Recipe contributed to Hispanic Kitchen by Veronica Shine.
Sometimes the simplest meals are the tastiest, as the people from Extremadura claim. This autonomous region in Spain remains an “undiscovered” community. Even many Spaniards who are savvy and proud of their country and heritage are unfamiliar with the area other than what is stated in history books. It’s one of the country’s most sparsely populated regions, and there was no major road or rail system to reach much of the area until fairly recently.
Situated in the central-western portion of Spain, along the Portuguese border, the inhabitants are of Celtic and not Iberian origin and resided here long before the Roman Empire came calling.
Extremadura is sometimes called the “Kingdom of the Conquistadores.” Cortés and Pizarro are just two of many who have hailed from Extremadura. Many towns and cities in the New World carry a name from the discoverers’ homeland.
Who hasn’t heard of Mérida in Mexico or Venezuela? Alternatively, the second largest city in Colombia, Medellin, is contained as a smaller version in Extremadura. Even Albuquerque, New Mexico, holds a legacy in this remote region. Evidence of Extremadura’s turbulent past oozes from the walls of countless medieval castles and monuments, as it was frequently a battlefield in Spain’s wars with Portugal.
The flavors and varieties of Spain’s cuisine offer overwhelming choices. However, in the pueblo kitchens of Extremadura, fare tends to be simple and unpretentious, and that’s not a bad thing at all. The land in this area is fertile, and most food is homegrown. The changing cornucopia of fruits and vegetables sets the menu of the day and is used to enhance the staples such as chicken, lamb, and ham. The freshness of the produce is what makes it very special. In Extremadura, the vegetable of choice to add an extra zest of flavor year-round is the leek, a relative of the onion.
Pollo con puerros y champiñones is so simple and quick to put together that you’ll want to make it for tonight’s dinner.