Chicken with Samfaina

65 Comments

Many years ago my husband and I flew to Madrid, Spain, rented a car, and made our way around the northeastern regions of Spain. We then drove over the Pyrenees into France, visited my sister and husband in the town where they live part-time, and then made our way back to Madrid.

During the first leg of our adventure, we stayed at a hotel in Catalonia, called the Parador de Cardona. If you’re not familiar with paradors, they are government-run hotels that were once castles, monasteries or fortresses. They get revamped with modern conveniences, but the structure is the same.

Here are a few photos this particular parador.

We drove up to the hotel, which was harrowing enough because we had to maneuver the car on the steepest driveway in the world, barely wide enough for the little rental car, but we finally made it. This photo from the website shows how high up the parador actually is from the village of Cardona.

When we asked to check in, the pretty young woman said something to us. No comprehension. My husband and I just stared at each other. We had a split-second conversation that went like this:

“Hey, you know Spanish.”
“Well you know French.”

Well let me tell you, neither of us recognized one damn word she said, or anyone else said during our stay. So do not believe anyone that the Catalon language is a mixture of French and Spanish. It is not.

But our stay was spectacular, and you really felt like you were living in a different century. We discovered Arbequin olives at this hotel, which mostly grow in Catalonia, and were generously served with cocktails and wine.

Back home, I decided to buy a Catalonian cookbook and the one I chose was Catalon Cuisine, by Colman Andrews, published in 1988.

The recipe I chose to make first from the cookbook is Roast Chicken in Samfaina. Samfaina is, according to the author, “a kind of baroque sofregit.” Okay. But then he writes that it’s virtually identical to the ratatouille of the Cote d’Azur, but also that samfaina is “the most important, unique and incorruptible dish which Catalan cuisine has brought to gastronomy.” I’m confused.

Wherever its origin, the samfaina must be prepared first.

Samfaina
Makes 6-8 cups

2/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil
4 cloves garlic, minced
2 1/2 pounds onions, halved, thinly sliced
1 1/2 pound Japanese eggplant, skin on, cut into 1” cubes
1 pound zucchini, skin on, cut into 1/2 – 1” cubes
8 medium tomatoes, seeded and grated
1 1/2 pounds red bell peppers, roasted, peeled, cut into strips
Salt and pepper

Heat the oil in a cassola or Dutch oven and add the garlic, onions, eggplant, and zucchini. Stir well so that all vegetables are coated with oil.


Cover the pan and cook for 10 minutes on low heat. Uncover and turn heat up slightly, cooking until the liquid has evaporated. Stir occasionally.

Add the tomatoes and peppers, reduce heat, and simmer uncovered until the liquid has again evaporated and the vegetables are very soft.


Season to taste.

Roast Chicken with Samfaina
Pollastre Rostit amb Samfaina

1 – 4-5 pound roasting chicken
Olive oil
Salt and pepper
5 cups samfaina

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.

Cut the chicken into 6 or 8 serving pieces, rub all surfaces well with olive oil, and season with salt and pepper. Then roast skin side up for 1 – 1 1/2 hours, or until the skin is golden-brown, and the juices run clear when a thigh is pierced with a fork.

Remove the chicken from the roasting pan, and set aside, keeping it warm. Pour off any excess fat, then deglaze the roasting pan with a few tablespoons of water. (I used some white wine.)

Add the samfaina to the pan, and stir well; then add chicken, and simmer briefly until heated through.

I’m not going to tell my mother this, but I’ve had ratatouille, and samfaina is better. Why? I have no idea. My tomatoes were really ripe perhaps.

The samfaina was actually sweet, in a good way.

This is a spectacular dish. Not terribly pretty, but comforting, hearty, and flavorful. I will be making this again!

65 thoughts on “Chicken with Samfaina

  1. Great looking comfy dish. The samfaina looks very close to my ratatouille recipe. The samfaina uses more onions and no herbs, so perhaps that’s what make for a different taste. Mimi, I’m intrigued and must give this a cook. I loved the images of Spain, we hope to make it down to Spain next year.

    • If you do, stay in a Parador. It’s such a fun experience. The funny thing is that my husband dislikes eggplant, but he ate this and loved it.

  2. There are so many different languages/dialects in Spain! Kind of fun to experience. And this dish would be fun to make — neat flavors. Thanks!

    • It wasn’t fun for us. It was exasperating! Especially when we’re both good at a second language! But of course the trip was wonderful.

  3. Spain is on our bucket list! Gorgeous shots! So many dialects but the one thing that transcends them all is food. Love this rustic dish with all of our favorite flavors. Our family is not too keen on eggplant either maybe this is one way to sneak it in and they might not even know.

