Catalan Picada Chicken and Flatbread for St. Raymond Nonnatus, August 31st
September 6, 2011

Post by Daniel

St. Raymond Nonnatus is from Catalonia, Spain. His mother died during childbirth so Raymond was delivered via cesarean section (hence the epithet Nonnatus, Latin for “not born”). He became a member of the Mercedarian Order which was founded to ransom Christian prisoners from the Muslim Moors in North Africa. Raymond succeeded the order’s founder, St. Peter Nolasco, as the master-general who was responsible for traveling to Africa and buying back the captives. When St. Raymond ran out of money, he offered himself as a hostage in the place of one of the prisoners. He continued to work for the advancement of the Kingdom of God in prison and won many converts from Islam. No amount of torture or punishment could keep St. Raymond from preaching the gospel so the Moors bored holes through his lips and padlocked them shut (he had simply been sentenced to death at one point but the hope of a large ransom kept the sentence from being carried out). He was later returned to Spain and died near Barcelona. He is the patron saint of expectant mothers, midwives, newborns, and falsely accused people.

Appetizer: Catalan Flatbread and Pale Ale

Dough ingredients:

1 cup plus 3 tablespoons white flour

1 teaspoon salt

½ cup milk

2 ½ teaspoons dry yeast

Topping ingredients:

Authentic ingredients would probably include anchovies, piquillo peppers, Spanish olives, and Manchego cheese. But we already had some other stuff that we thought would be good and we didn’t want to buy anything that we didn’t have to. So we used this stuff instead:

½ a red onion sliced

3 small bell peppers sliced

1 cup baby greens

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 cup grated cheese (we happened to have mozzarella and pecorino romano)

Salt and pepper

1.       Heat the milk slightly so that it is warm but not TOO hot. Add the yeast. Meanwhile, stir the salt into the flour. After 5 minutes, add the milk and yeast to the flour and mix together. Knead until smooth, either by hand or using a mixer with a paddle attachment. Let it rise for half an hour.

2.       Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Heat the olive oil in a skillet and add the onions. After a minute or so, add the peppers, and then the greens. Set aside.

3.       Divide the dough into 8 equal parts and form into balls. On a floured surface, roll them out into long flat ovals (about 10 inches long) and place on an oiled baking sheet. Let them sit for a few minutes.

4.       Prick the flatbreads with a fork and add the veggies to top. Bake for about 8 to 10 minutes until the edges begin to turn slightly golden. Remove from the oven and add the cheese and pepper. Bake for another few minutes or until the cheese begins to melt. Remove from the oven and serve them hot with the cold pale ale.

Catalan Picada Chicken:

Picada (not to be confused with the Italian picatta) is a paste used to thicken and add depth of flavor. Somewhat similar to a molé but without the heat, picada is a distinctive aspect of Catalan cuisine. There are probably as many recipes for picada as there are abuelas in Catalonia, but this is a basic recipe to draw from.

4 whole chicken legs, split (2 pounds)

Salt and freshly ground pepper

2 1/2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

1 medium onion, finely chopped

One 14-ounce can whole tomatoes,  drained and finely chopped

1 1/2 cups low-sodium chicken broth

1/4 cup oloroso sherry

One 3-inch strip of orange zest

1/4 teaspoon thyme leaves

For the Picada:

1 slice of thick crusted bread, cut into 1/2-inch cubes (1/2 cup)

1/4 cup almonds

3 garlic cloves, coarsely chopped

1 ounce bittersweet chocolate, chopped

1/4 cup chopped parsley

1/8 teaspoon cinnamon

¼ teaspoon cumin

Small pinch of ground cloves

Season the chicken with salt and pepper. In a large skillet, heat 2 tablespoons of the oil. Add the chicken, skin side down, and cook over moderately high heat until browned, 4 minutes per side. Transfer to a plate.

Add the onion to the skillet and cook over moderate heat until softened, 5 minutes. Add the tomatoes and cook over moderately high heat until very thick, 5 minutes. Add the broth, sherry, orange zest and thyme and bring to a boil. Add the chicken, cover and simmer over low heat for 30 minutes, turning once.

Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 350°. Toast the bread and almonds on a baking sheet, about 8 minutes.

In a skillet, heat the remaining 1/2 tablespoon of oil. Add the garlic and cook over moderate heat until golden, 3 minutes. Transfer to a food processor with the bread and almonds, the chocolate, parsley, cinnamon, and cloves. Process to a paste.

Stir the picada into the sauce and simmer over low heat for 15 minutes. Season with salt and pepper and serve.

Note on saffron: A lot of people believe saffron to be a vital ingredient in picada. A lot of people also recognize that saffron is ridiculously expensive. We don’t really keep it around but, if you have some or feel that it would add to the authenticity of the dish, go ahead and toss some into the picada.

We kind of forgot to take pictures until we were halfway through our meal so they’re not stellar. But the food was scrumptious, promise.

Spanish Orange Chicken for the Feast of St. Dominic: August 8th
August 11, 2011

St. Dominic (1170-1221) was born in Spain and was the founder of the Dominican order (the Friars Preachers).  The Blessed Virgin gave St. Dominic the Holy Rosary in order to combat the heresies arising during his lifetime. According to legend, St. Dominic planted Italy’s first orange tree at the convent of Santa Sabina in Rome, so a Spanish dish involving oranges seemed apropos for this Feast.

Daniel roasted an organic chicken (yes, organic meat can be pricey but if you buy a whole chicken, you can roast it, use the leftover meat for chicken salad and then boil what remains for stock which makes the purchase well worth it!).

Ingredients:

1 whole chicken

½  an orange

½ cup butter

3-5 cloves of garlic

Fresh herbs chopped(I used rosemary, thyme, sage, and oregano)

Salt and Pepper

Mix the herbs, zest and juice of the orange, and the herbs. Stuff this mixture under the skin of the chicken. This will make the meat juicy and the skin crispy. Just stick your finger between the meat and the skin and stuff the butter up under there. It’s a little bit gross at first. But it’s worth it. And you’ll get used to it. Stuff an orange half and the garlic into the cavity of the chicken. Place the chicken in a rack in a roasting pan. Cover with foil and roast in a 350-degree oven for about an hour and a half. Take the chicken out, uncover it and spoon some of the drippings over the chicken. Put back in the oven and roast for another 20-30 minutes.

For a side, I made Spanish Rice by sautéing onions, garlic, and banana peppers from our garden, adding rice, water, tomatoes from the garden, and chili powder, bringing it to boil, and then simmering until the rice was cooked.

Daniel steamed some various greens from the garden, as well.

Yum!