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Chicken Basquaise

Serves 4

Serve this with steamed rice. If you prefer a spicier dish, add another chili pepper.

1/4 cup olive oil
1 chicken (about 3 1/2 pounds), cut into 8 pieces
2 shallots, sliced
2 small onions, coarsely chopped
3 cloves garlic, coarsely chopped
1/4 pound Serrano or other flavorful ham, diced (optional)
1 hot chili pepper, seeded and chopped
2 red bell peppers, chopped
1/4 teaspoon piment d'Espelette (or substitute hot paprika or New Mexico red chili powder)
1 teaspoon salt
8 tomatoes, blanched, cored, and peeled (or substitute a 28-ounce can of whole peeled tomatoes)
2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
2 bay leaves
1 teaspoon dried thyme
1 cup canned tomato puree

1. In a large, flame-proof casserole, heat the olive oil over medium-high heat. Add the chicken pieces in a single layer, in batches if necessary. Cook 3 minutes on a side or until well browned. Remove and set aside.

2. Lower the heat and add the shallots, onions, and garlic to the pan. Cook, stirring often, for 8 minutes or until the vegetables soften. Add the ham, if using, chili pepper, and bell peppers. Continue cooking for 8 minutes or until the peppers soften. Stir in the piment d'Espelette, paprika, or chili powder and the salt.

3. Add the tomatoes, parsley, bay leaves, thyme, and tomato puree. Bring the mixture to a boil. Return the chicken to the pan and turn the pieces in the tomato mixture to cover them with sauce. Let the liquid return to a boil.

4. Lower the heat and simmer the chicken for 45 to 50 minutes, turning the pieces once or twice, or until they are cooked through.

Adapted from Miren Etcheverry

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