One of the most valuable things in my cooking journey has always been the advice of people who have been cooking long before me. I still remember my father dumping a spoonful of pimenton de la Vera in my fabada telling me “this will make it taste better“. My mother teaching me how to make stock out of ham bone. My godfather teaching my husband how to make paella (“I usually go upstairs to take a bath and when I come down it’s done”). My grand-aunt sharing the secret of her callos (make sure the butcher shows you the hoof!!). My abuelita telling me her “formula” for baked Parmesan chicken. And all the tips and tricks and techniques in between.
One such piece of advice I took from my mother, that I’ve kept from the time I got married until this day, is always having cans of tomato in my pantry. My mom almost always used canned tomatoes, as opposed to tomato sauce, to make her pasta sauces and stews (like her osso buco). She still does. And so do I. You’d be hard pressed to find my pantry without a few cans of tomatoes somewhere.
As far as fresh tomatoes are concerned, I read somewhere that when it comes to making sauces, if you can’t find stellar tomatoes (and although we have lovely tomatoes here, and farmers are continually growing new ones, we still don’t have enough supply of the super juicy ones for sauce) you are better off using quality canned one. So that’s what I’ve always done. Because of that, I am always on the lookout for good canned tomatoes and am forever experimenting with different brands.
I usually stick to Spanish or Italian brands but was pleasantly surprised when I discovered Contadina canned tomatoes a couple of years ago during its launch (with Nigella Lawson!!). Contadina’s tomatoes are vine-ripened Roma tomatoes grown in California…sweet and juicy and perfect for sauces and braises. They’ve been part of my pantry ever since.
So when the good folk at Contandina approached me to work on a recipe for them I was more than happy to put one together! By now I’ve cooked with their tomatoes countless times, so the tough part was not thinking of a recipe, but deciding among all the ideas I had! I knew I wanted to use their tomatoes, my pantry stalwart, but I didn’t want to make another pasta. I also wanted to make something that required minimal effort…as it is December and I am sure we are all experiencing the frenetic pace of the holidays!
This was the result…
Baked Spanish-style Chicken
- 1 can Contadina stewed tomatoes with Italian herbs
- 1 kilo chicken thighs
- 150 grams Spanish chorizo (about 2 pieces), sliced
- 1 red onion, cut into eighths
- 1/3 cup pitted green olives, halved
- Sea salt and freshly cracked black pepper
- Contadina extra virgin olive oil
- Optional: chopped parsley to garnish
– Place the tomatoes, chicken, chorizo, onion, and olives in a roasting/baking pan or an oven-proof dish. Arrange the contents so everything is more or less evenly distributed in the pan.
– Sprinkle a bit of salt and pepper on top of each chicken thigh. Drizzle with a bit of the olive oil.
– Place in a pre-heated 375F oven for about 45 minutes or until cooked through (juices run clear when thigh is pierced to the bone). Remove the pan once or twice during cooking to baste the chicken with the juices.
– When the chicken is done garnish with parsley (if desired) and serve!
That’s really all there is to it! The flavor comes from the herbs already in the tomatoes, and the chorizo. As it roasts, the herby tomatoes, the salty smokiness of the chorizo, and the juices of the chicken merge to create a delicious sauce that both flavors the dish and keeps the chicken moist. And all you have to do is place everything in a pan and wait. If you use a nice pan that you can take from oven to table that will save you even more time and effort.
Here’s a bonus if you like a bit of heat (like we do)! And it uses another of Contadina’s products that I like, their extra virgin olive oil. I use it to whip up a chili oil that will give this dish and interesting edge: Just mix some of the olive oil with a generous pinch of both chili flakes and Spanish paprika. Let this sit while you cook your chicken. Serve it on the side so diners that like things spicy can feel free to drizzle on a little (or a lot). Contadina sources its olive oil from Andalucia in Spain and it has a nice grassy flavor I really like…very good for a grocery-shelf olive oil! (when I think about it, my best olive oil experiences have been in Spain!)
I like to serve this with rice and ladle the sauce over everything…then dribble on the chili oil. For those that don’t like it spicy, a little drizzle of the extra virgin olive oil is really nice too.
If you have leftovers, shred the chicken and cut up the chorizo, toss with the sauce and some cooked pasta for a totally new meal the next day. If you have fresh herbs lying around you can add that in as well (some of the parsley or this would be brilliant with fresh basil too!). You can add in any extra chili oil you have, if you wish, and/or top with some grated parmesan cheese (or maybe even some cubed feta). I used Contadina’s penne pasta here.
This dish really highlights the quality of the Contadina tomatoes, as well as the ease it affords you in cooking. It also shows you that you don’t need to perform culinary pyrotechnics to place a satisfying meal on your table for family and friends. Just good, quality ingredients, and a little imagination. I hope you enjoy this dish as much as we did!