Spanish chicken dish

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Executive Chef
Nov 16, 2004
This is my attempt at a dish which I first ate in Spain, over 30 years ago... It took me ages to get it 'almost' right - it was the cinnamon stick that gave this dish its authentic flavour, and I didn't realise what the missing ingredient was for many years! It's a favourite with my family!

Serves: 4-6

1kg large, firm beef tomatoes
4 tbsp olive oil
1 small chicken (jointed) or 4-6 joints such as breasts and legs
1 large onion halved and sliced
2-3 garlic cloves,chopped
1 redpepper, deseeded and sliced
150ml Fino sherry
6-8 strands saffron, soaked in 2 tsp boiling water
1-2 bay leaves
1 short stick cinnamon
Freshly ground salt and pepper, to taste
To finish
1 tbsp olive oil
2 tbsp fresh breadcrumbs
1 tbsp chopped almonds
1 tbsp paprika

Halve the tomatoes, discarding the seeds.

With the curved side in your palm,grate the flesh on a coarse grater without grating the skin! Heat the oil in a heavy pan on a medium heat. Fry the chicken for about 10 minutes until golden. Remove and reserve. In the fat that remains in the pan, fry the onion, garlic and pepper until golden. Add the tomato pulp, sherry and saffron with its water, and bring to a simmer. Cook for 10-15 minutes to evaporate excess liquid - you want a fairly thick sauce at this stage. Return the chicken to the pan with the bay leaves, cinnamon and . Bring to a simmer, cover loosely and cook for about 30 minutes until the chicken is tender, and the sauce thick and jammy.
Meanwhile, to finish, heat 1 tbsp oil over a medium-high heat and fry the breadcrumbs and almonds until golden. Stir in the paprika and tip over the chicken just before serving. This is great with an endive salad and chips fried in olive oil.
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I've noticed that much of the cinnamom sold in the US is in fact not cinnamom, but cassia. I prefer cassia in savoury dishes, do you think it would be suitable in this dish?
As I'm not an American, I don't know whether the cinnamon there is more commonly cassia.

But, isn't cassia the herb known as 'Chinese' cinnamon? If so, then I seem to recall it is more pungent than ordinary cinnamon and I would think it would overpower the dish. There should just be a hint - like in certain Greek island specialities - almost undistinguishable as cinnamon,but without it the dish doesn't taste 'right'. It took me ages to work out that the missing ingredient (in my attempt to recreate this dish) was, in fact, cinnamon - which I had always used in sweet cooking, rather than savoury.
Yes most of what is sold as cinnamon in the US is actually cassia. Most recipes that call for cinnamon just call for a pinch as it is very strong.
I know you are Scottish, Ishbel :) , but many viewers are American or non-European, at least.
Yes it is known as Chinese cinnamon, as it came/comes from China, the Indian word for it is dal chini, meaning Chinese wood, I believe. It contains much more coumarin than Sri Lankan cinnamon, and has a more savoury flavour because of it. I use only cassia in savoury dishes.
The difference in appearance is obvious. Cinnamon is sold in tight curls and is a light tan colour whereas cassia looks like the bark of a tree, which it is, of course, and dark brown.
These two are always being mixed up, even by Indian people. I suppose its what one has been used to, or taught. Anyway, may I suggest you think about using cassia, it has a darker note, and, IMHO, better at being integrated into a savoury dish. However, if using it, add it at the oil stage to extract maximum flavour, like all very aromatic spices.
Waaza :)
I've looked at the recipe again, and it is very similar to some Indian dishes, apart from the sherry (but when in Spain). I know some Moroccan dishes came from Spain, or at least influenced by them (B'stilla, for example). I wondered if you had a name for this dish, and a translation. It looks as though it could be quite old.
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