraping up any browned bits from the pan.Salt and pepper to taste1/2 tsp salt, 2 large red sweet peppers, 1 large onion, 6 cloves garlic, 14-16 ounce tomatoes, 14 oz black olives, 3/4 cup dry sherry, 2 tsp paprika, 3/4 tsp crushed red pepper, 1/4 tsp black pepper
- Return the chicken and chorizo to the skillet, cover, and turn the heat down to low. Simmer, covered, for 20-25 minutes.
- Add the quartered artichoke hearts, raise the heat to medium and cook uncovered until the sauce is slightly thickened (5-10 minutes).9 ounces artichoke hearts
- If not on the SCD, serve with crusty French bread.
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