My family ate dinner at an antique, Baroque-style dinner table in the dining room. It was a beautiful but well-worn tabled with two chairs on each side and one on each end. Over the years, we must have set and cleared that table thousands of times. And the five of us, despite our differences, ate almost every dinner there. Though the meals were often chaotic, with each of us talking over the other, I enjoyed them and the ritual of eating together.
Chicken on Sunday night was a family tradition. Dad would put rosemary and garlic under the skin and roast it whole. Serving it with steamed broccoli and a baguette, he would brag, "This whole dinner cost $5!" Then he would pour us big glasses of red wine (we were old enough) and smile triumphantly at the pleasure he could give with such simple means.
I still enjoy eating big dinners together and cooking chicken on Sunday night. This Catalan recipe, adapted from Diana Henry’s “Crazy Water and Pickled Lemons,” is one of my favorite Sunday night chicken dinners. The sauce is thickened with a paste called picada. Picada is a centuries-old thickener made with almonds, fried bread, white wine, and garlic. It’s blended together to form a paste used to thicken the sauce.
Sunday Night Catalan Chicken with Picada
8 chicken thighs
salt and pepper
1 onion, finely chopped
15-ounce can chopped tomatoes (I prefer Muir Glen)
2 garlic cloves, crushed
1-1/4 cups chicken stock
a few sprigs of thyme
1 ounce pine nuts, toasted
1/4 cup raisins, soaked in warm, dry oloroso sherry until plump
a few sprigs of flat leaf parsley, chopped for garnish
For the picada
1 graham cracker
1 ounce country bread, fried in olive oil
1 ounce blanched almonds
5 tablespoons white wine
3 tables spoons olive oil
Season the chicken with salt and pepper. Heat a Dutch oven with 2 tablespoons olive oil. Brown the chicken about five minutes per side.
Remove the chicken and set it aside. Add the onion to the pan and cook until translucent. Add the tomato and garlic and cook for another 2 minutes. Turn the heat down and gently cook the tomato mixture for another 15 minutes until it’s a thick puree. Add the stock and bring to a boil. Put the chicken back in the pan and any of the accumulated juices and add the thyme, pine nuts, and raisins. Turn the heat down and simmer for 25 minutes.
Make the picada by combining the bread, the cookie, the almonds, the white wine, and the olive oil in a blender until it forms a smooth paste.
Tip the picada into the chicken pan and stir everything together. Cook for another five minutes while the picada thickens the juices. Serve with chopped parsley and country bread.