Today’s recipe does not come from Zabalo and wouldn’t be recognized in Safor. It’s from a young Chef, Kyle Bailey, who currently works as Executive Chef at two Washington DC eateries: Birch and Barley and ChurchKey, a beer bar upstairs from the restaurant (1337 14th St. N.W. Tel: 201 567-2576) . Kyle Bailey graduated from the Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park NY and then worked in resort hotels in the Caribbean and in Florida before moving to the Capital. There’s no hint of any Spanish cooking in his background but who cares? The dish he dreamed up for Food and Wine uses Spanish Marcona almonds (you can substitute slivered almonds if you don’t have access to Marconas) and dried “datil”, the Spanish word for dates. The Date or “El Datil” has long been cultivated in Spain and was likely brought there from North Africa and before that from the Middle East. The pasta, in this case thick pappardelle noodles, may be Italian and the base for the sauce is a classic French mirepoix doused with Portuguese Madeira, and the garnish returns to Spain in the form shaved Manchego cheese. If fusion can be Asian, apparently what Chef Bailey makes can only be described as a European Middle Eastern fusion. Call it what you will, this is a luscious, complex dish. I served it twice in a relatively short space of time to great applause. A couple of helpful hints. By all means, use only bone-in thighs for this dish. The temptation to substitute boneless chicken to save time will not give you the results you want. The bones add flavor and body to the sauce. If you don’t have Madeira, you can use Marsala. And if you don’t have pappardelle you can substitute tagliatelle which is what Chef Bailey used in the original. Here is the recipe:
Pappardelle with Braised Chicken and Figs Adapted from Chef Kyle Bailey in Food and Wine Magazine
Who isn’t always looking for fresh, new ways to cook that workhorse of the kitchen, the skinless chicken thigh? That’s why I was intrigued by a recipe in October’s Food and Wine Magazine that was said to be “Spanish-inspired pasta”. First of all, although no authority on Spanish cuisine, I had to wonder about pasta being authentic to Spain. And the research I did backed me up. There is really only one ‘pasta’ that is cooked with any frequency in Spain. And wouldn’t you know it’s used in making Fideuá, which is very similar to paella only Fideuá substitutes a noodle about the size of spaghetti for the rice in every other paella. There’s a interesting piece of folk history about how this substitution of noodles for rice happened. According to what I read, Fideuá was first created by a cook onboard a fishing boat. Joan Batiste Pascual, better known as Zabalo, made many a meal of paella. The skipper of the vessel he worked on in 1915 loved rice and would always eat so much of it that the crew never got their fair share. So in order to stop the skipper from eating everyone else’s portion, Zabalo decided to substitute pasta for rice. Unfortunately for the rest of the fisherman, his plan didn’t go too well. The captain devoured the pasta with as much gusto as he did rice so Zabolo’s plan was thwarted. But he is still a hometown hero. His village, Safor, holds a Fideuá cooking competition each year.
Recipe for Pappardelle with Braised Chicken and Figs adapted from Chef Kyle Bailey Serves 5. Active time: 1 hour. Total Cooking Time 2 hrs.
2 tablespoons canola oil
2 pounds skinless, bone-in chicken thighs
1 carrot, chopped
1 onion, chopped
2 celery ribs, chopped
1 small tomato, chopped
3 tablespoons Madeira
1 quart chicken stock
2 garlic cloves
1 tablespoon black peppercorns
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 cup dried figs, stemmed and chopped
8 ounces dried pappardelle pasta
2 tablespoons freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
2 tablespoons chopped tarragon
1/4 cup marcona almonds, chopped
Shaved Manchego cheese, for garnish
1. Preheat the oven to 350°. In a large enameled cast-iron casserole, heat the oil. Season the chicken thighs with salt and pepper and cook over moderately high heat, turning, until browned, about 5 minutes. Transfer the chicken to a plate.
2. Add the carrot, onion and celery to the casserole and cook over moderate heat, stirring occasionally, until golden, about 5 minutes. Stir in the tomato and cook until it breaks down and is lightly caramelized, about 5 minutes. Add the Madeira and cook until evaporated, then add the chicken stock, garlic and peppercorns.
3. Return the chicken to the pot and bring to a simmer. Cover and braise in the oven for 1 hour, until the chicken is tender.
4. Using tongs, transfer the chicken to a plate to cool. Shred the meat; discard the bones. Strain the cooking liquid into a bowl, pressing on the solids. Return the liquid to the casserole and bring to a boil. Simmer briskly until thickened to a saucy consistency, 5 to 7 minutes. Add the butter, shredded chicken and figs and cook just to warm through.
Meanwhile, in a pot of salted boiling water, cook the pasta until al dente. Drain, reserving 1/2 cup of the pasta water. Add the pasta and reserved pasta water to the casserole and toss. Remove from the heat and stir in the Parmigiano and tarragon.
4. Serve in bowls topped with the almonds and Manchego shavings.
MAKE AHEAD The braised chicken can be refrigerated up to 2 days in advance.