Sunday, 28 November 2010

Easy Spanish Chicken

This is one of those recipes you will make again and again, not only because it is quick and easy, but because everyone will love it. It’s only got a few ingredients, and chances are you probably have most of them on hand. This recipe is inspired by things I have eaten in tiny old caf√©s that we have stumbled upon during our European travels. The smell of garlic generally arrives before the dish gets to the table, and dishes like this are almost always served with an ice cold glass of beer.

You could just as easily use chicken thighs as chicken breasts for this recipe, and in fact I encourage you to do so as they will be more tender. However my family really prefer chicken breasts so I use those instead. I use the red onions, red skinned potatoes and red pepper because they look so pretty contrasting with the chicken, but if you don’t have any of those on hand, or you would rather use a green or yellow pepper instead, there is no reason why you can’t.

I do like to use un-peeled garlic cloves in this recipe because I love how they roast up into garlicky sweetness. You can then squeeze them out of their skins as you eat the dish. However my son absolutely hates garlic cooked that way, so I usually finely grate a clove of garlic in for him, and scatter some whole cloves through the dish for my husband and I. Also, garlic is a very personal (and sometimes acquired) taste, so use as much as you like - or none at all! If you prefer a milder garlic flavour just toss in a couple whole cloves or perhaps grate one or two into the dish. If you like a lot, you can add as many cloves of garlic as you like. When I have had dishes similar to this in Spain and Italy, they have been loaded with at least a whole garlic bulb’s worth of sweetly roasted garlic cloves. I use less at home!

Madeira or sherry gives this dish a wonderful depth of flavour, and as you are only using a quarter cup of it and the majority of the alcohol will cook off, it really should not be an issue with children. However if you are concerned about it, or are teetotal, or just don’t have any on hand, then please feel free to use chicken stock instead.

To serve four people you need:-

3 tablespoons olive oil (or other vegetable oil) plus a little for drizzling
4 large (or several small) red skinned potatoes, scrubbed clean and cut up
(I generally cut the larger ones in quarters or eighths, but little red potatoes can simply be cut in half.)
2 red onions, peeled and cut in eighths
1 red pepper, seeded and cut in chunks
garlic cloves, either peeled to grate in or left un-peeled and whole
1 teaspoon dried thyme
¼ teaspoon salt
generous pinch of pepper
¼ cup Madeira, sherry or chicken stock
4 chicken breasts or 8 boneless chicken thighs
dried or freshly chopped parsley to garnish

Preheat the oven to 375 or about 170.

Heat the olive oil in a large casserole (that is safe to use both on the stove top and in the oven) on the stovetop over medium heat. Toss in the onions and stir fry them for a bit but don’t let them go brown. Now add the potatoes, being sure to coat them thoroughly in the oil.  Fry them for a couple minutes, stirring constantly. Add the garlic cloves (or grate in the garlic you are using), the peppers and the seasonings.

Pour the Madeira, sherry or chicken stock over the whole lot and gently stir through. Nestle the chicken on top of the dish, drizzle with a bit of oil and put the the casserole into the oven.

If you are using chicken breasts, this should be cooked within about 25 minutes to half an hour. Be sure the chicken is thoroughly cooked with no pink remaining inside. Chicken thighs will take a little bit longer. Again, do be sure they are cooked through. 

Serve one chicken breast or two thighs on top of a little mound of the potato and onion mixture. Garnish with some parsley and enjoy!

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