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A Casual Dinner from Northeast Spain

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Crisp, garlicky chicken is the delicious centerpiece of this home-style Catalan meal

Chefs from Catalonia, in the northeastern corner of Spain, have lately gotten a lot of attention worldwide for their hyper-experimental food, from olive oil ice cream to octopus foam. But the region’s home cooks deserve their own share of fame: the cuisine is honest, upfront and delicious, making good use of the local ingredients, including olive oil, garlic, parsley, nuts, roasted peppers and sea salt, to name a few. This menu introduces you to some of those classic dishes, such as romesco sauce and sautéed spinach with pine nuts and raisins. The main event is chicken thighs baked with fresh herbs and lemon, and rubbed with a delicious condiment called allioli, which is like garlic mayonnaise but without the egg. To finish the meal, take a cue from Catalan home cooks and choose an assortment of perfectly ripe, preferably locally grown in-season fruit: a big, juicy peach, a fragrant wedge of melon, a lush pear or a bowl of berries — a pleasure so simple and yet so often overlooked. 

Menu Timeline

Up to 3 days ahead:

  • Make the escalivada (red pepper-eggplant topping for the grilled bread).
  • Make the romesco sauce

One day ahead:

  • Make the allioli and marinate the chicken in it.

Two hours before dinner:

  • Remove chicken, romesco sauce, and escalivada from refrigerator; preheat oven.
  • Arrange chicken over lemon and herbs.
  • Clean and tear salad greens for salad.

Ninety minutes before dinner:

  • Bake chicken.
  • Wilt, drain, and cool spinach.
  • Grill bread and rub with garlic.
  • Cook mushrooms and keep warm.

Thirty minutes before dinner:

  • Remove chicken from oven and tent with foil.
  • Reduce chicken juices to make a pan sauce.
  • Assemble salad.
  • Sauté spinach.
  • Rub grilled bread with tomato and top with escalivada.

Shopping List

Fresh Produce

  • 1 lb. medium white button mushrooms
  • 4 medium and 2 or 3 small ripe tomatoes
  • 2 medium eggplant
  • 2 red bell peppers
  • 1 medium onion
  • 2-1/2 lb. fresh spinach
  • 12 cups bitter salad greens, such as frisee, curly endive, or escarole
  • 1 bunch fresh rosemary
  • 1 bunch fresh thyme
  • 1 bunch flat-leaf parsley
  • 12 sage leaves
  • 2 heads garlic
  • 2 large lemons
  • Fresh, in-season fruit, for dessert

Meat, Eggs & Dairy

  • 12 bone-in chicken thighs
  • 1 oz. Manchego or other aged Spanish cheese, such as Mahón

Other Groceries

  • 1-1/2 oz. blanched almonds
  • 1-1/2 oz. peeled hazelnuts
  • 3 Tbs. pine nuts
  • 1 dried ancho chile
  • 2 Tbs. red wine (dry or fruity, but not oaky)
  • 1 loaf country or peasant bread
  • 12 good-quality anchovy fillets (optional)
  • 1/2 cup brine-cured black olives (such as kalamata or niçoise) or dry-cured Moroccan olives
  • 3 Tbs. golden raisins

Pantry Staples

  • 1-1/2 cups extra-virgin olive oil
  • 3 Tbs. red-wine vinegar
  • Kosher or sea salt
  • Whole black peppercorns

Wine Suggestions:
A Catalan sparkling wine (cava) would be a deliciously refreshing match for the salty piquant flavors of the mushrooms and grilled-bread tapas. Or go for a fino sherry, a deliciously dry and nutty fortified wine that will enrich the tapas flavors (fino is the traditional match with tapas). Both would go well with the salad of bitter greens, too. The chicken wants a rich, complex red wine that could also go with the sautéed spinach, like a rioja. Or, if you crave something lighter and less formal, a rosado (Spanish for rosé) would also be great with the main dish.
-Steven Kolpan

The Menu


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