Winter has arrived, at least here in Kansas City. The chill in the air has me bundled up inside wanting nothing more than to create wanderful recipes for you! Today I was craving something I could make in a cast iron dish, a recent purchase and most likely the start of a new obsession. I settled for something familiar, something warm, something French, yet Spanish inspired.
As a mostly vegetarian, let’s call it chicken-atarian, I had difficulties with the cuisine in Catalonia. It is centered around meat. Beef and pork, sausages-you name it, they find a way to add it to every dish. I understand why, they know what they are doing and have been doing it for hundreds of years. Much to my discomfort, it usually left me hungry. So when I came across this dish in the Basque country, I was elated.
Basque Piperade is from the Basque country, situated within the western part of the French Pyranees. The Basque country is made up of seven provinces, five which are in Spain and three are in southwestern France. Sure, the Spanish side has the Michelin stars and Pamplona has the running of the bulls and Bilbao has the museum, but the French side has it’s place in the world of gastronomy too. One town in particular, Biarritz has a climate similar to Northern California and is considered one of the best places for surfing. Honestly, if it weren’t for the Basque language being a necessary evil, it would be the best of both worlds for me. Spain and France blended together in perfect harmony-tres magnifique!
Until then, the cuisine will have me staying warm here stateside. This dish is best served alongside a crunchy french baguette to sop up the delicious and slightly spicy tomato goodness.
There is some history to this dish as well, as is with any good comfort food. It is meant to represent the Basque flag of red, green and white (or you can say it’s Christmas) and of course, meat can be added as well. I would recommend serving it as an appetizer or tapa but if like me, you want something quick and warm to eat midday it can serve has a main dish.
1 can of San Marzano Tomatoes
1 small can tomato paste
1 jar of roasted sweet red bell peppers
12 cloves garlic, minced
1 yellow onion, minced
4-5 large eggs
3 tbsp smoked paprika
1 tsp chili powder
1 tsp sugar (optional)
1 french baguette
Begin by preheating the oven to 450 degrees
Chop your onions, garlic, red peppers and add them to a pan with 2 tablespoons of olive oil (or a couple glugs) and warm until the onions are soft and golden. Be careful not to burn the garlic. It should only take about five minutes to get the onions translucent.
Then, add the red peppers and your paprika, salt, pepper and chili powder. Let the spices marinate for a minute or so and then add your tomatoes. These tomatoes are chunky so you will need to break them up with a fork. You then can add the red peppers and season to taste. Turn down the heat to a low simmer and add your bay leaves. Check the flavor and add more paprika or chili powder depending on how much heat you want. Traditionally, this is not meant to be a spicy dish but add a kick if that’s what you like!
Let it all simmer for twenty minutes or so. Then, take your cast iron pan and add your sauce. I used a small pan as a personal dish (no sharing!) and that will determine how many eggs you need. A larger dish, you can add four or five. In my dish, I added two. If you are afraid of getting egg shell into your dish, you can crack the eggs into a separate bowl and then place them gently into your dish with a spoon.
Place the cast iron dish in the oven for five to seven minutes. The goal is to keep the eggs runny, yet firm.
Add a dash of fresh tarragon to the top for color if you have it on hand and serve with your crunchy bread. I grilled mine but you can bake it in the oven as well, adding olive oil either way!
Enjoy either red or white wine with this dish and bask in the warm glow of this Basque dish….! ha!