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Pimentón Chicken with Piquillo Pepper Sauce

Updated February 23, 2016
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This recipe is a great example of bistro cooking, Spanish style. Chefs don’t always work with the rarest, most expensive foods. They are also specialists in coaxing the most flavor from cuts of inexpensive poultry and meat. Roasting the meat on the bone is one way, and though an upscale restaurant might present the meat boneless on the plate, in the more casual bistro, it is served in this more rustic style. This recipe shows how to coax the most flavor out of one of the most affordable cuts of chicken. Use a picante (“hot”) pimentón for the spiciest dish, dulce (“sweet”) for a mild one, or a mixture of the two or agridulce (“bittersweet”) pimentón for something in between. What to drink: A medium-bodied Spanish Rioja or tempranillo will have enough structure and spice to harmonize with the robust, smoky flavors of the dish.

Borrow a trick from Spanish chefs: Stir in crushed saltine crackers to thicken sauces without masking flavors.

Used widely throughout the Basque region, the small red piquillo pepper is native to the village of Lodosa in the Ebro river valley in the north of Spain. The pointy-tipped pepper has a subtle bite. The peppers are fire-roasted over beech wood, hand peeled, and packed in their own juices. Look for jarred or canned piquillo peppers with the Spanish quality control label (denominación de origen) in gourmet food shops. El Navaricco is a good brand. If you can’t find them, substitute small roasted red bell peppers or mild red chiles.

Pimentón is a flavorful paprika made from smoked piquillo chiles. It is a must for paella, but don’t stop there. The secret is out–-paprika isn’t just for sprinkling on deviled eggs!

Makes4 servings

Cooking Methodroasting

CostModerate

Moderate

Total Timeunder 4 hours

OccasionCasual Dinner Party, Family Get-together

Recipe Coursemain course

Dietary Considerationegg-free, lactose-free, low carb, peanut free, soy free

Equipmentblender, food processor

Mealdinner

Taste and Textureherby, juicy, meaty, nutty, savory, smoky, spiced

Ingredients

  • ½ cup sliced almonds
  • 1¼ cups extra virgin olive oil
  • 3 tablespoons plus 2 teaspoons minced garlic
  • 2 tablespoons plus 1 teaspoon pimenton (see Notes)
  • Kosher salt
  • 2 teaspoons ground cumin
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 4 bone-in, skin-on chicken leg-thigh quarters (about 3 pounds)
  • 1 cup piquillo peppers or roasted red bell peppers, peeled, seeded, veins removed (see Notes)
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • 4 stone-ground wheat crackers or saltines
  • Chopped cilantro or flat-leaf parsley, for garnish (optional)

Instructions

Preheat the oven to 350°F. Spread the almonds on a baking sheet and toast for about 8 minutes, until fragrant and golden. Set aside to cool. Turn off the oven.

In a large bowl, stir together ¼ cup of the olive oil, the 3 tablespoons garlic, the 2 tablespoons pimenton, 1 tablespoon salt, the cumin, and 1 teaspoon pepper. Poke the skinless side of the chicken all over with a fork or paring knife. Coat the chicken with the spice mixture, cover, and refrigerate for at least 2 hours.

Remove the chicken from the refrigerator, allowing it to sit out for 15 to 30 minutes as you preheat the oven to 375°F. Place the chicken in a single layer on a rimmed baking sheet and bake until cooked through, about 50 minutes. (Cooking time will vary depending on the size of the pieces.) You should see the meat pulling away from the bone, with about an inch of bone visible at the drumstick. The skin should be crispy and golden brown. Transfer the chicken to a warm serving platter.

While the chicken cooks, make the sauce. Purée the remaining 2 teaspoons garlic, 1 teaspoon pimentón, the piquillo peppers, almonds, lemon juice, and crackers in a blender or food processor until nearly smooth. With the motor running, drizzle in the remaining 1 cup of oil until the mixture is well blended. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Because this is a bistro dish, I like to serve it family style on a large platter. Spoon some of the pepper sauce over the chicken pieces and serve the rest in a bowl on the side. Garnish the chicken with chopped cilantro, if desired. Roasted new potatoes tossed with olive oil and sea salt make a great accompaniment.

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