Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Experimentations With Spanish Food: Pollo Aguilas

For this to be a success, the chicken needs to be hacked into about 15 smallish pieces. So get your chopper out and plaster the walls or, better still, get the butcher to do it.

When I cooked this the other day in Aguilas, a lovely seaside town in southeast Spain, with thankfully not a Brit, German, or best of all, Russian in sight, the butcher attacked it straight away thinking I was making paella. But I can hardly blame him with my Spanish pronunciation and the custom in Aguilas of leaving the "s" off the end of words.

He soon made short work of it, using a half-moon hitlerite monstrosity that looked more like a halberd than something you´d get in a butcher´s shop, and it took to the bones like a sizzling poker through warm butter.

In fact, while on the subject of bones, it's important to buy a decent chicken that's led some sort of life foraging for acorns and things. Sturdier bones and muscles offer far more flavour, rather than the brittle-boned, bacon-across-its back daisies you often get in the UK.

But it´s easy to be a food snob here in Aguilas, with lovely, corn-fed chickens at two euros a kilo, which means they wouldn´t dream of importing (literally) couped-up Frankenhens from Thailand.

(Serves 3-4)

1 chicken (about 1.3kg)
1 large Spanish onion
3 garlic cloves
1 carrot, diced
3 celery sticks, diced
20 green beans, in inch-wide pieces
150g decent chorizo sausage, diced
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 tsp of salt
1 tablespoon harissa paste
8 green olives
500g jar cooked white beans
100ml Spanish brandy (Terry Centenario is ideal)

Heat the olive oil, then put the chicken pieces in skin-side down. Turn when golden brown. Fry for 15 minutes until browned all over.

Add the salt and chorizo and cook for a few minutes, turning all the time. Add the onions, carrot, celery and garlic and cook for 20 minutes or so stirring regularly.

You´ll find the vegetables and chicken produce enough liquid to make a thick liquor to stop any burning. Then add the brandy, harissa paste and green beans. Cook for another five minutes.

Add the beans (including the jelly from the jar) and cook for a couple more minutes. Then leave a lid on and let it rest for at least 30 minutes while you polish off the rest of the brandy and shout at the Spanish family arguing in the street.

Finish the meal off with white bread and manchego cheese, or similar ewe-milk cheese.

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