Thursday, December 11, 2014

Chicken Braised in Saffron, Almond, and Egg Yolk Sauce (Pollo en Pepitoria)


I absolutely love Spanish flavors, whether they are found in traditional tapas dishes, such as Patatas Bravas, or in more homey, comfort food dishes, like Soupy Rice with Chicken. Spaniards definitely have it going on regardless of what they're cooking, and I love experimenting in my kitchen testing out both familiar and unusual Spanish recipes.


As the days are getting shorter, and the weather getting colder and colder, I can't help but crave comfort foods, namely those that are slow-cooked and slathered with delicious sauce. Braising is perhaps the ultimate cooking technique for winter, and this Chicken Braised in Saffron, Almond, and Egg Yolk Sauce, or Pollo en Pepitoria, was just screaming for me to make it on a cold and rainy New England day.


If you Google the Spanish name, you'll find this appears to be quite a popular dish. I found lots of recipes and photos, but I decided to stick with the recipe in my favorite Spanish cookbook, Spain by Jeff Koehler. His recipes are authentic, simple, and, quite frankly, perfect.


This particular dish uses a traditional Spanish technique for thickening sauces--a picada. Garlic, almonds, bread, and saffron make up the base of this paste which also contains egg yolks from hard boiled eggs. And don't worry, you won't be wasting the hard boiled egg whites. They are chopped up and used as a garnish.


With the addition of sauteed onion, bay leaves, white wine, and chicken stock, the sauce for this braised chicken dish is absolutely outstanding. There is so much depth of flavor. This aromatic dish is a lovely way to keep warm on a cold day. And PS, I finally got to break in my new Le Creuset 4 1/2-quart deep saute pan. The color is Marseilles, and I'm absolutely in love... swoon!


Chicken Braised in Saffron, Almond, and Egg Yolk Sauce (Pollo en Pepitoria)
Serves 4
(Adapted from Spain)

2 hard-boiled eggs
6 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
2 1/4 pounds/1 kg free-range chicken drumsticks and thighs
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
All-purpose flour for dredging
1 medium onion, finely chopped
2 small bay leaves
4 garlic gloves, roughly chopped
2 small slices baguette, day old or toasted
15 unsalted toasted almonds without skins
1 pinch saffron threads, dry-toasted and ground
1 cup dry white wine
2 cups chicken stock or broth

Peel the eggs and remove and reserve the yolks. Roughly chop the whites and set aside.

In a cazuela, heavy casserole, large saute pan, or deep skillet, heat 3 tablespoons of the olive oil over medium heat. Season the chicken with salt and pepper, lightly dredge in flour, and cook until golden, turning as needed, about 8 minutes. Transfer the chicken to a platter. Add 2 tablespoons olive oil, the onion, and the bay leaves. Reduce the heat to medium-low and cook until the onion is soft and nearly translucent but now browned, 8 to 10 minutes.

Meanwhile, in a small skillet, heat the remaining 1 tablespoon of the olive oil over medium heat and add the garlic, cooking until it is golden and fragrant, about 1 minute; remove and reserve. Add the bread and fry until golden, turning as needed, about 2 minutes. Add the garlic, bread, almonds, saffron, and 1 tablespoons water to a small food processor and grind using quick pulses, checking after each pulse for desired consistency, and scraping down the sides of the bowl as needed. Add the reserved egg yolks and 1 tablespoon more water and mash into a moist paste.

When the onion is ready, return the chicken to the pan along with the picada, turn to coat the chicken, and then pour in the wine. Let the alcohol burn off for 2 minutes, pour in the stock, and bring to a simmer. Cook uncovered over low heat for about 50 minutes, or until the chicken is very tender but not falling off the bone and the sauce thickened. Season to taste with salt and pepper, if needed.

To serve, divide the chicken among plates, cover with the sauce, and garnish with the chopped egg white.

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