Chicken with Catalan Picada

This Catalan dish, made with chocolate and spices, is reminiscent of Mexican mole, says Janet Mendel. "But without the spiciness of the chilies, it's much easier to pair with wine." The sauce is thickened with picada, traditionally a blend of toasted nuts, herbs and garlic.

INGREDIENTS:
4 chicken thighs and 4 small pieces of chicken breast
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
1 bay leaf
One 3-inch strip of orange zest
1/4 teaspoon thyme leaves
1 slice of peasant bread, crusts removed and bread cut into 1/2-inch cubes (1/2 cup)
1/4 cup slivered almonds
3 garlic cloves, coarsely chopped
1 ounce bittersweet chocolate, chopped
1/4 cup chopped parsley
1/8 teaspoon cinnamon
Large pinch of saffron threads
Small pinch each of aniseed
Small pinch of ground cloves

YIELD: 4 serving

COURSE: Chicken & Other Birds

CUISINE: Spanish

DIRECTIONS:

  1. 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.
  2. 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, bay leaf, orange zest and thyme and bring to a boil. Add the chicken, cover and simmer over low heat for 30 minutes, turning once.
  3. 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.
  4. Transfer to a food processor with the bread and almonds, the chocolate, parsley, cinnamon, saffron, aniseed and cloves. Process to a paste.
  5. Stir the picada into the sauce and simmer over low heat for 15 minutes. Discard the bay leaf and orange zest, season with salt and pepper and serve.