Chicken Tapas

chicken tapasChicken tapas recipes are arguably some of the most tasty and easy to prepare Spanish tapas there are, tapas, by their very simplicity are easy bites of non complicated food to accompany your drink and there is nothing like chicken as a base to easy and simple food flavours – quick tapas in just a few minutes! Chicken can be fried, deep fried, baked, marinated and more meaning this simple meat is open to flavours of all strengths, indeed chicken tapas can consist of fried chicken pieces seasoned with salt and pepper or can be subject to the strongest of flavours such as ‘mojo’ sauce, garlic and chilli sauces.

To create chicken tapas we have to look at the easiest and quickest way to turn chicken pieces (perhaps from the supermarket or local butchers) into edible bites for the tapas party. There is no doubt that chicken breasts are the easiest to work with, there are no bones, in most cases no skin and they are easily cut into bite size chunks. If you are handy de-boning legs, wings and thighs then all the better as the dark meat adds flavour to your tapas selection. Interestingly, chicken tapas in Andalucia are usually served deep fried, either in a light batter or breadcrumbs making the Spanish ‘salsa’ the main delivery in flavour, there are however classic marinades to consider and also basting over the barbeque.

BBQ Chicken Tapas
Barbeque chicken tapas. There is nothing quite like barbequed chicken, a marinade (and plenty of basting whilst cooking) really does bring chicken to life. Stronger flavours such as mustard and garlic which mellow over heat are good combinations as are stronger herbs like rosemary and thyme. Chicken tapas can also be cooked on the barbeque (and fried) in a terracotta cazuela which is perfectly at home over hot coals and naked flame, the benefit of cooking in terracotta is an extenuation in natural flavor so if you like those herbs to come to life as well as that smoky barbeque flavour rolling over your cooking tapas then a terracotta cazuela, sarten or casserole will enhance your tapas giving them a rustic touch as well as a summertime Spanish cooking theme.

Oven Cooked Chicken Tapas
Oven cooked chicken tapas are just as enjoyable as those cooked traditionally over the hot coals of the barbeque and ultimately more convenient. Oven cooked chicken tapas won’t achieve that aromatic smokey flavour of those cooked on the outdoor barbeque but, dare we say it there is a cheats way and that is smoked paprika – especially with tomato based dishes, indeed the chicken can be cooked very simply in the oven, let the dipping salsa do the work and you have typically Spanish tapas.

 Chicken Tapas Marinades
Chicken marinades take time, if you have the time to marinade chicken pieces overnight then the flavours of whatever you put in your marinade will come through even more, 12 hours or overnight is best for chicken marinades cooling in the fridge to let those flavours get to work. As with all tapas though the cooking is very simple, let the tomato salsas and yogurt dips do the work and leave your marinaded chicken to add the texture and rustic hints. Strong Spanish flavours for chicken are lemon, garlic, chilli, garden herbs such as rosemary and thyme and also mustard (English or French). The Spanish technique in marinating meat is again to use a terracotta vessel (large cazuela, bandeja or olla), using natural terracotta arguably enhances flavour and eliminates that ‘tinny’ influence from skillets and metal cooking trays.

PARTING A CHICKEN

parting chickenTools required: Small boning knife, kitchen knife, bowl

Step 1: Using a sharp boning knife cut around the wings, find the joint and cut through to remove the wings from the body.

Step 2: Remove the legs by cutting around the meat as far up the back of the chicken as you can, bend the leg until the joint becomes obvious then cut directly through it to remove the leg. To part the leg into drummers and thighs feel along the length of the chicken leg until you find the joint then cut through with a sharp knife.

Step 3: Parting the breasts from the chicken requires a small sharp knife, firstly locate the breast bone and run your knife down one side of its length – you will feel the knife change directing once you hit the wishbone. Using your fingers to part the meat, run the tip of your knife in short sharp strokes horizontally down the carcass of the bird, gently prizing away the meat. Repeat on both sides.

spanish chickenThe breast meat can now be sliced into convenient pieces or strips ready for tapas. Remember to retain the chicken carcass for making a good stock for soups or your next paella, simply boil up in a pan, leave to cool then place in a clear plastic bag ready for freezing.

Chicken Tapas with Salsa
salsaOne of the best gastronomic experiences with chicken tapas is what you dip the chicken into, chicken can be flavoured for the barbeque, oven or grill but when it comes to finger food the Spanish salsa plays just as an important part as the chicken itself.

Salsa flavours can be mild or strong, typically the Spanish tapa remains on the milder although hot chilli sauces are also served on occasion. Salsa and fried chicken pieces are a match made in heaven – they just work and with simplicity at the forefront there is nothing wrong with dicing up plum tomatoes in the tin, adding paprika, chilli and roasted or pan fried garlic for a quick tapas dip. Going to town on salsa when time allows to cook up something special does however throw up a new level of flavours as once cooked with garlic, peppers, herbs, pimenton and even fruits you can achieve all those delicious infusions which will bring your chicken tapas to life!

Chicken Dipping Salsa

Ingredients:

4 tomatoes, diced
4 cloves of garlic, peeled and crushed,
1 small fresh chili pepper, seeds removed and finely chopped
Pinch of salt
Teaspoon of sugar
Olive oil

How to cook

Heat a little olive oil in a terracotta cazuela and gently fry the garlic and chili over a low heat for a few minutes until they soften.

Add the tomatoes, season and turn up the heat. When the tomatoes begin to bubble, lower the heat and add the sugar.

Cook gently for around 20 minutes, stirring and breaking up the tomatoes from time to time.

Remove from the heat and allow to cool.  Blend for a few seconds using a hand blender to create a smooth sauce.

Return to the heat to warm through when ready to serve.

Terracotta and Serving

As mentioned above marinading and cooking chicken is generally done in terracotta cookware in Spain. Large cazuelas and terracotta oven trays lend themselves well to cooking main meal chicken dishes and smaller terracotta cazuelas like 20cm in diameter are great for frying up those chicken pieces or mixing with chorizo. Terracotta provides a more natural way to cook, ‘cooking in clay’ is indeed the preferred method in southern Spain. For serving your chicken tapas terracotta items will also fit the bill given the sheer variation of shapes and sizes they come in but there is also the option of hand painted Spanish ceramics many of which come in smaller sizes such as dipping bowls, salsa and tapas bowls through to larger items all of which are ideal for serving your chicken in colourful Andalucian style.

 

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