Pollo Basquaise (Basque Chicken)

Pollo Basquaise | Pinky's Pantry
I always wanted to go to Spain. I mean who wouldn’t want to see the Sagrada Familia, or take a stroll along La Rambla in Barcelona? I would love to tour the Alhambra in Granada, go tapas bar hopping in Madrid, watch the tapping of a flamenco dancer in Seville, admire the moorish architecture of Toledo, or relax on a sunny beach in Ibiza. And the food! I would love to eat paella, jamon serrano, churros con chocolate, turron…. Alas, it’s all still just a dream for me. Maybe someday I’ll finally make it to Spain. For now, the closest I can get is to prepare Spanish dishes like this one.

POLLO BASQUAISE (BASQUE CHICKEN)

  • 12 small new potatoes, peeled or unpeeled (your choice)
  • 3 Tbsp. extra­ virgin olive oil
  • 3 – 4 dried Spanish chorizo sausages (like chorizo de Bilbao), cut diagonally into ¾-inch pieces
  • 8 skin-­on, boneless chicken thighs, halved crosswise
  • salt and pepper, to taste
  • 1 small yellow onion, diced
  • 3 large garlic cloves, crushed
  • 6 sprigs thyme
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 small can (4 oz.) tomato paste
  • 1 can (15 oz.) diced tomatoes, undrained
  • 1 cup dry white wine
  • 1 cup chicken stock
  • 10-12 jarred piquillo peppers, drained and halved lengthwise
  • 1 jar (5 ozs.) pimento-stuffed green olives, drained
  • 1 can (15 ozs.) garbanzo beans, drained
  1. Boil potatoes until cooked, drain, and set aside.
  2. In an 8-quart Dutch oven or large, high-­sided, cast ­iron skillet, warm 1 tablespoon olive oil over medium heat.
  3. Add chorizo and cook, turning occasionally, until browned.
  4. Transfer cooked chorizo to a large plate and set aside.
  5. Add remaining olive oil to the pot and raise heat to medium-high.
  6. Season chicken all over with salt and pepper, then add skin side down to pan.
  7. Cook until skin is browned and chicken is cooked through, turning occasionally.
  8. Transfer cooked chicken to the plate with the chorizo.
  9. Lower heat to medium and add onion, garlic, thyme sprigs, and bay leaf.
  10. Sauté, stirring occasionally, until onions become translucent.
  11. Stir in tomato paste and diced tomatoes with the juice.
  12. Cook, scraping up the browned bits from the bottom of the pan.
  13. Return the chorizo and chicken to the pot.
  14. Add the wine and chicken stock, and bring to a simmer, stirring occasionally.
  15. Add the potatoes, piquillo peppers, olives, and garbanzo beans.
  16. Continue to cook, stirring well, until vegetables are heated through.
  17. Serve hot with white rice.

NOTE:

  • Buy boneless, skinless chicken or remove the skin if you prefer not to eat it.
  • If you can’t find piquillo peppers, substitute 1 chopped fresh red bell pepper, and add it in when you add the wine and chicken stock.
  • You don’t have to use the whole jar of olives or the whole can of garbanzo beans. Feel free to use only as much as you want. Or omit them entirely if you prefer. Old Goat loves garbanzos and my kids love olives so I throw them all in.

Gambas al Ajillo (Garlic Shrimp)

 

Gambas al Ajillo | Pinky's Pantry
Gambas al Ajillo or Garlic Shrimp is one of the best Spanish tapas ever! It’s a favorite all over Spain and is served in homes and tapas bars in practically every city in the country. It’s very easy to make and is sometimes cooked and/or served in a shallow terracotta or clay pot called a cazuela.

I originally learned to make gambas many years ago from my Spanish chef friend, Mari. Since then, I’ve tweaked what he taught me to come up with my own version. For one thing, in Spain gambas are traditionally cooked in plain olive oil but I like to use a blend of half olive oil and half butter. I find that the butter imparts a great flavor to this dish. It may not be very traditional, but it works for me! Mari also slices his garlic cloves in thin slices, but I prefer to mince my garlic. Some people add a little Spanish sweet paprika or pimentón to their gambas. I don’t usually do this (Mari didn’t), but you can if you want to. Also, more often than not, I make this dish without the alcohol at all and it turns out just fine.

Don’t forget the oh-so-important step of serving slices of fresh bread along with your gambas for sopping up the sauce! In my experience, the shrimp disappear fast whenever I make this dish, but they leave behind a bowl of garlicky sauce that is wonderful for dunking bread in. It’s a great way to extend the enjoyment of eating gambas even after the shrimp are all gone.

