If you’re looking for Greek with spicy, you might want to look no further than Pastitsada with chicken! This dish is actually a very regional dish, popular as the main meal on Sunday in Corfu. There are quite a number of ways to make this – and traditionally, a big old rooster might be used. Of course, it’s not common in North American supermarkets to find big old roosters available in the poultry section, so any chicken will do – but the bigger, the better.
We actually get our chickens locally and they can be quite huge – grown by a Mennonite family. They are “free range” and must be some special breed as they all are well over 5 lbs (more than 2.3 kg) – and are perfect for this dish.
Although it is generally a Corfu regional dish, it is enjoyed by Greeks in other regions, and this evening was served by Kiriaki in Orangeville, Ontario Canada! How good was it? Well – I ate until I could eat no more but wanted more!
Although roosters or chickens are often used in the preparation of Pastitsada, you can also try other poultry or beef. For those who enjoy goat and/or lamb, this might be a great way to prepare that as well.
From what I’ve read, in Corfu, pastitsada sauce should be very red and thick – “it must be thick enough to dye a mustache red!”
Our version was spicy – but I enjoyed it that way.
1 Chicken at least 2 kg with skin removed, cut into 6-8 pieces
Our “Spetseriko” mix:
- 10 ml crushed red pepper
- 1 ml cayenne pepper
- 5 ml cinnamon powder
- 5 ml nutmeg
- 5 ml cumin
- 2 ml allspice powder
- 1 ml clove powder
- 5 ml salt
- 2.5 ml pepper
6 big onions, 1.1 kg peeled off, chopped
5 garlic cloves
150 + 100 ml olive oil
200 gr tomato paste
2 tsp sugar
500 ml boiled water + 200 ml with the tomato paste
1 teaspoon Kirian Greek Oregano
80 ml red vinegar
200 ml red wine
8 KirIan Mediterranean Bay Leaves
450 grams Thick spaghetti if your grocery store carries it – not the regular or spaghettini thickness
Salt to taste
Grated cheese (We went with Monterrey Jack – but you could use Parmesan or any other of your favourite hard to semi-hard cheeses)
We gather all our ingredients and we start with the onions. We peel them, cut them in 4 pcs., each and put them in a food processor in order to be diced but not pureed. The quantity is impressive but do not worry, it will transform to absolute deliciousness in the next 2 hours.
In a big frying pan, we put 150 ml olive oil on low heat and we add our onions. We let them caramelize for about 30 minutes while we’re preparing our ‘Spetseriko’ (spice mix). We stir the onions now and then and we remove from heat when our onions have the desired color and they are ready.
We then prepare our ‘Spetseriko’ mix making sure we use the right quantities.
After we have prepared our Spetseriko:
In a large pot on high heat, we add the rest of 100 ml olive oil and then we add the pieces of chicken covering the bottom of our pot. We should be careful not to put a lot of pieces all together because the temperature of the oil will drop and instead of having our chicken browned, it will start releasing juices.
So, you may have to brown your chicken in 2 batches (depending on the size of your pot), turning your chicken pieces every 3 minutes until you have the desired colour. After we’re done with all the chicken pieces, we remove and place them in a bowl, leaving just the oil on the bottom of our pot.
We add our ‘Spetseriko’ mix to the hot oil remaining in the pot that we have removed the chicken from, and we stir to release aromas and heat-infuse the olive oil with the tastes of the spices in our mix. Then, we add the garlic, our oregano and bay leaves and continue cooking for a minute or two. We finally add the vinegar to the hot oil and spice mix which will help with the infusion of all those aromas in our final dish. We allow the vinegar to evaporate over the next 3 minutes.
We then add to the pot the browned chicken, the onions and the wine. We stir a bit and we add the 500 ml of boiled water. After we have brought the food to a boil we lower the heat, put the lid on and slow cook for 50 minutes.
After 50 minutes, we add our tomato paste along with 200 ml of boiled water more and stir until the tomato paste has been thinned and mixed well.
We remove the lid and let the food boil for an additional 20 minutes so that the juices are reduced and we’re left with a very thick sauce. We add salt according to taste and the 2 tsp of sugar. Our pastitsada is ready when all the water has evaporated and a rich thick sauce remains. Pieces of meat will have been incorporated into the thick sauce to give flavour to every bite (Ian’s note: Mmmm… yes it did have flavour in every bite!).
We then prepare our pasta according to the pasta package instructions. The thicker the pasta is, the better to absorb the sauce.
Before we serve, ideally but not necessary would be to mix the pasta with some spoonfuls of the thick sauce in our pot (without the chicken). This will give our pasta a beautiful color and taste before we serve on the plates and will also save us some mess! The pasta will absorb some of the sauce and will be easier to handle once served on the plates.
Kali orexi!! WE hope you will love it as much as we did!!