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The Foodie File: Do you know about Espelette?

Canadian Living
Food

The Foodie File: Do you know about Espelette?

EspletteEvery few years, obscure culinary terms or ingredients start popping up on menus. Remember when "pesto" needed an explanation, "chipotles" brought about quizzical looks and you didn’t know if Ponzu was a sauce or a Pokemon character (maybe I still got some of you with Ponzu...) Well, coming soon to your grocery store shelves - look for all things espellette. I predict that by the new year, we will be seeing Espellette Shrimp Appetizers and espellette-dusted potato chips in the grocery stores. What is espellete, then? It is a dried chili pepper grown in the small village of the same name in the Basque region, used in the production of Bayonne Ham. The peppers are so revered in that part of the world, that it has been designated by the Appellation d’Origine Controllée (the same government board which controls the strictest guidelines for Roquefort cheese, Rhône wines and Champagne) and has a festival devoted to it every year. It’s similar to hot paprika; it carries a medium heat, and is used in the same way. As all things Spanish continue to dominate the culinary landscape, espelette has become the darling spice of trend-setting chefs. Not yet widely available, you should be able to find it at specialty markets and fine food stores. Try out this typical Basque recipe if you want to give it a whirl. If you can’t find it, substitute a good-quality hot paprika - or wait until next year when it will be widely available as the newest spice blend for backyard burgers! Chicken Basquaise with Espelette Piperade Piperade is a colorful spicy pepper sauce in the Basque region. This simple dish is often served at the Celebration of the Peppers in the village of Espelette.
  • ½ cup (125 ml) olive oil
  • 4 onions, chopped
  • 3 cloves garlic
  • 4 sweet green peppers, seeds and stems removed, chopped
  • 2 sweet red peppers, seeds and stems removed, chopped
  • 4 large tomatoes, peeled and chopped
  • 3 tbsp (45 ml) Espelette powder (or hot paprika or New Mexico red chili powder)
  • Pinch of dried thyme (or 3 sprigs fresh thyme)
  • Salt and pepper
  • 1 whole chicken (about 3 lb/1.5 kg), cut up
In a large skillet, heat 1/4 cup (50 mL) olive oil; sauté onions and garlic for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add the sweet peppers; cook over medium heat for 10 to 15 minutes until very soft and beginning to caramelize. Add the tomatoes and Espelette powder; cook for 20 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add the thyme, and sprinkle with salt pepper; transfer to a bowl. Wipe out the pan and heat the remaining oil over medium-high heat. Brown the chicken pieces until golden, turning often. Pour the pepper sauce over the chicken, reduce the heat, cover and simmer until tender, about 30 or 40 minutes or until juices run clear when chicken is pierced. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Makes 4 to 6 servings. Click here to sign up for Christine's Food for Friends e-newsletter!
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The Foodie File: Do you know about Espelette?

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