Pollo En Pepitoria: The Creamy Braised Chicken Bursting With Flavor

Chicken may very well be one of the most versatile meats to prepare. You can cook chicken in a variety of ways, from roasted, fried, grilled, or slow cooked, no matter how it's made, it remains tasty. One way to cook any meat for delicious flavor is through braising, a process that includes browning it in oil, then adding liquid such as stock, wine, water, or a combination, then letting the meat slowly cook in that liquid, per Better Homes & Gardens.

A popular braised chicken recipe that you may be unfamiliar with is pollo en pepitoria, a braised chicken recipe that has a unique flavor profile. This Spanish dish is said to have been popular with Spain's Queen Isabel II, per Freddy O. Although the original version was prepared using the whole hen — and called Gallina en Pepitoria, as noted by The Spruce Eats — today's rendition opts for using parts of the bird, such as bone-in, skin-on chicken thighs.

A dish with a long history

While understanding history isn't a requirement for enjoying the flavors of food, it can be helpful to have knowledge of the various cultural influences and how they have come to influence the dishes of a country or even a particular region. As noted by Spanish Fiestas, the Moors, which refers to people of modern-day Algeria and Morocco, conquered and ruled over Spain from the early 8th century until the late 15th century. As a by-product, there are culinary influences that remain to this day, and pollo en pepitoria is believed to be one of the dishes that have a Moorish influence.

According to Spanish Abores, the origin of this recipe is thought to be influenced by the Moors, mainly because of the almonds and saffron included in the meal. The article further details that the recorded history of this dish can be traced back to a recipe published in 1763, and that particular recipe calls for using a variety of spices including cloves, nutmeg, ginger, and saffron, although many of those spices are no longer used in the modern version of this recipe.

How to make it

No matter the number of spices you choose to include, this is a tasty and comforting dish. And as Mission Food recommends, the thick and creamy sauce is perfect for the chilly weather of fall and winter. That sauce is made from a few unique and flavorful ingredients and is traditionally prepared using a mortar and pestle, but a food processor works, too. The pepitoria part of the dish is made from a method common in Spanish cuisine — a picada. According to America's Test Kitchen, Spanish picadas are similar to pesto, in that they use nuts, mainly almonds, to provide a thickening agent for stews and sauces.

The dish's sauce is made by combining ground-roasted almonds, hard-boiled egg yolks, and saffron. The eggs and almonds are part of what gives this dish its rich and velvety sauce, and both saffron and the yolks add color and flavor, but the yolks help create a creamy texture, as detailed by A Family Feast. There are other ingredients, including wine and broth, which help with the braising, but the finished product is a hearty dish in a flavorful sauce that just beckons to be sopped up with a piece of crusty bread.