Thickening your dish with nuts isn’t nuts

Spanish Chicken en pepitoria

Newsletter_-_Mar16-Spanish_chickenI read this recipe last year in a magazine I subscribe to. My wife is always on at me for just cooking the same dishes over and over; well, go with what works, I always say. I thought I would stretch out a bit and try this Spanish chicken dish because it has everything I like in it. Finding sherry in Budapest turned out to be a bit of a challenge (they had it in Lidl) but I read that dry vermouth is a good substitute, though I have not tried it this way. Do not get confused when shopping, Cherry (easily found) is not at all the same as sherry (very hard to fine in Budapest), which is a Spanish wine from white grapes fortified with grape spirits. Creating a rich sauce make from egg yolk and toasted almonds sealed the deal for me. As the dish cooks in the oven for almost an hour, it is practically impossible to mess up. You will love the way this turns out.


Serves 4-6

  • 6-7 chicken thighs (not boneless) with skin on
  • 4 tablespoons olive oil, divided
  • 1 onion, chopped finely
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 can of chopped tomato
  • 300ml cup chicken broth
  • 1 large pinch of cinnamon
  • 200ml cup dry sherry, dry Vermouth or dry white wine
  • Freshly ground black pepper plus more for seasoning
  • Pinch of saffron threads (optional)
  • Kosher salt
  • 2 hard-boiled eggs, yolks and whites separated
  • Handful of chopped parsley
  • 100g blanched almonds
  • 1 bay leaf
  • Juice from ½ lemon


  • Heat oven to 150 C°
  • Heat 1 spoonful of olive oil in large flat-bottomed skillet under high heat just under smoking. Pat thighs dry with paper towel and lightly season with salt and pepper. Place thighs skin-side down in skillet for 6 minutes then flip for another 6 minutes. Transfer thighs to a plate and pour off all but two spoonfuls of the chicken fat.
  • Lower heat to medium and add chopped onions with a generous pinch of salt. Stirring frequently, soften onions for 3 minutes, then add two-thirds of minced garlic, cinnamon and bay leaf. Heat until fragrant (about 2 minutes). Add in sherry, scraping the skillet to incorporate any brown bits, and cook another 2 minutes until it starts to thicken. Stir in tomatoes and chicken broth and simmer for another few minutes.
  • If your skillet fits in the oven, return the chicken to it and place in the oven. Given European ovens’ diminutive size it would be better to transfer the chicken to an oven-proof casserole dish and cover with sauce from the pan. Place uncovered in the oven for 45-50 minutes.
  • 5 minutes before the end of the step above, in a small skillet, heated to med-high, toast chopped almonds.
  • After cooking in the oven remove thighs from dish; remove and discard the chicken skin then place on a serving dish covered with foil to keep heat. Return all but 250ml of the cooking mixture to the skillet and place this remaining amount into a blender along with remaining minced garlic, toasted almonds and egg yolks. Blend until smooth, about two minutes, adding a bit of water if it becomes too thick. Pour mixture into skillet, add lemon juice, and under medium heat, stir until smooth.
  • Pour mixture over chicken thighs, and sprinkle over parsley and chopped egg whites. Serve with noodles.

Jó étvágya – Bon appetit!

Did you know?

  • Pepitoria is the Spanish method of preparing poultry with a sauce thickened with a mixture of egg yolk and ground almonds. The popular belief is that this method is originally from Arab cuisine.
  • Since dark meat contains twice as much collagen as white meat, when cooked beyond its doneness point it does not become dry and tough like breast meat. The longer it cooks the more the collagen breaks down into a gelatin state coating the protein fibers to keep it juicy and tender. It’s important to cook low and slow (60 C° – 90 C° internal temperature)
  • Almonds, cultivated since prehistoric times, are the nuts of the beautiful almond tree covered with lovely pink blossoms in spring. These highly versatile nuts are commercially the most important. The United States supplies more than half the world’s crop, followed by Spain and Italy.
  • Almond belongs to the same genus as the apricot, cherry and other stone-fruit trees. Because almond trees need a temperate climate, they were, for a long time, only grown in a narrow band from Western Asia to the Western Mediterranean. They grow here in Hungary.
  • Almonds were of great importance in early Arabic and medieval European cookery, partly as a source of the almond milk used in thickening blancmange pudding, a common dish as recently as Victorian times.
  • Sherry is made by fortifying wine after fermentation, then aging it in used American oak barrels.
  • Never, ever buy cooking sherry to cook with or drink. It has lots of added sodium.