Traditional Spanish braised chicken is known as Pollo en Pepitoria, and it is served with a rich sauce flavoured with saffron and almonds and thickened with bread and the yolks of hard-boiled eggs. A warm bowl of this soup is just what you need to welcome the winter season. A simple side of rice and some salad will make this a hearty and filling main dish.
(This recipe was initially published in December 2014; however, in 2021) it has been revised and expanded with additional photographs and text.
Foods that are slow-cooked and covered in a tasty sauce are especially comforting during the chilly fall and winter months. One of the best ways to prepare food during the colder months is to braise it. A traditional Spanish meal that meets these criteria is Pollo en Pepitoria, or chicken cooked in a sauce made with saffron, almonds, and egg yolks.
Chicken breasts are simmered in a rich and delicious pepitoria sauce until they fall apart easily with a fork. This sauce is thickened with a picada, a typical Catalan method. Almonds, bread, and binding liquid are the basic ingredients of each picada.
To this version, we’ve added garlic, saffron, and the yolks of hard-boiled eggs. Picadas are often prepared in a mortar, but a little food processor would do just well. The sauce for this pollo en pepitoria is packed with flavour thanks to the inclusion of sautéed onion, bay leaves, white wine, and chicken stock.
- good pinch of saffron
- 4 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
- 6 garlic cloves
- 35g blanched almonds
- 30g stale bread , torn
- 2 tbsp parsley , chopped, plus extra to serve
- 8 skin-on and bone-in chicken thighs
- 1 onion , finely chopped
- 1 carrot , chopped
- 1 celery stick, chopped
- 250ml dry sherry
- 350ml chicken stock
- 1 cinnamon stick , broken in two
- pinch of ground cloves
- 2 bay leaves
- 2 eggs , hard-boiled, shelled and halved
- 2 tbsp flaked almonds , toasted
REMARKS ON INGREDIENTS
Pollo en pepitoria is traditionally made using chicken thighs and/or drumsticks that have had the skin and bone left on them. This is a variation I’ve cooked before; however, the boneless skinless chicken thighs I used this time around (and photographed) tasted just as good. Either option is fine.
The picada, the major thickening in this recipe for pollo en pepitoria, requires bread, and stale bread is ideal. Bread kind is not an important factor. For illustration purposes, use 1.5 ciabatta or baguette pieces. Don’t worry if the sauce gets too thick since you used a little too much bread. A small amount of broth or water can be added to restore the original consistency.
In place of whole almonds, I recommend using blanched almonds (almonds stripped of their skins) or, if you don’t have either on hand, almond meal or almond flour. It has already been finely ground.
Blend the saffron with 75 cc of freshly boiling water in a small dish. Combine, then put aside. Put 2 tablespoons of oil in a wide, shallow casserole dish and heat it over medium. Fry the garlic until it turns a light gold colour, then add the bread and blanched almonds and continue cooking until the bread is crisp and the nuts are golden. Place in a food processor along with the parsley and seasonings, and blend until smooth.
Brown the chicken on both sides in the pan using 2 additional tablespoons of oil and seasoning it as it cooks. Prepare a bowl for later use.
Cook the onion, carrot, and celery in the pan until they are golden brown, then remove all except approximately 2 tablespoons of the chicken fat from the pan. Toss in the sherry and swirl to loosen any browned pieces clinging to the bottom of the pan. Add the stock and saffron water, bring to a boil, then reduce heat to low and simmer for a few minutes. Put the chicken back into the pan with any accumulated juices, then add the spices and bay leaves. The chicken should be seasoned and cooked on low heat with the cover on for around 40 minutes.
To keep the chicken warm, transfer it to a bowl and cover it with foil. The sauce should be left in the pan. Take the egg whites and coarsely slice them once you’ve removed the yolks. In a small bowl, mash the egg yolks and slowly stir in a couple of tablespoons of the sauce. Reduce the leftover sauce by bringing it to a boil; you want it to be thick enough to coat the chicken but not drown it. Throw away the bay leaf and cinnamon stick. After a few minutes of cooking, add the egg yolks and stir until the sauce has thickened. The almond mixture should be stirred in at this point (this will thicken the sauce, too). Return the chicken to the pan and cook it for three minutes, basting it with the sauce the whole time. Season with care.
Sprinkle the remaining parsley, the almonds, and the minced egg whites (if using). You may serve it as is, perhaps with some rice on the side.