This is island comfort food. Served with red beans and rice, Sweet sliced avocado and juicy rounds of tomato, this stew will feed crowds and satisfy all. Pollo en fricase was served to my older sister and me at least once a week during summers spent in Puerto Rico. We couldn’t get enough of it. Having a mother who didn’t know how to cook and didn’t care to learn pretty much guaranteed bland at best, off-putting and unpalatable at worst, dinners at home in Fort Lauderdale. For my older sister, Cynthia, and me, Puerto Rico was a richness of flavors, a panoply of scents rolling out of the kitchen of our grandparents’ home, heady and overwhelming in their mystery and perfume. All sorts of rules were broken. As little girls we were served strong Puerto Rican coffee with steamed milk sweetened with all the sugar a child could want every morning with breakfast. I knew of no child in Fort Lauderdale given coffee with breakfast. In Puerto Rico it was unheard of to have a sandwich for lunch, something almost expected at in the States. Our midday meal was invariably the largest meal of the day with dinner being a much smaller serving of what had been prepared for lunch or we could choose to have soda crackers with butter and Quick, a chocolate milk drink. Chocolate milk for dinner? Another rule broken. At our home in Fort Lauderdale chocolate milk was not allowed…ever. It was understood between my parents and Cynthia and me that our summer indulgences were allowed unrestricted. We weren’t aware at the time but it turns out whatever happened in Puerto Rico stayed in Puerto Rico. Buen provecho!
This stew could be served alone it is that hearty. With the addition of potatoes and/or pumpkin it is a complete meal. Both white meat and dark meat work well in this dish, however, if white meat is used make certain the stew never heats up to more than a simmer. A healthy, boiling pot will guarantee dry, tough meat. I take the skin off of all the pieces of chicken because the skin becomes incredibly unappealing after having been simmered in the sauce. I usually prepare boneless chicken as it can be difficult to maneuver around a slippery bone with a fork and knife, however in Puerto Rico you will only find this dish bone in. The cup of sofrito called for in the recipe is necessary for a spectacular result so make sure you don’t leave it out. A seasoning blend of onion, garlic, bell pepper and culantro, it can be bought in the international section of your grocery store but better would be home-made. Sofrito freezes beautifully so make a big batch, portion it out, throw it in the freezer and you’ll always have if for your Caribbean recipes. That recipe can be found at http://wp.me/s264J2-sofrito and is easy as can be. If your family isn’t wild about olives they may be left out. I try to find green olives with the pits still in as I think they add more flavor to the recipe. Please don’t feel you have to use your best bottle of wine, either. Jimmy went out and spent $7.00 on a bottle of Pinot Grigio, it was perfect and didn’t break the bank.
Puerto Rican Chicken Stew or Pollo en Fricase
- 4 pounds boneless, skinless chicken (breasts and/or thighs) cut into serving size pieces
- 1 lime, juiced
- 2 tablespoons adobo seasoning or the seasoning blend of your choice. Adobo is an all-purpose blend of salt, garlic powder, oregano, black pepper and turmeric.
- 3 tablespoons achiote oil (optional) This may also be found at the grocery store on the international aisle or on the blog at http://wp.me/p264J2-EB.
- 1 cup of sofrito
- 2 1/2 cups of onion, chopped
- 2 large cubanelle peppers, cleaned of seeds and inner white ribbing, chopped
- 1 bunch of cilantro, washed, dried and leaves chopped
- 1 head garlic, minced
- 1 heaping tablespoon dried oregano
- 1 standard 750-ml bottle inexpensive Pinot Grigio or dry white wine
- 3 carrots, peeled and cut into 1/4″ rounds
- 2 pounds calabasa or butternut squash, peeled and cut into 1″ cubes
- 1 15-ounce can tomato sauce
- 3/4 cup small green olives
- 1/3 cup capers, rinsed and drained
- salt and pepper to taste
- In a large bowl combine the chicken, lime juice and adobo and mix well making certain all surfaces of the meat have been competely coated. Cover with plastic wrap and set aside to marinate for an hour if you have the time. An afternoon or overnight is ideal for the best flavor.
- In your largest saucepan heat the achiote oil over medium, add the chicken with the surface that would have had skin facing down, and brown for 5-6 minutes.
- Add the sofrito, onion, cubanelle pepper, garlic, oregano and cilantro and cook until softened stirring all the while.
- Raise the heat to medium high and pour into the pot the bottle of wine. Continue to stir and scrape the cooked bits from the pan as the wine evaporates, 4-5 minutes.
- Add the carrots, pumpkin, if using potatoes add them now, tomato sauce, olives and capers. Stir well to combine all the flavors.
- Taste for any needed salt and pepper and bring to a boil.
- As soon as the stew begins to boil, cover and drop the heat to simmer. Cook for 1-1 1/2 hours or until chicken is tender to the fork.
- Serve hot.
Caribbean Chicken or Pollo en Fricassee
yield: serves 6 with rice