“Well you can put in whatever you want, but then it’s not Chilindrón.”
“Yeah but I have a bunch of different recipes from respectable authors who all say to use both red and green peppers,” I told her.
“That’s because they don’t know the authentic chilindrón,” she said.
Pollo al Chilindrón is a classic Spanish recipe for chicken. It originated in Aragón or Navarra or the País Vasco, depending on whether you ask, as I did, people from Aragón, Navarra and the País Vasco. I’m going to have to go with Aragón, because that’s where my mother is from and I lived there myself long enough that it felt like home. So make of it what you will, but Chilindrón is definitely from Aragón.
It’s a simple recipe, but still there was the matter of pepper choice to consider. “Call uncle Michael,” my mother said. “He’s got a recipe book from abuela Andréa.”
Abuela Andréa was my great grandmother. She was born in Morata de Jalón, about 70 kilometers south of Zaragoza, and legend has it she was a great cook. While my uncle went to look for the book, he passed the phone to my aunt. Ilse is also a great cook and she said that Andréa always used just red pepper. By this time my uncle had returned with the book–sadly there was no recipe for chilindrón in it–and I could hear him in the background voicing objections to the red-pepper-only approach and then suddenly he had the phone.
“Abuela Andréa made it all three ways. With just green pepper, a mix of green and red, and just red pepper. The green peppers came in earlier in the season. She just used what she had.”
That seemed pretty sensible to me so I used what I had too, and it so happens I had them both. If that’s the way my great grandmother made it at the turn of the last century, well that’s authentic enough for me.
Pollo al Chilindrón is a great recipe for a number of reasons. First, it’s surprisingly delicious. Second, it’s easy. And third, it’s a healthy mix of vegetables and chicken and a little olive oil, which also makes it economical. Not only is it a complete meal, but it can be made ahead of time, re-warmed the next day and it’s just as good if not better. Chilindrón refers to the sauce; abuela Andréa also made Cordero al Chilindrón, which substitutes lamb for chicken.
Pollo al Chilindrón
Serves 4 to 6
Notes: If you don’t have any jamón, that is truly unfortunate, but you can get by with other dry-cured hams such as prosciutto or even bacon, though you might want to fry it a little first. I prefer quarters of chicken leg and thigh, but some people use boneless breast instead. Just make sure it doesn’t overcook and dry out.
4 cloves of garlic
2 green peppers
2 red peppers
100 grams of Jamón Serrano
1 cup white wine
4 chicken quarters, cut into small pieces
In a saucepan big enough to hold all the ingredients, pour in a few good glugs of olive oil and sauté the chopped onions until glassy, about five minutes. Add the garlic and peppers, both chopped, and cook for another ten minutes or so. Add the tomatoes, de-skinned and chopped, a little salt, the jamón (preferably diced, but strips work fine too) and then the white wine. (My abuela didn’t use wine but I think it adds a lot.)
Meanwhile, in a large frying pan, brown the chicken pieces in abundant olive oil. When the chicken is nice and toasty, add it to the pepper mixture and cook for another 20 minutes or until the chicken is cooked and the sauce has thickened.
Traditionally served with French fries or rice.