Jacques Pépin is one of my favourite chefs. He used, coincidentally, to be a great friend of Julia Child who is mentioned below. I finally found the DVDs of his cookery tips and hints in which he expounds on such things as sharpening knives properly and making an omelette or dealing with onions. It’s full of useful information. I have one of his cookbooks too and we use several of the recipes regularly. He started working with his parents in their restaurant near Lyon, La Pelican. He later went to Paris training under Lucian Diat at the Plaza Athénée. He then was personal chef to three French heads of state. Eventually he came to the States where he became even more well known and eventually graduated into a television chef par excellence.
This a classic sauce from the Basque region of Spain. The Bayonne ham may be replaced with Prosciutto if you cannot obtain it and the piment d’Espelette, a unique pepper all of its own, can be found online or through gourmet groceries, but can also be replaced with cayenne or Paprika. You can use this sauce over almost anything, Julia Child even suggests using it over an omelette.
- 6 medium tomatoes
- 1 tablespoon plus 2 teaspoons olive oil
- 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
- Kosher salt
- 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