Pollo al ajillo
The last month has been crazy. Between finishing graduate school, preparing for a job interview, and traveling to California and to Washington within the space of a week, I hardly had a chance to breathe. Then I came back from Washington (site of aforementioned job interview) and, before I had even unpacked, I was offered the job and was immediately thrown into the reality of moving across the country. So it looks like the next month will be crazy, too.
During all of that craziness, this recipe sat patiently on my desk, just waiting for me to find, not just the time to prepare food of any kind, but an occasion that deserved it. That occasion came last week when Mr. X and I finally had a Saturday evening at home that involved me not doing homework and him not doing work. Amazing. As was this dish.
The recipe is adapted from a new cookbook from Chronicle Books, Tapas, and if it’s any indication of what else this book holds, I need to get my hands on a copy right away. I’m not sure how traditionally Spanish this is (Crystal, perhaps you can chime in here?), but I also don’t care. I already made this twice in three days and I will be making it again. Saturday night I served it with some Manchego cheese and onion bread and delicious Prosecco (ok, it should have been Cava, but beggars who shop at the Hippie Mart can’t be choosers). Last night I made it again and served it over some pearl barley and snap peas. The sauce soaked into the barley just enough, and the peas added a lovely crispness and sweetness.
The original recipe calls for fino, or Manzanilla sherry. I could not find Manzanilla sherry, so I made it the first night with Amontillado sherry. The second night I had no more sherry so I used a bit of Sauvignon Blanc instead. I actually think it was a little more lovely with the Sauvignon Blanc: brighter and better balanced. Perhaps this is because Manzanilla sherry is lighter than Amontillado? I don’t really know about these things, so I couldn’t say. I can say that you should feel free to experiment.
I also used smoked paprika, instead of the sweet paprika the recipe called for. Perhaps it’s not traditional, but it is phenomenal, and highly recommended. I think it’s pretty hard to dislike anything that involves smoked paprika.
Pollo al ajillo
(Adapted from Tapas by Joyce Goldstein)
- 4 boneless, skinless chicken thighs, cut into small pieces
- 3 tsp. smoked paprika
- 1 tsp. salt and 1/2 tsp. pepper
- 1/3 c. olive oil
- 6 cloves of garlic, smashed, plus 2 cloves, minced
- 1 tsp. dried thyme
- 2 bay leaves
- 1/2 c. sherry or white wine
- 1/2 c. chicken broth or stock
- parsley for garnish
Toss the chicken pieces with the paprika, salt, and pepper, and set in the refrigerator for at least an hour or overnight.
Preheat the oven to 400F.
Heat the olive oil in a large saute pan over medium heat. Add the crushed garlic and the chicken, and cook for about five minutes, or until the chicken is white all around, but not cooked through. Remove the chicken to a baking dish, and discard the crushed garlic. (I actually just removed the chicken to a plate, and added it back to the saute pan before throwing the whole pan in the oven, so if you don’t have a baking dish, or don’t want to dirty something else, don’t worry about it.)
Return the saute pan to the stove, and lower the heat. Add the minced garlic and cook for about 30 seconds. Then add the thyme, bay leaves, sherry or wine, and chicken stock. Raise the heat to medium-high and bring the liquid to a boil. Let it cook down and reduce by about a third, then pour it over the chicken in the baking dish (or add the chicken and the collected juices back to the pan).
Bake the chicken for about 25 to 30 minutes, or until it’s cooked through and the sauce has thickened a bit. Discard the bay leaves, transfer the chicken to a serving dish, if necessary, and sprinkle with parsley.
Serve with rice or some other type of grain, or just with delicious bread to sop up the spicy sauce, and with delicious wine, to celebrate. I certainly had a lot to celebrate, and I believe it’s worth it to find something to celebrate every day.