Monday, November 10, 2008
I've been cooking for years and tried thousands of recipes - most just one time. Repeats are unusual and those that have endured the vagaries of time and trend number less than a hundred. This one is a survivor. It has been adapted, over time, from a Spanish recipe popularized by Annemarie Huste in the 70's. I love the meld of flavors that come from the orange-sherry, olive-raisin combinations in this dish. The raisins provide a hint of sweetness, the degree of which depends on the type of raisin used. I prefer Malaga, but California raisins will do nicely. A dubious bit of cooking lore to share with you - legend has it that the first raisin crop was the result of a heat wave so intense it dried grapes on the vine. Another fascinating fact, this one true - I've done repeated personal field testing so I can attest to its veracity - a raisin dropped in a glass of fresh champagne will bounce up and down continually from the bottom of the glass to the top and down again. Try it, you'll see I speak with an unforked tongue, plus it's a great excuse for champagne. I always plump raisins; they act as sponges in their dry state but if they're soused before cooking your sauces will be more predictable. The microwave has made short order of this task and can be used if your recipe does not give instructions for plumping. Simply put the raisins in a microwave container with 2 teaspoons of water and nuke, lightly covered, for 1 minute on HIGH power and you're done. Use a dry sherry and fresh orange juice to assemble the sauce for this entrée and you're on your way to a visually spectacular peasant feast. I know you'll enjoy this one.
1/2 cup Malaga or California raisins
1/2 cup Spanish pimento stuffed olives, quartered
1 teaspoon freshly grated orange zest
1 cup fresh orange juice strained to remove pulp
1 cup dry Spanish sherry
3 beef bouillon cubes
2 teaspoons minced garlic
3 teaspoons chopped cilantro
6 to 8 bone-in chicken thighs, skin removed
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon coarsely cracked black pepper
1 tablespoon + 1 teaspoon sweet smoked Spanish paprika (pimenton)
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons toasted almond slivers
2 tablespoons pimento
1 tablespoon chopped cilantro
1 orange slice
1) Combine raisins, olives, orange zest, juice, sherry, bouillon cubes and garlic in a medium saucepan. Bring to a simmer. Remove from heat. Set aside.
2) Combine flour, salt, pepper and 1 tablespoon paprika in a 1-gallon zip-top baggie. Shake to combine. Add chicken, a piece at a time, and shake to coat. Set aside.
3) Heat olive oil in a 12-inch nonstick skillet set over medium-high heat. When oil begins to shimmer add chicken and saute until brown, about 5 minutes per side. Transfer chicken to a plate. Stir in reserved 1 teaspoon paprika. Pour sauce into skillet; use a wooden spoon to release fond from bottom of pan. Return chicken to pan; bring sauce back to a simmer and cook, covered, over medium heat for 20 minutes, turning once to prevent sticking. Using a slotted spoon, transfer chicken to a serving platter; tent with foil to keep warm. Bring sauce to a boil and cook rapidly until it becomes syrupy. Spoon over chicken. Sprinkle with almonds, pimento and cilantro. Twist orange slice to form a wheel and place in center of platter. Yield: 4 to 6 servings.