Basque Chicken à la Delia à la Jessica
By Jessica – May 3rd, 2011
At the risk of having to rename this blog “Principia Smoked Paprika,” I am featuring yet another recipe with that tasty, toasty spice. I’ve come to believe there’s almost nothing that can’t be improved with the addition of smoked paprika or pimentón, and this version of Basque chicken is proof of it.
This dish started life as a Delia Smith recipe, and it hasn’t strayed too terribly far from its origins. It’s just that as I cooked it for the first time—following Delia’s recipe to the letter—I found myself wondering “Why?” a whole lot. Why not cook the chorizo first and then take advantage of the flavorful fat to cook the chicken? Why use sun-dried tomato paste and sun-dried tomatoes? Why not reduce the wine, and actually, why use wine at all instead of sherry, which would add a richer, “meatier” flavor? And finally: why use regular paprika instead of smoked?
I couldn’t come up with any plausible answers to these questions, so as I’ve made and re-made this one-pot meal over the past year, I’ve adapted it to fit my tastes and my cooking style. I think the version I’ve come up with is not only (ahem) tastier and more straightforward to cook, it’s also just different enough from Delia’s to warrant its own entry here. So without further ado: Chicken Basque a la Delia a la Jessica.
For two individuals endowed with very hearty appetites, you’ll need:
- olive oil
- a good handful of sliced Spanish chorizo
- 2 chicken legs or 4 chicken thighs (with skin and bone, please)
- 1 sliced red pepper
- 1 sliced onion
- 1 large clove of garlic, chopped
- a handful of sliced sun-dried tomatoes
- a handful of black olives
- 1/2 tablespoon tomato paste/puree
- 3/4 cup mixed brown and white basmati rice*
- 1 teaspoon smoked paprika
- 85 ml dry sherry (a bit less than half a cup - I like amontillado or oloroso sherry)
- 1 teaspoon fresh chopped thyme
- 1 cup/240 ml chicken or vegetable stock
- 1 orange cut into wedges
Preheat the oven to 180C/350F.
Heat a splash of olive oil over medium heat in a heavy, lidded casserole pot that you can put in the oven. Saute the chorizo until it starts to brown and release its fatty juices. Take out the chorizo and set it aside, then season your chicken with salt and pepper and brown it in the chorizo fat for a few minutes on each side. Take the chicken out and set it aside too.
Nudge the heat up to medium-high and toss the sliced pepper and onion into the casserole. Fry the veggies for about 5 to 10 minutes until they’re really fragrant and starting to get brown. Add the garlic, then the sun-dried tomatoes, olives and tomato paste and stir this around for a minute or two.
Tip in the rice and smoked paprika. Stir the rice to coat it with the spices and oil, then douse it with the sherry and reduce the liquid for a few minutes. Finally, add the thyme, the reserved chorizo and the stock and bring the liquid to a simmer. Season with salt and pepper if necessary, then turn off the heat.
Nestle the chicken and orange wedges into the rice and veggies and give the exposed chicken skin another sprinkling of salt and pepper. Put the cover on the casserole, put the casserole in the oven, and sit down with a nice glass of white wine.
After about 35 minutes, check to see if your rice is tender. If it isn’t, let it cook for a while longer, covered. If it is, you can take the lid off the casserole and cook everything uncovered for a few minutes to brown up the chicken.
Serve the chicken alongside the rice and the soft cooked orange wedges. This is a true one-pot meal, but if you don’t mind dirtying up a few more dishes, the chicken and rice goes really well with a big green salad dressed with an orange/sherry vinaigrette.
* Delia inexplicably says to measure the rice in a glass measuring jug. If you want to do that, measure out 4 fluid ounces or about 110 ml; if you’ve got American measuring cups, you’ll need 1/2 to 3/4 of a cup. I like a mix of brown and white basmati, but you can use all brown or all white as you like—just remember that you may need to adjust the cooking time and amount of liquid depending on what you use.