Chicken Sauce Piquante is a traditional Cajun recipe with a unique flavor. Chicken smothered in a spicy roux-based sauce made with the Trinity, tomatoes, and a South Louisiana bite. Slowly simmered, this one-pot dish is served over rice and can feed a crowd. Sweet Daddy D's Chicken Sauce Piquante recipe, is simple, no-angst, and extraordinarily delicious.
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What is Sauce Piquante?
The term piquante (or piquant, depending on where you see it) comes from the French and refers to a taste sensation like having “a sticker in your tongue”. I have seen terms like prickly, sharp, bristly, hot, pungent, and sharp used to define the word. Larousse Gastronomique, The World’s Greatest Culinary Encyclopedia defines it as “creating a prickly sensation in the mouth”. I have eaten Sauce Piquants all my life and I know that it is more complex than just merely spicy. It’s an agreeably stimulating taste that is at once spicy, tangy, and peppery. It’s a sharp but appetizing flavor. The degree of spicy complexity is controlled by the cook. Some recipes use lemon or vinegar along with tomatoes, which add their own acidity and tanginess to the flavor profile. I use a variety of peppers (black pepper, white pepper, cayenne pepper, and pepper flakes) with the tomatoes to extend the piquantness along.
Is this Cajun?
Sauce Piquante is a decidedly Cajun recipe, but the influences of Creole Cuisine are very apparent. It's been said that Sauce Piquante is the Cajun version of Sauce Creole but with some distinct differences. Cajun cuisine developed from a French foundation, so a roux is a natural component. The use of tomatoes likely derived from Italian immigrants to South Louisiana which ultimately impacted Creole cuisine. The peppers and spiciness are likely the influence of Spanish and Caribbean cuisines, which are also an important component of Creole cuisine. But the overall one-pot slow cooking process and the flexibility of using whatever protein is available is definitely a Cajun trait.
Are there other variations of this dish?
Chicken Sauce Piquante is one of many variations of this dish. It’s common to see Turtle, Rabbit, Alligator, and various seafood (among other proteins) in Sauce Piquante recipes. Cajuns would use whatever was available from hunting, fishing, or growing. The method would be the same, but depending upon the protein, I would align the flavor of the stock and the type of wine I use. Sauce Piquante is a unique dish in the broad spectrum of Cajun and Creole cuisines.
What makes a good Sauce Picante?
The best Sauce Piquantes need a depth of flavor that is best achieved by home cooks. The flavor needs to be spicy, but as I've said above, the spiciness should be a part of a complex and unique flavor profile. The proteins, whether it's chicken or turtle or rabbit, or whatever else is available often require a long cooking time to tenderize. The time and attention that a perfect Sauce Piquant requires are more available from home cooks than from restaurants.
Here’s What You Need
Here are some of the key ingredients for this recipe:
What is the Trinity? In South Louisiana culinary parlance, the Trinity refers to the combination of yellow onion, bell pepper, and celery. Sometimes referred to as the Holy Trinity, these three ingredients make the base of Cajun and Creole cuisine.
Note on the Chicken: I use a whole chicken which I then cut into pieces. I end up with 10 pieces by cutting the breasts in two so that all the pieces are relatively the same size. A whole chicken gives you some white meat as well as dark meat, but a chicken that is already cut into pieces can give you the same. If you buy pre-cut chicken, you could use all white or all dark, depending upon your preference.
Note on the Oil: I use vegetable oil to brown the chicken and make the roux. Vegetable oil is fairly neutral in flavor, but you can also substitute butter, bacon drippings, or lard for some additional flavor.
Note on the Peppers: Peppers are essential to this recipe. I use a variety of peppers because that provides a more complex flavor. I use black pepper, white pepper, fresh Jalapenos, cayenne pepper (both dried whole and powdered), and red pepper flakes. You can adjust the level of spiciness by increasing or decreasing the amount of pepper you use.
Note on the Wine: For Chicken Sauce Piquante I use a dry white wine. If I were making Seafood Sauce Piquant, I would do the same. For Turtle Sauce Piquante I would use Dry Red Wine and for Rabbit I would use either White or Red.
Note on the Stock: For Chicken Sauce Piquante I use chicken stock. For Seafood Sauce Piquant I would use seafood stock and for Turtle Sauce Piquante I would use Turtle or Veal stock. I would use Rabbit or Veal Stock for Rabbit Sauce Piquant. For any type of Sauce Piquante, I would not hesitate to use Chicken Stock if I didn't have the specific stock I want. Check out my recipe for Homemade Chicken Stock.
