Catalan Chicken Stew
Savor flavors of Spain in this well-seasoned super chicken soup.
For the picada:
- 1/4 cup dry unsalted Marcona almonds or blanched almonds
- 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil (EVOO)
- 2 1/2-inch thick slices batard or baguette (reserve the rest of the loaf for serving)
- 1/3 cup flat leaf parsley leaves
- 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
- 2 cloves garlic, grated or finely chopped
For the stew:
- 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil (EVOO)
- 2-3 tablespoons fresh thyme, chopped
- 2 rounded tablespoons paprika
- 2-3 stalks celery with leafy tops, peeled and chopped
- 2 bay leaves
- 2 medium carrots, chopped
- 2 medium onions, chopped
- 1 red bell pepper, chopped
- 1 Fresno or other red chili pepper, finely chopped
- A pinch of saffron threads
- Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
- 1 can whole peeled tomatoes (32 ounces)
- 4 cups chicken stock (32 ounces)
- 3-4 cups shredded Poached Chicken Breasts (recipe follows)
- 1 cup Spanish green olives, coarsely chopped
- Bread, for serving
For the poached Chicken Breasts:
- 4 whole bone-in, skin-on chicken breasts (for all white meat) or 3 whole 4-pound chickens (for a mix of white and dark meat)
- 1 tablespoon whole black peppercorns
- 8 cloves garlic, smashed
- 4 large bay leaves
- 4 carrots, coarsely chopped
- 4 stalks celery, coarsely chopped
- 2 lemons, sliced
- 2 onions, quartered
- An herb bundle of fresh parsley, rosemary and thyme, tied with kitchen string
- Kosher salt
For the picada: Toast the nuts in a small skillet, then remove to a plate. Add the EVOO to the skillet and toast the bread slices until golden. Chop the bread and add to a food processor along with the parsley, lemon juice, garlic, toasted almonds and a splash of water. Pulse until the mixture is a pesto-like consistency. Refrigerate until ready to serve.
For the stew: Heat the EVOO in a Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add the thyme, paprika, celery, bay leaves, carrots, onions, bell peppers, chili peppers and saffron and season with salt and pepper. Cook until the vegetables are soft, 7-8 minutes. Add the tomatoes and mash. Add the stock and simmer for 30 minutes. Stir in the chicken. Stir in the picada and olives, then remove from the heat and let stand for 5 minutes.
Ladle the stew into shallow bowls and serve with warm bread for mopping.
Cook’s Note: The stew and the picada can be refrigerated in separate containers in the refrigerator for a make-ahead meal. Reheat the stew over medium heat, adding the picada and olives.
For the Poached Chicken Breasts:
Put the chicken in a very large stockpot or divide between two pots, if necessary. Add the peppercorns, garlic, bay leaves, carrots, celery, lemons, onions and herb bundle and sprinkle with salt. Add enough water to cover the chicken. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat to low and cook at a rolling simmer for 1 1/2 hours. Remove the chicken from the liquid and let cool. Strain the stock. (You should have 5-6 quarts stock.) Remove the skin and bones from the chicken, and shred the meat using your hands or two forks.