Sometimes imagination fails me and I'm forced to fall back on an old stand-by. Not a bad thing really, especially if it's been a while since I've made it, but disappointing at the same time since I love to try my hand at new dishes. Nevertheless, the following recipe is one that my family loves and will eat (if I haven't served it the week before).
My husband's family is originally from Spain and since we've been together, I've been inspired by family gatherings, trips to Spain, and most of all, Penelope Casas to infuse a Spanish sensibility in my cooking. As an average American WASP, I crave ethnicity and cultural differences. Green bean casserole and mushroom soup-based cuisine are my only authentic heritage, so I've had to make it up as I go along. Trying on my husband's heritage for size, I found it fit nicely--garlic, olive oil, fabulous wine, chorizo, what's not to like?
Over the years, the following chicken recipe has slowly evolved. Its original inspiration was a Martha Rose Schulman recipe in Mediterranean Light, which in turn, was inspired by bouillabaisse. To transport it south of the Pyrenees, I decreased the wine and chicken broth, increased the garlic and added smoked paprika to the mix. The original recipe was a little finicky about cooking technique; I found that just plunking all the ingredients together in a pot or large covered saucepan and simmering for 45-60 minutes was far easier and just as tasty.
My only problem with the dish--actually all chicken dishes--is the gradual erosion of bone-in, organic chicken pieces available in this town. I really don't understand why the groceries around here think I want pallid boneless breasts and thighs. I can still get a whole chicken, no problem, but butchering a chicken is a real pain. I mean, I have a nice (Wusthof) knife, a great knife sharpener, yet no matter how sharp my knife is, I still have to brutally hack off the wings and legs, while the slippery chicken slides around the counter and befouls me with its slimy juices. I didn't go to culinary school, I admit, so technique may play a part in my ineptitude. Nevertheless, the whole business just seems needlessly time-consuming and unnecessarily nasty. Why can't a real butcher at the store or the chicken packaging place do this for me, like they used to? I believe in organic farming fervently and love the superior taste of happy chickens--I just can't let myself succumb to the easy convenience of Purdue although I'm sorely tempted at times. The nearest Whole Foods Market is 75 miles away and besides, I live in a semi-major metropolitan city and shouldn't have to drive to a far smaller town to get the variety I want (although I have). What's going on?
Enough ranting--onto the (did I mention it's child-friendly?) recipe:
Chicken with Saffron, Smoked Paprika and Garlic
1 organic chicken brutally butchered by hand in Richmond or professionally cut into 8 pieces if you're out of town
2 TB. olive oil
1 small onion, diced
5 cloves garlic, minced
1 14.5 oz. can diced tomatoes
1/2 c. white wine
1/2 c. chicken broth
1 t. dried orange peel
1 bay leaf
1/2t. dried thyme
1 t. smoked paprika
2 large pinches saffron (toasted lightly in a small skillet beforehand to bring out the flavor)
salt and pepper to taste
Remove skin from chicken and lightly salt with coarse salt. Heat the olive oil in the bottom of a dutch oven or large saucepan, and sauté the garlic and onion until soft and fragrant. Add the tomatoes, chicken, white wine, chicken broth, dried orange peel, and spices. Stir gently and bring to a simmer. Simmer for 45-60 minutes or until chicken is tender. Serve with small new potatoes or couscous (my favorite, but not my family's), a large green salad, and a crisp and flavorful Albariño. Serves 4.