Eat Patatas a lo Pobre and Pollo al Ajillo, and Commute in Comfort

Pollo al Ajillo - Chicken in Garlic-Brandy Sauce
“Eat no garlic nor onions, lest they find out thy boorish origin by the smell…”
-Don Quixote to Sancho Panza, Chapter XLIII,
Don Quixote de la Mancha by Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra

Sitting around the table last night with gusts of strong breath coloring our domestic atmosphere, Amy and I were considering the profound effect garlic has on Spanish cuisine, and we wondered aloud whether any other national cuisine makes such abundant and varied use of the perfumed rose. Certainly, French and Italian food incorporate garlic with spectacular results, as do Greek, most other Mediterranean cuisines, as well as Chinese and Indian, but if there’s a cuisine that, to us, is characterized by garlic, it’s Spanish.

All of which is great, unless you happened to be sitting next to us this morning on the subway, as last night we ate two of the most highly odoriferous dishes in the Iberian canon – patatas a lo pobre and pollo al ajillo. The humble, peasant roots of both these dishes (the former translating as poor man’s potatoes) rely heavily on large quantities of garlic to elevate the otherwise prosaic ingredients to a higher plane. The garlic somehow acts both as a spice and an acid, flavoring the dish while simultaneously cutting through and balancing the olive oil.
Patatas a lo Pobre - Poor Man's Potatoes
We recommend you make enough of both these dishes to share, not just because they make delicious tapas-style small plates, but because you’ll want to surround yourself with similarly pungent folk to avoid people covering their faces and shuffling away down the train as if you had the plague. On the other hand, you do far worse than gain a little extra personal space in this congested city of ours. Maybe we’ve hit on a smart new commuting tactic?

Poor Man’s Potatoes – Patatas a lo Pobre (Serves 2 as a racione, 4 as a tapa)

  • 4-5 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 large Idaho (or other starchy variety) potatoes, sliced into 1/8 inch rounds
  • 3-4 cloves garlic, minced or very finely chopped
  • 1 tablespoon minced parsley
  • 1 teaspoon chopped thyme, rosemary and/or sage
  • 1 teaspoon sea salt


  1. Heat oil in a large skillet or frying pan to medium-high and add sliced potatoes in layers
  2. Sprinkle each layer with salt and turn to coat with oil.
  3. Lower heat to medium-low and, turning occasionally, cook potatoes for about twenty minutes or until they start to get golden brown.
  4. Toss in garlic and herbs and allow to perfume the air.
  5. KIll heat and shaking off excess oil remove potatoes to a serving plate and enjoy with other garlicky dishes.

Chicken in Garlic-Brandy Sauce – Pollo al Ajillo (serves 2 as racione, 4 as a tapa)

  • 1lb chicken (breast, legs, wings are all good), cut into 2inch chunks – use a cleaver
  • 1/2 head garlic, chopped finely
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon sea salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
  • 3 good tablespoons brandy
  • 1 tablespoon chopped parsley


  1. Heat oil in a large skillet or frying pan to medium-high and add seasoned chicken chunks
  2. Allow to brown really well on all sides – at least 8 minutes
  3. Add garlic and after 30 seconds, hit pan with brandy
  4. Very carefully allow brandy to ignite and stand back
  5. When fire has gone out, stir contents and put a close-fitting lid on pan and cook covered for five minutes.
  6. Kill heat, stir in parsley, and serve immediately with bread and wine, surrounded by garlic lovers.

27 thoughts on “Eat Patatas a lo Pobre and Pollo al Ajillo, and Commute in Comfort

  1. My boyfriend and I are both garlic lovers, so the ensuing garlic breath wouldn’t be a problem at our house. Both of these recipes look fantastic and simple.

    Question: We don’t normally have brandy floating around (good spirits are rather expensive here in Argentina). How do you think a splash of wine would pair up instead?

    1. Hi, Katie! A splash of wine will be tasty, but will not compare to the strong flavor that the brandy provides. If you can get it, maybe a sherry, vermouth or, preferably, grappa would work better than white wine. But, let’s be honest, the wine would work just fine.

  2. I like the idea of adding brandy to the pollo al ajillo.
    And, as usual, I like your amusing post twist — this time how to stake your space while commuting. 🙂

  3. The best part of eating garlic is stinking like it. It infuses every part of me, and I can even smell it on my skin if I go full bore. I just sweat it out. I try not to go overboard now that I’m breastfeeding, but Zephyr has definitely tasted garlic, too. 🙂

  4. This reminds me of a time an old boyfriend and I were grocery shopping, and an elderly woman was giving out samples of garlicky dill pickles. She wanted to make sure we both got a sample, that way we’d be “suffering together”!

  5. @Heather – very interesting. My father hates garlic for the same reason you love it. He metabolizes it through his skin and smells like a bum for a couple of days after even the mildest dose. He has many great qualities that I wish I had inherited, but this is not among them.

  6. I love both of these recipes. I have some leftover brandy this weekend and I’m a huge garlic lover. This looks like a fun dish. My husband not so much, particularly as he doesn’t love garlic breath, but he eats what I cook him – or else! 😉 Sweat it out at the gym the next morning. It assures me lots of personal space when I’m lifting.

  7. How hilarious! I guess by the same logic, if you really wanted extra room on the subway you could eat gassy food and create a proper stink. Even a few toots would clear a corner of the bus. Ken

  8. The food on this site always looks so good! I have never attempted your recipes as I am watching my waistline, but one day I will have to make something. Always a pleasure to visit your site, if my belly is not getting filled, my eyes certainly don’t go by hungry.

  9. @Ken – it’s a constant source of amazement to me just how much ‘tooting’ goes on everyday on the subway. Nauseating stinks are part and parcel of life on mass transit, the only difference with garlic breath is that I don’t mind being identified as the culprit.
    @Rosina – thanks for your kind words. Please do try some of our recipes. They aren’t all gut-busting calorie-bombs. Take these two recipes for example, they use plenty of good extra virgin olive oil and are meant to be eaten in small portions. Perfect for those of us concerned about our mid-sections.

  10. this dish is in credibly addictive and its the sole perpetrator of my love handles. for that reason I cannot come back to this website. but i love pollo al ajillo!

  11. I love pollo al ajillo!!!! Bravo to you 2 for spreading the Spanish Cuisine world wide ;D. You are the perfect Ambassadors! Your dishes look so good… amazing that you even get a Quijote’s sentence!!!
    All these humble dishes (traditional started all being humble) are just too good :D.
    Patatas a lo pobre and Patatas viudas show how nearly no ingredients could become a great dish.

    Jonny thanks for your comment in my callos post. You know that whenever you come back here you’ll be my guests ♥

    ¡¡¡Viva el Ajo!!!

    1. @Núria – i had to look-up patatas viudas, but I can totally see what you mean. Potato, onion, pimenton and a little bit of water, and very delicious looking.

      @Katiek – what is it about pollo al ajillo and complaints about weight gain? First Rosina, now you! Maybe we haven’t eaten enough of it yet. There’s still plenty of time and plenty of chicken, and if I’m going to get fat, then I can think of few better dishes to help me on my way.

  12. @Rosina – I’m talking about patatas a lo pobre and pollo al ajillo. They contain only unsaturated fats in extra virgin olive oil, lean protein, healthy garlic and complex carbohydrates. Just because a dish is (shallow) fried or sauteed, doesn’t make it unhealthy. You don’t see many fat people in Spain!

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