During my junior year in college, I studied abroad in Pamplona, Spain. I didn't have any particular love for Pamplona, Hemingway, bullrunning, or even Spain in particular, I just wanted to go somewhere to practice my Spanish. After going over all the options with my parents, they ruled out Mexico and Central America as too dangerous and the beach towns of Spain as too fun, so north-central Spain in where I ended up. If I were to do it over again, I would go to either Barcelona or Valencia, but Pamplona was probably a pretty good place for me to go, since it was a relatively small city for me to learn to navigate, as compared to Madrid or Barcelona.
I don't have any particular desire to go visit Pamplona again (although I did see the running of the bulls while I was there – and NO I DID NOT RUN, ARE YOU CRAZY?!?!) but I really want to go back to Spain. The last time I was there was on my honeymoon several years ago, but I have plans to hopefully go back in 2010.
In the meantime I have to get my Spain fix through cooking, travel books, Almodovar movies, anything with Penelope Cruz, and even that horrible travel series on TV with Mario Batali and Gwenyth Paltrow. Thank goodness my husband discovered Made in Spain, a cooking show on PBS that is hosted by Jose Andres, a Spanish chef who is famous for his crazy chemistry experiments with food (like, he will turn liquids into gels with weird chemicals and serve a bowl of chicken soup blobs instead of regular soup.) Luckily, on the show he mostly just visits different regions in Spain and shows their regional delicacies and tourist attractions. My favorite is when he recreates traditional Spanish dishes (and provides recipes).
The last episode I saw featured the region of Aragon and had a recipe for a traditional chicken dish called Pollo al Chilindron (chicken with lots of peppers) (bell peppers and smoked paprika, that is – Spanish food is not spicy at all!) I made it last night and it was really yummy – the only bad thing was that it took almost 2 hours!! I went for a jog around the neighborhood while it simmered for the last hour.
Here's the recipe – cross-posted from Jose's website.
Pollo al chilindrón
Chicken with peppers, tomatoes, onions and Spanish ham
Chilindron is a wonderful vegetable stew that comes from Aragon, where they grow astonishing vegetables in the fertile land near the Ebro River.
¼ cup Spanish extra-virgin olive oil, plus 3 tablespoons
4 chicken legs, thighs and drumsticks separated
Salt to taste
4 cups diced Spanish onions
1 cup diced green bell peppers
1 cup diced red bell peppers
2 tablespoons minced garlic
1 cup dry white wine
1 cup thinly sliced and diced jamón Serrano (Spanish cured ham)
½ teaspoon sweet pimentón (Spanish smoked paprika)
2 cups plain canned tomato sauce
1 fresh rosemary sprig
1 bay leaf
2 cups flat mineral or filtered water
Heat 1 tablespoon of the olive oil in a 12-quart pot over medium-high heat. Season the chicken pieces with salt then, working in batches, brown them on all sides. Transfer the chicken to a platter and set aside.
Add the ¼ cup of olive oil to the same pot, and when the oil is hot, add the onions and peppers. Reduce the heat to low and cook slowly until the vegetables are dark golden brown, about 30 minutes. Add 1 tablespoon of water if the onions start to burn. Add the garlic and cook for 5 more minutes. Then add the white wine and cook until it evaporates, 4 to 5 minutes.
Add the jamón and browned chicken pieces, as well as any juices that have collected, and cook for 5 more minutes. Stir in the pimentón, tomato sauce, rosemary, bay leaf and the water and simmer over low heat for 1 hour or until the meat starts to fall off the bone. Season to taste with salt before serving.