I’ve got a houseful this week—two sons, a daughter-in-law and grandkids (Leo, 12; Lucas, 11, and Nico, 8). They are a busy crew, off to the beach, connecting with old friends, shopping, visiting former haunts.
I am so out of practice! I scramble to keep up, buying enough bread, melons, eggs, jars of mayonnaise (of preferred brands), wine, beer. Meal planning is a challenge, working around kids’ likes and dislikes. And, I haven’t yet gotten everyone to the table at the same time.
|Chicken bakes with potatoes and vegetables in an oversize pan--plenty for a crowd.|
Here’s my favorite, easy meal to serve a crowd—pollo en lata, chicken baked in a huge pan with layers of potatoes, tomatoes, onions and peppers.
A lata is an oven pan. When a gang of relatives or out-of-town friends are getting together at your house, you go the local bread bakery and borrow a lata--in this case a huge one--fill it with chicken pieces, potatoes and seasoning, and take it back to the bakery to bake a few hours in the bread oven.
I made this for the family on Day 2, planning for a 9 pm dinner, our first with the three cousins together. But a mishap at the beach sent them to the emergency room. (Nico got a blow to the ear, but is fine.) I set the pan on the table and fell asleep in front of the TV.
At 11 pm they arrived, famished. By then, the potatoes had soaked up all the delicious juices in the pan and were even better than when hot out of the oven.
|Plated, the baked chicken and vegetables are fine for a dinner party.|
Chicken for a Crowd
Pollo en Lata
Use a pan (lata, rustidera or besuguera) about 10 X 15 inches and at least 2 ½ inches deep. Or, divide the ingredients between several smaller pans. A roasting pan would work well if you haven’t got a flat pan.
I’ve elaborated on the traditional version of this dish, adding chopped chard on one occasion and pitted olives on another.
|Sliced vegetables to be layered with potatoes.|
Salt and freshly-ground black pepper
4 pounds potatoes, peeled and sliced ½ -inch thick
1/3 cup olive oil
1-2 cups chopped chard (optional)
2 tomatoes, sliced
1 green bell pepper, cut in strips
1 onion, sliced
1 head garlic, roasted (see directions below)
2 tablespoons chopped parsley
3 bay leaves
1 teaspoon pimentón (paprika)
Pinch of smoked pimentón (optional)
Sprigs of thyme
1 cup white wine
1 cup pitted brine-cured olives (optional)
Preheat oven to 400º.
Sprinkle chicken pieces with salt and pepper and allow to set 30 minutes at room temperature.
Put 2 tablespoons of the oil into the bottom of the pan. Arrange layers of potatoes, tomato, green pepper, onion and chopped chard, if using. Sprinkle each layer with a few cloves of roasted garlic, salt, pepper and parsley. Continue to layer all of the potatoes and other vegetables.
|Place seasoned chicken on top of layers of potatoes, onions, tomatoes and peppers.|
Place the chicken pieces on top. Break the bay leaves into pieces and tuck into the potatoes. Sprinkle with pimentón and thyme. Pour over remaining oil and the wine.
|Ready for the oven. A dusting of pimentón adds flavor and color.|
Cover the pan with foil and bake for 15 minutes. Reduce oven heat to 325º and bake another 60 minutes. Remove foil cover and bake 15 minutes.
To roast a whole head of garlic: Spear the head of garlic on a fork or grasp it with tongs and hold over a gas flame (or put under the broiler), turning, until it is charred. Peel the garlic cloves, rinse in running water and add them to the pan.