  4. What a fantastic journey! I’d think the view alone would be mesmerizing and all I’ve seen is your photos! I’ve made a somewhat similar dish but with a couple handfuls of green and black olives tossed in and without red pepper. This is an intriguing change-up on that I’ll have to try. (You may be right on those tomatoes, they are gorgeous.)

    • It was fun, except for the lack of understanding. We pride ourselves on being able to ATTEMPT to speak the language. Obviously it doesn’t always work! The olives addition sounds wonderful.

  5. I’m one of those persons who more honestly prefers comfort foods to other cuisines, so this looks “pretty enough” to me! I only wish I’d read this earlier in my day so that I could have prepared it tonight! Soon! And your memories of such a wonderful trip sound glorious!

    • The local cuisine is fabulous, as well as Basque food. The recipe is even better than I thought it would be!

  6. That looks delicious! My husband and I toured around Spain, Portugal, and Morocco on our honeymoon. I fell so hard for the flamenco shows. I want to go back. In the meantime, that chicken looks like a great cold weather dinner. :D

    • Oh what fun! I haven’t been to Portugal or Morocco, but they’re on my list! This chicken dish is really really good. Better than I expected!

  7. Oh my goodness! What a fantastic experience! I absolutely adore Spain. My friend and I hiked the Camino De Santiago together a couple years back – took us 6 weeks. I love the culture, I love the vistas, I love the food. And this recipe of yours looks so scrumptious and flavorful. Thanks for stirring in me again my love for that Country. And thanks for posting this “spectacular” dish!

  8. Your post makes me definitely want to return to France and Spain. My French is pretty good but, as you say, I might have difficulty with the Catalan language.Yes, the Samfaina does look like ratatouille- I wonder what the difference is?

    • No idea! I don’t think I’ve ever made ratatouille – probably because my husband won’t eat eggplant. But he ate this!!

  9. I’d not heard of Samfaina before Mimi…. it looks delicious and cooking it down further than ratatouille would intensify the flavour. I love the food from that region and Spain is on my list of must do’s.

    • You’ll love it. I’ve never made ratatouille, and I’m not sure why I chose to make this dish, but my eggplant-hating husband loved it!

  10. Sounds and looks lovely (exactly! everyone says that Catalan is a mixture of French and Spanish! Actually it’s very easy to read for French speakers: I remember reading some articles, but probably more difficult to understand when spoken…)

    • Well even some of the letters are in different combinations for French. Like the Catalon name of this dish!

  11. All all the flavors and vegetables in this dish are amazing! It looks so delicious! A parador sounds like an awesome place to stay. My favorite thing to do when traveling is to check out the old, historical places. And eat :)

    • Absolutely. And eat!!! And eat what’s local. That’s how I’ve made some of the best discoveries. Like raclette in Chamonix. I’d never heard of it because my mother is from NE France.

  12. Beautiful journey and beautiful people in Catalonia; I agree to what you say that every now and then different nations and peoples make the same dishes giving their names to basically the same ingredients prepared the same way but it just proves how we are all connected and enjoy the same things :-) Thank you, dear Mimi, for this healthy and attractive idea !

  13. Loved learning about paradors! What a fun way to travel Spain!

    The samfaina – as you said and like it was for others – is very similar to my ratatouille recipe. But who cares? What a great combination!

    • I seriously hope you get to try it. I also stuck the roast chicken and samfaina under the broiler just for a bit.

    • I always treated it as a side dish. But although not pretty, mixed with the roasted chicken it was just fabulous!

  14. Interesting! I’ve never heard of paradors, but now I’m on a mission to stay in one. I’ve always wanted to stay in a castle…and they certainly have plenty of ’em over there in Europe. Bucket list item! And as far as the food, wow that looks and sounds delicious, Mimi! Samfaina is another term I wasn’t familiar with, but now I want to make it. Looks like some serious comfort food right there!

    • Exactly. Comforting – not that pretty, but I truly couldn’t believe how good the combination was of the “ratatouille” and roasted chicken.

  15. I have never heard of Samfaina but it sound and looks delicious. You really cannot beat beautifully stewed veggies that are reduced almost to a mush when all their flavours become super intense and delicious (am making myself hungry now lol). Perfect accompaniment to roast chicken and proper comfort food!

  16. This sounds absolutely wonderful! Oh, and there’s the dreaded food mill, lol! Of course we’re to the point where we can’t get good tomatoes any longer so I’d have to use canned but I am still seeing eggplant at the store. I would love to serve this dish at a small dinner party, I think it’s gorgeous!

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