Here is some of the equipment I used in making this recipe:
Here’s What You Do
First…you have a beer. This is really a straightforward recipe, but you will find it easier and have better results if you prepare yourself and the ingredients beforehand. Grab a beer and read the recipe all the way through. Learn what equipment you need and what ingredients go in this dish. Read what you will do with each. Perform your mise en place so everything is laid out and you are ready to assemble the recipe. If you do this, it's really hard to screw this up!
Mise en Place
Preparing the chicken
If you are using a whole chicken, cut it up into 10 pieces, as opposed to the traditional 8 pieces. This is done by cutting the breasts in half. That way, all the pieces are relatively the same size.
Rinse the chicken and pat dry with a paper towel. Sprinkle the pieces with kosher salt and a generous amount of Creole seasoning and place them in the refrigerator, uncovered. This will allow the skin to dry a little which helps when browning. Make sure to save the leftover chicken parts (neck, backbone) to make stock. These pieces can be frozen to use later if necessary. If you are using precut pieces, follow the same steps, including cutting the breasts in half.
Prepare the remaining ingredients
- Since this recipe should be fairly rustic and will simmer for a long time, you should rough chop the yellow onions, bell peppers, and celery (the Trinity). Place these all in the same prep bowl.
- Rough chop the garlic and parsley then slice the green onions. Place those in individual prep bowls.
- Measure the remaining ingredients: vegetable oil, AP flour, wine, stock, sugar, and Worcestershire.
- Pour the whole tomatoes with their juice into a large prep bowl and crush the tomatoes with your hands. Of course, if you are using something other than whole tomatoes, skip the crushing step.
- Open the can of tomato paste.
- Combine the Herb and Spice Blend in a prep bowl, I usually separate out the cayenne and pepper flakes from the Herb and Spice Blend because I rely on the flavor of the sauce to tell me how much of those to use.
- Now you're ready, how's your beer?
Brown the Chicken
What happens in this step? The first layer of flavor! Even though the chicken will simmer in the sauce for hours, browning the chicken will leave fond that will contribute deep flavor to the whole recipe.
Heat about 2 tablespoons of the vegetable oil in a Dutch oven over medium-high heat. When the oil is shimmering, add the chicken pieces skin-side down. Brown the chicken pieces for about 4 minutes on each side. Remove the browned chicken from the Dutch oven and set it aside.
Pro Tip: As an option, you could remove the skin from the browned pieces prior to adding them back to the sauce. This is a personal preference but can reduce the amount of fat that is released in the recipe.
Start with a Dark Roux
What happens in this step? The next layer of flavor is built from the bottom up with a dark roux and the Trinity laying the foundation.
After removing all the chicken, lower the heat to medium and add the remaining oil. When the oil starts to shimmer, add the flour. Whisk or stir for about 5 to 8 minutes to make a dark roux. There will be some fond on the bottom of the Dutch oven from browning the chicken and this will add a lot of flavor to the roux.
When the roux is almost the color you want, remove the Dutch oven from the heat and add the Trinity. Saute, stirring almost constantly, for about 8 minutes until the onions are softened and translucent. You may need to return the Dutch oven to the heat after about 5 minutes to finish cooking the Trinity.
Next add the garlic, some of the red pepper flakes, and about ½ the Herb and Spice Blend (not the Bay Leaves yet). Continue to saute until aromatic, which will only take about 2 minutes.
Build the Tomato-based Sauce
What happens in this step? Upon the flavor base we have built, we will create the sauce that carries the piquant flavor throughout the dish.
Maintaining medium heat, stir the tomato paste into the roux mixture and saute for about 5 to 8 minutes, while the tomato paste browns slightly. Stir this frequently so that it does not stick.
Add the wine and mix thoroughly. Saute for another 5 minutes or so until the wine has incorporated into the tomato paste.
Next, add the whole tomatoes (which you crushed by hand), Worcestershire sauce, sugar, about ½ of the remaining Herb and Spice Blend, the jalapeno, the whole dry cayenne pepper, and the bay leaves. Mix thoroughly and simmer for about 5 minutes.
Increase the heat to medium-high and add the stock. Stir well. When the sauce reaches a low boil, reduce the heat and continue on a slight simmer for about 45 minutes. Partially cover the Dutch oven and stir occasionally.
Smother the Chicken in the Sauce
What happens in this step? Let's load up the chicken so it can simmer in this wonderful piquante sauce.
Add the browned chicken (including any juice that has accumulated), the remaining Herb and Spice Blend, and the green onions (reserve some to garnish the top at the end) and combine well.
