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Sunday, November 18, 2007


The words for “boredom” and “hunger” are the same in Spanish. OK, that is not true. It is true that my own body cannot distinguish between boredom and hunger so I usually eat or cook if I am bored. I spend a good portion of every day foraging around my little corner of Spain for good things to eat. I have become quite an expert on the bakeries in my neighborhood of Ruzafa. I can ride past a bakery at full speed on my bicycle, look in the window, and tell you whether or not the bread they sell is worth buying.

I am also on the look out for new cooking utensils. I am not able to do the drive-by appraisals of these stores as I do with the bakeries as the joints that sell kitchen wares don’t have much in plain view from the street. I already have a very well stocked kitchen but there’s always some new gadget that I come across that I can’t seem to be able to live without once I figure out what it is for. I am equal parts “old school” and “gimmicky” when it comes to kitchen gear.

I love my clay baking dish, or olla de barro as they are called in Spanish. I am constantly looking for new things to cook in it. Its main purpose is for the Valencian staple dish of baked rice (arroz al horno or arross al forn in Valenciano). There is more to a clay baking dish than baked rice and I’m out to discover as many recipes as possible, even if I have to make shit up. Whenever I walk into a restaurant and they have food displayed in these clay dishes my little heart skips a beat as I visualize making the same thing at home. I adapted the following recipe from something I saw somewhere.

It was a dish with chicken leg quarters baked with tomatoes; everything else in my recipe I made up. I have to say that it is one of the best things that I have invented and certainly the best thing that I have cooked for the first time.

Chicken and garbanzos

4 chicken leg quarters
16 oz can of whole Italian tomatoes
2 cups cooked garbanzos
3-4 garlic cloves
1 onion
Sal, pepper, saffron

Clean the chicken and season with salt and pepper. I shredded a couple of cloves of garlic and rubbed the paste on the chicken. In the clay baking dish (mine is about 18” in diameter) add the can of tomatoes. Squish the whole tomatoes with your hands so it makes a sort of rough sauce. Add a chopped onion to this mixture along with the saffron. I used a pre-packaged saffron and seasoning mix that they sell here in Spain. Place the chicken pieces on top of the sauce and place in a pre-heated oven (approximately 370° but I still just guess with the centigrade oven I work with). When the top side of the chicken has browned take the dish out of the oven. Add the cooked garbanzos to the dish as you turn over each piece of chicken. When the other side of chicken has browned you can take it out of the oven. I made rice to go along with it although I also bought a good loaf of bread just to cover all of my starch bases.

If I make this again I will use the frozen garbanzos that another Spanish cook recommended to me and add them at the beginning. I realize that for Americans unable to find inexpensive saffron this dish is sort of cheating. Saffron added to raodkill would make a pleasant dish. Or perhaps saffron isn't so expensive in the States these days. As low as the dollar is now, everything from Europe should be dirt cheap. If anyone in the States can comment on the price of saffron there I would be very interested.

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