Usually if I’m trying to make an authentic dish, I always try to make it just that – authentic. That means that I want to use traditional ingredients and I attempt to research the many traditional ways to make that specific dish. I then decide how to combine the best bits from all those traditional recipes and create one recipe. Well, this traditional, old Castillian dish is always made with almonds – more specifically the beautiful Marcona almonds which are bigger and sweeter and more delicious (to me) than the almonds we know here in America. As Penelope Casas writes, “(Pollo en Pepitoria) combines all of the ingredients most often associated with Spanish cooking – garlic, saffron, sherry and almonds – into an unusually savory sauce.” DOH! As I began cooking, I could have sworn I had a fresh bag of almonds to work with only to find that it was a bag of fresh hazelnuts. Could I swap? Yeah… could I call it authentic on my blog… nope. What I can tell you is substituting hazelnuts in this dish for almonds does not actually change the flavor all that much. But the thing that I really decided to do to completely different from the traditional dish was to actually coat the pieces of chicken in hazelnuts and lightly saute them until crispy on the outside and finished them in the oven to keep it moist inside. You all like it moist, right? But, dear readers, you must know that traditionally you would just roll pieces of chicken with the bone in in some seasoned flour and saute them just like that in olive oil.
So, do I have a right to really call this dish Pollo en Pepitoria? Probably not. Do I hate when idiots like Rachael Ray and Sandra Lee completely remake an authentic classic an continue calling it by it’s authentic name but it doesn’t even resemble the original dish? YES. Am I being a bit of a hypocrite right now – uh-huh. Do I care? Not really. It’s only because I’ve been wanting to post this recipe for about 2 months now and it’s 75 degrees and sunny and I want to get outside. Creative juices ain’t a-flowing.
So here’s Pollo en Pepitoria “Kinda”. That’s as creative as it’s gonna get today, kids. Have a beautiful weekend!
POLLO EN PEPITORIA “KINDA” – CHICKEN IN A SAFFRON, FINO AND HAZELNUT SAUCE (serves 6)
- 6 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
- 1 cup flour (seasoned with a bit of salt)
- 2 eggs, beaten + tablespoon of water
- 1 1/2 to 2 cups chopped hazelnuts (to coat chicken) + 1/4 cup of finely ground hazelnuts (to add to sauce)
- olive oil or vegetable oil
- 1 onion, chopped
- 2 cloves of garlic, minced or sliced
- 1 carrot, chopped
- 1/4 cup of dry sherry (fino)
- 1 bay leaf
- 3/4 cup chicken broth
- pinch of fresh grated nutmeg
- pinch of saffron
- salt and pepper
- Optional: 2 hard-boiled eggs, chopped, for garnish
What to do:
- Heat your oven up to 425 degrees and season your chicken breasts with salt and pepper.
- Make sure you slightly crush or run a sharp knife through your hazelnuts (the 1 1/2 to 2 cups called for to coat the chicken) in order to make sure they are able to stick to the chicken breasts. Have your ‘coating station’ ready by putting flour on the first plate, the beaten egg mixed with water on the second plate and the chopped hazelnuts spread out on the third plate.
- Heat up about 1/4 inch of oil in an oven-safe pan or skillet on medium heat. Dip each chicken breast first in the flour (dust off any major excess), then the egg and finally roll around in the crushed hazelnuts. Add to your hot oil and cook on each side for about 1 to 2 minutes on each side. You want the hazelnuts to seal on to the chicken, but not to burn. Check after a minute and then, if necessary, continue to saute for another 30 seconds or so. If there’s not enough room in your pan to cook all the chicken breasts at once (don’t overcrowd!!), do it in batches and just reserve the chicken on the side until all are sauteed.
- When the chicken has been cooked on both sides and the hazelnuts have adhered, put in your 425 degree oven and allow to cook for another 10-13 minutes, depending on the thickness of your chicken. If the chicken is done before you sauce, just remove from oven and allow to chill out on the side for a bit. It’s ok if it gets cool.
- Make your sauce by adding the chopped onion, garlic and carrot to some olive oil in a pan and allow to saute on medium to medium-low for about 4 or 5 minutes till they get a bit soft.
- After they cook till they are a bit softer, add your fino and scrape up some of the bits on the bottom of the pan. After about a minute, add your chicken broth, nutmeg, saffron, bay leaf and a pinch of salt and pepper. Simmer for 10 minutes.
- While the vegetables are busy getting soft, in a blender or food processor (or with a good old mallet), blitz the 1/4 cup of hazelnuts till finely ground… I mean finely kids! Remove to a bowl until they are needed.
- Optional: Boil two eggs for 8 minutes to hard-boil. When done, remove and place in cold water, allowing them to cool. De-shell and chop up for the garnish.
- When 10 minutes or so has passed and you’ve tested the carrots for softness, REMOVE THE BAY LEAF and add everything from the pan to a blender or food processor. Blitz this mixture until smooth. Add the blitzed sauce back to the pan and keep warm on low-medium heat. Add the finely ground hazelnuts to the sauce and stir in – this will act as a thickener.
- Add your hazelnut-coasted chicken breast to the sauce and place back in your oven for 4 minutes to allow the chicken to come back to temperature if necessary. When it’s out of the oven, sprinkle the top with the chopped hard-boiled egg and enjoy!
Check out these other posts you may enjoy:
- WATERCRESS & RICOTTA RAVIOLI WITH A RADICCHIO BUTTER SAUCE
- GNOCCHI DI PATATE WITH A BROWN BUTTER, SAGE, BREADCRUMB SAUCE
- ITALIAN-STYLE SLOW ROASTED PORK SHOULDER WITH SALSA VERDE
- Truffled Butter: A Prince Among Ideas
- Pork Roll and Scrapple – The Dirty Culinary Pride of South Jersey/Philly
- Diversity Finally Comes to The Food Network