Sunday, January 10, 2016

Spanish chicken with garlic (pollo al ajillo)

I'd become a bit bored of cooking over the last couple of years and it took me a while to figure out why. The answer was surprisingly simple: I was no longer making the dishes I wanted to make but was instead trying to second-guess the somewhat more conservative tastes of my children. Chicken is a case in point. Whenever there was a whole chicken in my fridge, I felt under pressure to do roast chicken, but what I really wanted to make was a chicken curry with handfuls of fresh coriander, some Szechuan fried chicken, or this Spanish chicken cooked with garlic. Oddly enough, my more selfish approach to cooking doesn't seem to have an impact on my kids, who enthusiastically ate the risotto that I hadn't made since 2014 for fear of offending their delicate palates!

I thought I already had a recipe for this on my blog but was surprised to find that I didn't. Then I turned to Moro (by Sam and Sam Clark) and there was my recipe - in the form of a heavily annotated version of the original (including annotations, additions and deletions). The Moro recipe is actually very good but I feel it is a little too restauranty (a few details that don't add much but help make a simple recipe seem daunting). And my version is definitely closer to the pollo al ajillo that I used to eat in a bar off Plaza San Antonio in Madrid back in the late 1980s with my friend Richard.

1 medium chicken (approx 1.5 kg)
black pepper
olive oil
2 bulbs of garlic
6 bay leaves
200 ml of white wine


  1. Cut the chicken into small pieces and season with plenty of salt and black pepper. (I use a cleaver, so I cut the thighs and drumsticks in half and even get a few meaty portions from the back. If you only have an ordinary kitchen knife, then satisfy yourself by cutting the legts through the joints and cutting the breast lengthwise and then crosswise to get about 10 pieces, including the wings.)
  2. Separate the garlic into cloves but don't peel or chop.
  3. Put plenty of olive oil in a large, heavy-bottomed frying pan, add the garlic, and gently fry until the garlic is golden.
  4. Remove garlic to a bowl, turn up the heat, and fry the chicken in batches until it is crispy and golden.
  5. Remove the fried chicken, pour off most of the oil, return the garlic to the pan, add the bay leaves and wine, and simmer for a couple of minutes.
  6. Return all of the chicken to the pan, stir well, cover and cook on a low heat for about 20 minutes.

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