Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Piperade

Peppers hanging to dry on a house in Espelette which is in the Basque region of France.













Piperade is a traditional Basque dish made with sweet peppers, onions, tomatoes, garlic, herbs, and seasoned with piment d'Espelette, a pepper grown around the French town of Espelette. Piment d'Espelette has a mild heat and is delicious on a variety of foods from vegetables to popcorn, one of my husbands favorite ways to use it. Piperade is traditionally served with chicken or eggs but is excellent with most any meat that you would enjoy with red sweet peppers alongside. Leftover piperade is great and we love it with spätzle which makes for a German-Basque fusion meal. Our first introduction to piperade was when our French daughter-in-law made it for us and the recipe I use is based on her recipe. Though it is best made with pimento d'Espelette, and I have always made it with the Basque pepper, it is not easy to find in the U.S. You will likely have to order it online. I have read that you can substitute hot paprika or mild New Mexico chile powder.

Piperade
1.25 lb tomatoes
3 large red sweet peppers, seeded and cut in julienne
2 large yellow onions, peeled and cut in julienne
6 slices thick cut bacon, the best you can find, cut in lardons
2 cloves garlic, peeled and minced
1 bay leaf
a few sprigs of thyme
salt to taste
2 tsp piment d'Espelette
1 tblsp honey
Brown the bacon in a deep heavy pan, I use my le Creuset Dutch oven. When the bacon is cooked remove it and put it aside until the dish is finished, leaving the fat in the pot. Peel and cut the onions into julienne. Add the onions to the pot with the bacon fat and let them cook over medium low heat while you prepare the other vegetables. Give them a stir from time to time. Remove the seeds from the peppers and cut them into julienne. Add them to the pot with the onions. My daughter-in-law removes the skins from the tomatoes, but I don't. So it is your option whether to do it or not. If you choose to, cut an x into the end opposite the core and dip in boiling water for about 1 minute. Place in cold water. The skin should come right off. Core the tomatoes, slice them in half across the equator and gently squeeze out the seeds into a bowl. Cut the tomatoes into large dice and add them to the pot. Put the tomato seeds and any juice with them into a food mill. Put all the juice recovered from the seeds into the pot. Add the herbs, honey, and piment d'Esplette. Bring the heat under the pot up to medium high, when the contents just come to a low boil, cover the pot and lower the heat so that the piperade will just simmer. Simmer for 2 hours, stirring occasionally.
Piperade is one of those dishes that is better the next day. 

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