This post is part of the Taste of Spain series. This series contains information on Spanish flavors, ingredients, dishes, and culinary culture.
I can always count on wine being in the refrigerator. Considering we have a bodega at the far end of our basement equipped with its own AC, the wine flows freely in this household. In Spain it is customary for the children at the table to have some wine mixed with their water. Don’t try that as you get older however, unless you want to get scolded about ruining a perfectly good glass of wine. Although I am no where near an expert in Spanish cooking, what I do know, is that there are certain key ingredients that will always be plentiful in a Spanish household. These are ingredients that I consider essential in any Spanish meal. You won’t always use them all at the same time, but I cook with them fairly often: olive oil, wine, pimenton, bay leaves, jamon iberico, olives, chorizo, and red peppers. Keep these on hand and you will have any Spaniard in your life eating out of the palms of your hand.
Last night I was in the mood for some chicken covered in a flavorful sauce. When I’m really hungry, and I mean lick your plate til it’s clean hungry, there is nothing like a slurpy sauce to satiate the craving. In search of a solution, I thumbed through my dad’s Spanish cookbooks collection and chose an old one, so old it is out of print (Feast of Spain edited by Luis Bettonica pictured below). I like this book because it show recipes according to the regions of Spain. While Spanish cooking does have similar qualities, each region has its own dishes and customs to call their own.
The last time I went to Extremadura was as a teenager. My family and I visited the province’s capital city Merida, known for its Roman influence and architecture. As for its culinary history, it is also known for its production of Jamon Serrano, Spanish cured ham widely popular all over Spain.
The recipe usually calls for lamb, however I replaced it with chicken, mostly because that’s what we had in the refrigerator, but honestly I’m also not that crazy over lamb. This recipe works well with chicken, lamb, or beef.
3 lbs of chicken breast or thigh
1 tablespoon coarse sea salt
1/2 cup olive oil
4 garlic cloves
1 large onion chopped
1 carrot chopped
1 bay leaf
1 tablespoon pimenton (paprika)
2 cups of white wine
1 tablespoon flour
2 cups of stock (I used chicken stock)
1 red pepper
Parsley chopped for garnish
Cut the chicken into pieces and season with the sea salt. In a cast iron skillet, put the olive oil and the peeled garlic cloves over a low heat. When they have browned take them out and put them to the side (you will need them later for the sauce). Now take your chicken pieces and put the in the skillet allowing them to brown on all sides. Do do not cook all the way. Set the chicken aside. Now add the chopped onions, carrot, and bay leaf to the pan and fry. Sprinkle in the tablespoon of paprika and let the mixture cook for about 10 minutes. Afterward pour the wine and add the chicken that you set aside. Let the wine evaporate while you turn the chicken pieces in the mixture. Once the wine has reduced to less than half add the tablespoon of flour and fry with the chicken. Now pour the stock, stirring to blend. Let this cook for 40 minutes.
While your chicken is cooking you will make the garlic and red pepper sauce. Take the garlic you set aside and mix it with the chopped red pepper, peppercorn, and some olive oil. I also put in a bit of salt for extra flavor but that is optional. Put them in a food processor and blend. You can also use a mortar to make the sauce if you prefer to make it old school. Blend the sauce until it is smooth. Dilute with a bit of the stock and then pour this over the chicken. Let this mixture cook for another 10 minutes. I tend to prefer a little bit of spice in my dish so I also added red pepper flakes for the last 10 minutes as well as some Spanish capers. I find that it makes the dish tastier.
Feast of Spain edited by Luis Bettonica