GAMBAS AL AJILLO

  • 1 lb. shrimp, peeled and deveined
  • ¼ cup olive oil
  • ¼ cup butter
  • 10-14 large cloves garlic, minced or thinly sliced
  • ¼ tsp. crushed red pepper (increase to ½ tsp. if you want it spicier)
  • ½ tsp. salt, or to taste
  • 3 Tbsp. minced parsley
  • 3 Tbsp. brandy or cognac or dry sherry (optional)
  • french baguette bread, sliced
  1. Heat olive oil and butter together over medium heat in a sauté pan.
  2. Sauté garlic and crushed red pepper until garlic is cooked but still tender. Don’t let the garlic brown.
  3. Toss in the shrimp and salt, and sauté just until shrimp turns pink.
  4. Stir in parsley and brandy, if using. At this point, Chef Mari would shake the pan, tilting it slightly so the alcohol would catch fire. You can skip that step. Or not. Totally up to you.
  5. Transfer to a shallow serving bowl or cazuela.
  6. Serve immediately with slices of french bread for soaking up the sauce.

Spanish Croquetas (Croquettes)

Croquetas | Pinky's Pantry
My very first boyfriend was a friend of my brother’s. A tall, young man of Spanish descent, he was a fun guy with a great sense of humor. The first time I met him, he was completely bald. I don’t remember if he shaved his head on a dare or whether he lost a bet, but it was a pretty gutsy thing to do, especially in those days when being bald was definitely NOT the in thing to be. We were in high school and crazy about each other. But like many teenage romances, a long-term relationship wasn’t in the cards for us and we ended up going our separate ways. We’re both married with kids now, but we’re still friends to this day. He lives with his family in Spain where he works as a chef. This recipe is his. He wrote it out for me in a mixture of English and Spanish with the measurements in the metric system. I re-wrote it to make it a little more understandable and put in the American equivalents for the metric measurements.

Croquetas or croquettes are little fried dumplings which are very common all over Spain. Every tapas bar serves them and every housewife has her own favorite recipe. It’s my understanding that they sprung from very humble beginnings – it was a way to incorporate leftover scraps of ham or fish with cheap ingredients so they wouldn’t be wasted, but instead resulted in a whole new dish.

The most popular croquetas are made with jamón Serrano (Serrano ham), bacalao (cod), pollo (cooked chicken), or atún (tuna). However, croquetas are very versatile and lend themselves to almost any “add-in” you can think of, like carne molida (ground beef), setas (mushrooms), espinaca (spinach), camarónes (shrimp), queso (cheese), and so on. These little dumplings are so delicious with their creamy, soft interior and crispy, golden exterior. They practically melt in your mouth! Once you start eating them, it’s hard to stop at just one!

CHEF MARI’S CROQUETAS

  • 1 liter (4 cups) whole milk
  • 220 gms. (2 cups) flour
  • 220 gms. (1 cup) butter
  • 2 medium onions
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 300 gms. (⅔ lb.) jamón (ham), bacalao (cod), pollo (cooked chicken), atún (tuna) or 3 cups grated cheese (manchego, cheddar, gruyère, gouda, or whatever you like)
  • flour, beaten eggs, and breadcrumbs, for coating the croquetas before frying
  1. Finely chop the onions.
  2. If adding ham or chicken, mince the meat; if adding tuna or cod, flake the fish.
  3. Heat the milk in a saucepan over low heat.
  4. While waiting for the milk to heat, melt the butter in a large frying pan.
  5. Sauté the onions in the melted butter over medium-low heat.
  6. Once the onions are soft, add in the flour all at once.
  7. Keep cooking the butter-onion-flour mixture, stirring constantly, about 10-15 minutes.
  8. While the flour mixture is cooking, the milk should be almost to the boiling point.
  9. Once the flour mixture is fully cooked, pour in about ⅓ of the milk while stirring constantly. You will see it thicken almost immediately.
  10. When the milk is well incorporated into the flour mixture, add the rest of the milk, stirring slowly until well combined.
  11. Season with salt and pepper to taste. You will now have a thick bechamel.
  12. Keep stirring for another 2-3 minutes, then add whatever ingredient you’re using (ham, cod, etc.).
  13. Cook for another 3-5 minutes, then transfer to a pyrex dish and cover with saran wrap completely pressing out all the air.

NOTE:  These instructions are for meat, fish or vegetable croquetas. If you want croquetas de queso (cheese), cook the mixture for 4-5 minutes in Step 12, remove the bechamel from the heat, add the grated cheese and stir to blend well, then transfer to a pyrex dish and continue on with the recipe.

  1. Let cool almost to room temperature, then place in the fridge to cool completely.
  2. Once the mixture has cooled completely, roll the croquetas into fat little logs about the length of your thumb. The bechamel should be nice and easy to roll in your hands; not sticky.
  3. Set out 3 pie plates, one with flour, the second with beaten eggs, and the third with bread crumbs.
  4. Roll each log first in the flour to coat, then the beaten eggs, and finally the bread crumbs.
  5. Deep fry the croquetas until golden brown.

NOTE:  You should get 30-40 croquetas from this recipe. The croquetas can be made ahead and frozen. Whenever you feel like eating a few, just bring out however many you want from the freezer and let them defrost before deep frying. You could also pull some out of the freezer the night before and let them defrost in the fridge overnight.