Spanish Chicken with Lemon, Olives and Onions

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A friend brought us a tin of smoked paprika all the way from Spain, and this sort-of Spanish, sort-of braised chicken seemed like a good recipe to start off with.

Underneath a crispy skin full of flavor from smoked paprika and pecorino cheese, the chicken is tender. Its sauce is rich with tomatoes cooked with wine, sherry, cinnamon, and more pimentón. Those thin slices of onion, fennel, and garlic stewed in the reddish sauce need white rice to mix with. Plenty of lemon juice and zest (and olives) perk everything up.

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By the second go with this chicken, we learned a few things and made some tweaks. Browning the chicken may not take the full five minutes, so check each side after three. We added sherry because lately we add it when we cook onions for more flavor. Use the juice and zest of the lemons instead of adding all the lemon in pieces to the pot to avoid a bitter sauce.

When adding the browned chicken back into the pot with the sauce, tuck them so that the sauce surrounds them but doesn’t cover them. Look at that crispy skin. We want it to stay crispy. It’s also important to thinly slice the onions and the fennel, which was more appealing cut into strips than in large slices. We halved the garlic cloves to better distribute their flavor.

Crush those whole tomatoes with your hands.

The only thing that keeps this recipe from being easy is cutting a whole chicken into its parts. This was a first for us. After some shouting and near-quitting and near-losing-of-fingers, we did it. Now we know. For a guide to properly cutting a whole chicken into pieces, this video from Gourmet is helpful.

And it’s a good thing we stuck with it. This chicken is worth it. Try it this weekend. The dinner table will be quieter than usual as you and your friends dig in.

spanish chicken with lemon, olives and onions

Smoked paprika, or pimentón as it’s known in Spain, adds flavor to both the crispy chicken skin and the sauce it’s cooked in. This tender, sort-of braised chicken needs to be served with warm white rice to soak up that rich sauce. Garnish with chopped cilantro for freshness in taste and color. Watch it all disappear.

1/2 cup flour, plus 1 tablespoon
1/4 cup grated pecorino cheese
1 teaspoon smoked paprika (pimentón), plus 2 teaspoons
1/4 cup olive oil
1 whole 4-pound chicken, cut into parts
salt
black pepper
3 medium lemons, zested and halved
2 large yellow onions, thinly sliced
1 large fennel bulb, halved, thinly sliced and broken or cut into strips similar to sliced onion
12 whole garlic cloves, peeled and halved
3/4 cup pitted green olives, halved if big
1 pinch ground cinnamon
2 tablespoons dry sherry
1 cup whole peeled tomatoes, crushed
1 cup white wine
1 bunch cilantro, roughly chopped
warm white rice

Heat oven to 425ºF. Combine 1/2 cup flour, pecorino cheese, and 1 teaspoon smoked paprika in a large bowl.

Heat olive oil over medium-high heat in a Dutch oven or large, heavy pot. Dry the chicken with paper towels as this will help the skin brown nicely. Season chicken generously with salt and pepper on all sides. Dredge the chicken in the flour mixture, and place a couple pieces of chicken in the pot. Cook until golden brown and crispy, 3 to 5 minutes per side. Cook the chicken in batches to avoid overcrowding the pot. Use tongs to flip the chicken pieces, and set the crispy chicken on a plate to wait.

Juice three lemons (over a strainer) into a large bowl with their zest. Add the onion, fennel, garlic, olives, 2 teaspoons of smoked paprika, cinnamon, and sherry. Add all the vegetables in the large bowl to the pot that was used for the chicken. Cook over medium-high heat and stir occasionally until softened, about 10 minutes. Stir in 1 tablespoon of flour to thicken the sauce, and stir for 2 minutes. Stir in the tomatoes and wine. Bring to a boil, and let it cook for 2 minutes.

Tuck the chicken back into the pot, skin side up. Arrange them so that the vegetables and sauce surround the chicken on the sides, but not the tops so the skin stays crispy. Place the uncovered pot into the oven and bake until the chicken is cooked through, 30 minutes.

Garnish with cilantro and serve warm with rice.

Serves 4 to 6. Adapted from Meghan Valerio via FOOD52.com

8 thoughts on “Spanish Chicken with Lemon, Olives and Onions

  1. This looks delicious! Thanks for the recipe and the photos. I will try it soon. It’s good to know how to cut up a chicken, but I usually buy a whole one and have the butcher cut it up for me.

  2. This looks awesome! Always interesting to see different takes on “chicken and rice”. Great photos and description, stopped over from Tastespotting as well.

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