Makes:4 to 6 servings
Pipérade trumpets the versatility of French Basque cuisine. A simple sauté is enlivened with the local cured pork, Bayonne ham, and a spicy paprika known as piment d’Espelette. It’s great over braised chicken, but you can also heed Julia Child’s advice and use it to top a plain omelet.
What to buy: If you’re looking to save time, you can substitute a 15-ounce can of diced tomatoes for the fresh; be sure to drain the canned tomatoes first.
Bayonne ham is a cured ham product from the French Basque country. If you can’t find it, substitute prosciutto.
Piment d’Espelette is France’s only native pepper, and it is so highly revered that it is protected by AOC status. It has a nice heat and is worth seeking out at a gourmet grocery or online. If you have trouble finding it, you can substitute cayenne or paprika.
4 ounces thinly sliced Bayonne ham, cut into 1/2-inch squares
2 medium yellow onions, halved and thinly sliced
2 medium garlic cloves, minced
2 tablespoons fresh Italian parsley, coarsely chopped
1 tablespoon fresh thyme leaves, coarsely chopped
1 medium dried bay leaf
2 medium red, yellow, or orange bell peppers, cleaned and sliced lengthwise into 1/4-inch strips
2 medium green bell peppers, cleaned and sliced lengthwise into 1/4-inch strips
2 teaspoons piment d’Espelette
Bring a large saucepan of water to a boil over high heat. Prepare an ice water bath by filling a medium bowl halfway with ice and water. Using the tip of a knife, remove the stem and cut a shallow X-shape into the bottom of each tomato. Place the tomatoes in the boiling water and blanch until the skin just starts to pucker and loosen, about 10 seconds. Drain and immediately immerse the tomatoes in the ice water bath. Using a small knife, peel the loosened skin and cut each tomato in half. With a small spoon, scrape out any seeds, then core and coarsely chop the remaining flesh. Set aside.
Place a large Dutch oven or other heavy-bottomed pot with a tightfitting lid over medium heat and add 1 tablespoon of the oil. When the oil shimmers, add the ham and cook, stirring occasionally, until it’s golden brown, about 8 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the ham to a plate and set aside.
Return the pan to heat, add the remaining 2 teaspoons oil, and, once heated, add the onion and garlic. Cook, stirring rarely, until soft and beginning to color, about 8 minutes. Stir in the herbs and pepper slices and season well with salt. Cover and cook, stirring rarely, until the peppers are slightly softened, about 10 minutes.
Stir in the diced tomatoes, browned ham, and piment d’Espelette and season well with salt. Cook uncovered until the mixture melds and the juices have slightly thickened, about 10 minutes. Remove the bay leaf and serve.