Continue to simmer for about 2 hours, stirring occasionally. Cover the Dutch oven for the first 30-45 minutes, then remove the lid completely or set it ajar as the sauce thickens.
Pro Tip: You'll want the sauce to thicken, so use the lid to help that along. Place the lid on to slow the thickening, remove the lid to speed up thickening, and place the lid ajar to slowly thicken.
When the chicken is tender, it is done. Taste the sauce and add any salt and seasonings you’d like.
Pro Tip: I use a bamboo skewer to test tenderness. A fork or thin knife will also do the trick.
Serve over rice with crispy french bread and a green salad.
Hints and Tips (FAQs)
Leftovers can be held in the refrigerator for 3 to 5 days and in the freezer for up to 6 months. In both cases, it's important to use an airtight container to maintain optimal quality. Defrost frozen Sauce Piquant in the fridge overnight or in cold water that is changed often. Reheat in a saucepan on the stove over medium heat until the chicken pieces are warmed through. You can also reheat in a microwave, but be careful not to nuke the chicken into bricks!
Nope, you can use individual pieces. The bone-in chicken will provide the most flavor, but boneless-skinless chicken also works. If you want to use individual pieces, you can choose to use all breasts or all thighs, which is what I would prefer.
Smother them with LOVE! Here are some other great Cajun recipes from Sweet Daddy D!
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Chicken Sauce Piquante
Here's What You Need
- 1 whole Chicken (about 4 ½ pounds) Cut into 10 pieces See Notes
- ¾ cup Vegetable Oil divided or Bacon Grease
- ¾ cup AP Flour
- 2 cups Yellow Onions coarse chop
- 1 cup Bell Peppers coarse chop
- ½ cup Celery coarse chop
- 2 tablespoons Garlic about 5 cloves
- 6 ounces Tomato Paste
- 1 cup Dry White Wine
- 4 cups Chicken Stock
- 28 ounces Whole Tomatoes
- 1 Jalapeno Pepper See Notes
- 1 cayenne pepper (dried)
- 1 bunch Green Onions
- 3 tablespoons Sugar
- 2 tablespoons Worcestershire
- 4 tablespoons Parsley
Herb and Spice Blend
- 1 tablespoon Creole Seasoning plus some for chicken
- ½ teaspoon dry thyme
- ½ teaspoon kosher Salt
- ½ teaspoon ground black pepper
- ½ teaspoon white pepper
- 2 Bay Leaves
- ¼ teaspoon Cayenne pepper optional
- 1 teaspoon Crushed red pepper optional
Here's What You Do
- Cut the chicken into 10 pieces (See Notes). Season the chicken with Creole seasoning and place it in the refrigerator uncovered until needed.
- Heat about 2 tablespoons of the vegetable oil in a Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Brown the chicken pieces for about 4 minutes on each side. Remove the browned chicken from the Dutch oven and set it aside. See Notes.
- Lower the heat to medium and add the remaining oil. When shimmering, add the flour. Whisk or stir for about 5 to 8 minutes to make a dark roux.
- Remove the roux from heat and add the Trinity (yellow onions, bell peppers, and celery). Saute for about 8 minutes until the onions are softened and translucent. See Notes
- Next add the garlic, some of the red pepper flakes, and about ½ the Herb and Spice Blend (not the Bay Leaves yet). Continue to saute until aromatic, about 2 minutes.
- Maintaining medium heat, stir the tomato paste into the roux mixture and saute for about 5 to 8 minutes, while it browns slightly. Stir frequently so that it does not stick.
- Add the wine to the tomato paste and mix thoroughly. Saute another 5 minutes or so until the wine has incorporated into the tomato paste.
- Next, add the whole tomatoes (which you crushed by hand), Worchestershire sauce, sugar, about ½ of the remaining Herb and Spice Blend, the jalapeno, the whole cayenne pepper, and the bay leaves. Mix thoroughly and simmer for about 5 minutes.
- Increase the heat to medium-high and add the stock. Stir well, bring the mixture to a high simmer, then lower the heat and continue on a slight simmer for about 45 minutes. Partially cover the Dutch oven. Stir occasionally.
- Add the browned chicken (including any juice that has accumulated), the remaining Herb and Spice Blend, and the green onions (reserve some to garnish the top at the end) and combine well.
- Continue to simmer for about 2 hours, stirring occasionally. Cover the Dutch oven for the first 30-45 minutes, then remove the lid completely or set it ajar as the sauce thickens.
- When the chicken is tender, it is done. Taste the sauce and add any salt and seasonings you’d like.
- Serve over rice with crispy french bread and a green salad.