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Chicken, the most popular meat

Wiki Spanish Food editorial team

Chicken, which have an everlasting relationship with man and are extraordinarily versatile in cooking, tend to travel in flocks and are perhaps the most abundant bird on the planet, though they have lost their ability to fly as a result of selective breeding by humans.

This domesticated fowl is of the gallus genus; the common name for the male fowl is rooster (gallo in Spanish), and for the female, hen (gallina). It is one of the most common animals to be consumed by humans since time immemorial.

The first chickens are believed to have come from Southeast Asia, and it's still possible to find wild ones in India and the Himalayas. They were domesticated in China approximately 4,500 years ago, and reached Europe during large-scale Indo-European migration.

There's evidence that the Egyptians were the first people to engage in poultry farming. It was consumed regularly in Rome and Greece and was the first European animal to reach America with Christopher Columbus on his second expedition. In Christianity, the rooster symbolizes the resurrection of Christ, and in religious art, their sculptures and images adorn old church bell towers.

From a culinary standpoint, the word "chicken" always refers to the young hen and rooster, which is much less inclusive than the etymological definition, which refers to the offspring of all fowl. They are usually sacrificed when they are between 8 and 16 weeks old, depending on their feeding, and they have tender white or slightly yellow skin (the latter due to a diet of corn).

Chicken is one of the most popular meats in Spain, in particular due to its low price and extensive breeding on farms, although the latter aren't as prized as those raised in the countryside: the pitu de caleya, or free-range chicken.

However, for a long time, chicken were considered a delicacy and reserved especially for festivities, until Henry IV of France had the brilliant idea of using them in stews, which played a notable role in their popularization. After World War II, chicken became a common meal in all of Europe, especially due to its versatility in recipes.

As a result of this boom, today it's a part of cuisines from all over the world, from paella to chop suey through to jambalaya, curry chicken, chicken pie and chilindrón chicken.  Despite a period of uncertainty and controversy, nutritionists have reached the conclusion that it is a product with very notable qualities.

A quality chicken has firm meat, taut skin and strong muscles. Only those that weigh about 2 kilos have the right flavor, especially for roasting. There's a chicken recipe for every gastronomic idea and occasion.

Chicken: the specialty

Broadly speaking, chicken is not a dish people order when eating out, with the result that its inclusion in restaurant menus is usually limited. Nevertheless, there are places in Madrid where chicken is the specialty. Such is the case at the popular and famous CASA MINGO, located beside the Royal Chapel of St. Anthony of La Florida, where people flock for roast chicken with salad, Galician almond cake, and cider.

Another excellent option is CASA CIRIACO, whose the most well-known age-old dish is chicken pepitoria (the juices are mixed with hard boiled egg yolk and crushed almonds), as described in texts by Julio Camba.

EL POLLO DE ALCALA, in Alcalá de Henares, is known for its freshly roasted chicken and green pepper salad, while MAMMA LUNA, in the Canillas neighborhood, offers chicken either fried or in a spicy garlic sauce (among other options).

LUPITA 111, in Madrid's city center, serves a very tasty Peruvian-style grilled version. Chicken is also among the must successful and diverse dishes available at Chinese and Tex-Mex restaurants.

In Catalonia, top-notch chicken and capon from Prat, the famous pota blava (the blue-legged chicken), can be eaten in many restaurants, including CAL RAMÓN, in Prat de Llobregat. In Asturias, free-range chicken is among the favorite ingredients of chef Nacho Manzano of CASA MARCIAL, in Arriondas.

ADDRESSES

CASA MINGO. Paseo de la Florida, 34. Tel.: 915 477 918

CASA CIRIACO. Mayor, 84. Tel.: 915 480 620

EL POLLO DE ALCALA. Vía Complutense, 32. Tel.:918 813 070 Alcalá de Henares

MAMMA LUNA. Mar de Aral, 16. Tel.: 913 820 347

LUPITA 111. Los Jardines 21. Tel.: 915 213 897

CAL RAMÓN. Pablo Neruda, 56. El Prat de Llobregat. Barcelona. Tel. 93 370 99 12

CASA MARCIAL. La Salgar. Arriondas. Parres. Asturias. Tel.: 985 840 991

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11/12/2014