Monday, January 31, 2011

The Basques, Chicken B'stilla and Oil Tanks

Alsatians come from that part of France that was once occupied by Germany, on the German border.

The Basques are a mystery, and come from the region of France next to Spain, nestled in the Pyrenees
Mountains.   They are hard living, hard drinking people, mostly fishermen and farmers (tending sheep) They were inhabitants of Europe before most of the peoples there, and are known for their physical strength, AND Love of great food. 

My first experience cooking anything to do with the Basque culture, came from one of the Time Life Foods of the World series back in the early 70's.  It is often hardy food, and interestingly has Moroccan overtones to it (Morocco also being influenced by France).  And depending on what their trade was, they eat a lot of fish, or local domestic and wild meats, both often grilled over open fires in the field.  Another type of food they ate were one pot meals.  They also incorporated many flavors and foods, spices from other cultures. Everyone is involved in cooking, including those men in the Mountains tending sheep, and even in the field it is a communal meal.  Of course today's foods are lighter and maybe not so rugged as they once were.

Last night I made Dorie Greenspan's Chicken B'stilla.  It is a chicken pie baked in filo dough layers.  It is spiced with what we here normally think of as "sweet spices" - Cinnamon, coriander, ginger and saffron.  The chicken, once marinated, cooked and shredded, and mixed with an eggy creamy sauce is sprinkled with layers of sliced almonds (I LOVE chicken with almonds!).  It is also sprinkled with cinnamon sugar before baking.  It all might sound odd to pair with chicken but it was suprisingly good.

I don't know about you, but I Love to try food from other cultures...and learn about why they use certain ingredients, and spices in their dishes....and we all liked this recipe.  It was different, and even my plain eating meat and potatoes son liked it.  He said he "wished" it was creamier, but last night was unusual in that we were running in and outside digging WIDE paths (so they can get a crew and hand truck and new oil tank in today) and taking shifts emptying oil pans from under the now leaking (sprung yesterday!) leaky oil tank in the basement...ALL night....every was like having a sick baby! We are so tired!  and my oldest one had to work today...

So the pie was made in shifts.  I "could" have done the chicken and made the pie another night, and gotten us something simple, but it probably would have been junky to eat, but making this recipe kind of took my mind off the leaky tank....for a while anyway. 

And needless to say we ate it in the way it was cooked, in shifts, and there was little time for taking the many pictures I need to take with the camera to get even one good food shot...that will have to come in time...

But we liked was different..  I am waiting for a crew to come with drums to empty the "just last week filled oil tank" in the basement and put a new one in...I have to do any hot water chores fast before they start!

Will talk later,

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