When I left home and started cooking professionally, I’d get on the phone to mum and ask her how to make certain dishes. Pollo al ajillo was one of them. It’s a beautiful rich braise of chicken, slow cooked in garlic, onions and sherry. Mum would tell me to season and marinate the chicken well, to fry it until golden brown and to gently cook the onions. Whenever I made it, it would never work out exactly the same because she had a particular wine glass that she used to measure the sherry, and used a particular type of onion grown by a neighbour. I had to stand over her shoulder and watch her cook to learn how to make it taste like hers. But mine was never exactly the same. It was then that I realized no two cooks ever prepare a dish exactly the same way; there are small nuances and techniques that make a dish taste ever so slightly different. But trust me when I tell you that every person who cooks this wonderfully robust pollo al ajillo has been pleased and satisfied. Perfect for rabbit too!
Put the chicken pieces in a large bowl and season well all over with fine sea salt. Pour over the ajo y perejil and rub it into the chicken until well covered. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 2–3 hours.
Discard the oil, scrape the pan clean and add the remaining oil. Gently sauté the onion, thyme, bay leaves and garlic over low–medium heat for about 20 minutes until the onion starts to brown.
Increase the heat to high and return the chicken to the pan. When the pan is sizzling, add the sherry and scrape the bottom of the pan with a wooden spoon. Be careful when adding the sherry as it may flame. Allow the sherry to bubble for 1 minute then add the stock and bring to the boil. Reduce the heat to low and cover the pan. Simmer gently for about 1 hour until the chicken is very tender and almost ready to fall off the bone. (If you are using rabbit you will need to extend the cooking time by 30–60 minutes, depending on the size, age and condition of the rabbit. You will also need to add more stock during cooking.)
The sauce should now have reduced enough to coat the back of a spoon. If not, continue simmering until the sauce has reduced further, or extend it with
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