La Cocina Espanol: Pollo al Ajillo

One of the best meals we cooked in Spain was, coincidentally, also the first. It was also not made by me. Our first night in our casita in the mountains, I was feeling woozy and headachey and tired, so Dave told me to take a shower, have a cup of tea, and relax while he cooked dinner. Did I mention I am thrilled to marry this guy? Although Dave does not usually flex his culinary muscles (sometimes he cooks for me for my birthday, and that is very nice), he usually does a good job, diligently following directions and sampling to his heart's content (which means a LOT. seriously. the guy will eat anything in any state of preparedness).

Dave made me garlic chicken, another typical dish in Spain, and as soon as it hit the table my wooziness went away, to be replaced with wild, ravenous hunger. And it was soooo delicious. I love garlic and generally feel that anything can be made better with a crushed clove or two, but this was inspired: coated with a fine mix of oil and garlic, lightly salted, it was simplicity at its best, a clean, strong-tasting, utterly delicious meal. I loved how the garlic was able to shine through, balanced by a restrained sprinkling of salt. Cooking the chicken--which was also much better than what you'd find in the U.S.--released its juices, which mixed and mingled with the garlic and oil. The resulting chicken was evenly coated with the delicious mixture, more a sauce than a flavoring. It was amazing.

Eating the chicken, Dave and I both marveled how delicious it was, but also how incredibly simple. In fact, Penelope Casas said when she asked the chef at one of her daughter's favorite restaurants for the recipe, he wrote back, essentially "Cut up a chicken, pan fry in oil and garlic, sprinkle with salt, serve."

Although the chicken is perfect for a simple meal (I could see these going fast at a picnic or tucked into a sandwich), it's a little too bare-bones for anything very fancy. In Spain, we had just the chicken, since Dave was so focused on the one meal he forgot the potatoes we also meant to eat, and it was good if bordering on bland. A few days ago, we recreated the meal, this time adding patatas bravas, the Spanish version of French fries which we downed at most tapas bars. Although our chicken dried out a little more than we wanted (poor timing--save the chicken, which cooks up in less than 10 minutes--for the end), it still paired wonderfully with the potatoes and the spicy, tangy patatas bravas sauce.

2 chicken breasts, diced
2 tablespoons olive oil
7-10 cloves of garlic, crushed
salt to taste

Heat oil over medium heat in a large pan
Add chicken and cook until no longer pink
Add garlic and lower heat
Cook chicken until golden on both sides
Remove from pan and sprinkle with salt

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