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 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 home. 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, chocolate milk. 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. The cup of sofrito called for in the recipe is necessary for a spectacular result so make sure you don’t leave it out. It can be bought in the international section of your grocery store but better would be home-made. 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 $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
How many times have we all exclaimed, “If I have to have chicken for dinner one more time I’m going to scream!”? I loathe that chicken rut. Just hate it. I’m done with that old, beat soy sauce-worcestershire sauce-garlic-ginger-honey marinade. It’s so … 2005. Never you mind because I have the answer… for one night, anyway. Turkey sausage, kale and sweet potato stew is quick to prepare, clean and feeds a crowd. If you don’t have a crowd you’ll have plenty left over to pack for next day’s lunches. I’m all about that. Somewhere between a stew and a soup, this meal is high in fiber and low in fat. It can be served with a side salad but is hearty enough that it can be served alone. And as the weather’s turned from cool to positively sweltering it turns out this dish is even tastier when it is eaten just warm. How’s that for lagniappe? If you have time, the vegetables can be chopped and refrigerated the night before preparing the stew. I alternate between organic turkey and chicken sausage, typically buying whatever’s on sale. If your family’s not finicky you can skip chopping the baby kale and toss the whole leaves straight into the soup. Or you can substitute baby spinach for the kale. I spend a little extra on canned organic cannellini beans rather than conventional canned beans. They’re not much more in cost and organic will yield a cleaner, tastier meal. In fact, I use organic products for this entire recipe. But it’s up to you. I say, just get the best you can. Also, feel free to add more or less of any of the ingredients based on your likes and dislikes. It’s an incredibly adaptable and forgiving recipe. Start to finish you’re looking at about an hour and a quarter. With 45 minutes to cook, there’s plenty of time to enjoy a quick shower and a glass of wine!
Turkey, Kale and Sweet Potato Soup
- 3 tablespoons olive oil
- 2 pounds Italian turkey or chicken sausage, out of casings
- 1 large, sweet onion, finely chopped
- 6 cloves garlic, minced
- 4 carrots, peeled and finely chopped
- 1 large sweet potato, peeled and cut into 1/2 inch pieces
- 1 28-ounce can San Marzano tomatoes
- 1 32-ounce box low sodium chicken broth
- salt and pepper to taste
- 4 cups rough chopped baby kale, that’s a 5-ounce box
- 2 cans cannellini beans, drained and well rinsed
- Over medium heat, add olive oil to a large, heavy bottomed pot.
- Add turkey sausage and brown, breaking up the sausage with the back of your spoon or with an old fashioned potato masher.
- When sausage has browned add the onion and cook until clear, about 3-4 minutes, stirring frequently.
- Add the garlic, carrots and sweet potato and cook until the garlic has softened, about 2-3 minutes. Continue stirring to avoid scorched vegetables.
- Using your hands, squeeze the tomatoes over the pot to break them up and stir into the vegetables. Pour any juices from the can into the pot.
- Add the chicken broth to the pot, stir and taste for any needed salt and pepper.
- Raise heat to a soft simmer and add baby kale and cannellini beans.
- Stir, cover pot and simmer 30-45 minutes or until all vegetables are tender.
- If you have time, uncover and remove from heat for 10-15 minutes. The stew will thicken a bit as it cools.
In Greece there is a dish called Manestra which is somewhere between a stew and a soup. It started as a vegetarian dish when meat was scarce or too expensive. Here in the States, it’s been tweaked a bit as meat has been added to season the pot. Usually it is leftover roasted meat which has been added. Roasted lamb, beef or pork typically are used but I’ve even bought ground sirloin or ground lamb. And the vegetables, which make up the bulk of the meal, are varied. I use any combination of chopped carrots, mushrooms, zucchini or spinach. Just about anything in your refrigerator can be used. I try to have at least a 60/40 ratio of vegetables to meat. And, since pasta is added, it feeds legions. It’s so good the next day and a great winter dish. Feta is generally used to finish off the dish but when I’m caught without, parmesan works really well.
- 4-5 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 large onion, chopped
- 1- 1 1/2 pounds mushrooms, button, baby bella or any assortment cleaned and sliced
- 5 or 6 large garlic cloves, finely chopped
- 2-3 tablespoons fresh rosemary, finely chopped
- 1 large bunch flat leaf parsley, chopped
- 1 pound organic carrots, peeled and chopped into “nickels”
- 3-4 medium zucchini, washed and grated, using big holes in box grater
- any other vegetable you’d like to add
- 2-28 ounce cans whole tomatoes, juices included
- 1-6 ounce can tomato paste
- 3-4 cups roasted lamb or meat of choice, chopped
- 8 ounces orzo pasta, that’s about half a bag or box
- salt and pepper to taste
- crumbled feta, to taste
- In a dutch oven or large pot, heat olive oil over medium heat and add onion. Cook until clear, about 4-5 minutes, stirring often.
- Add mushrooms, again stirring often.
- When mushrooms begin to release their juices add garlic, rosemary and parsley.
- Cook 3-4 minutes and add zucchini and any other vegetable you wish to use, still stirring.
- Add whole tomatoes and juices, breaking up tomatoes with the back of your spoon.
- Add tomato paste, mixing well to incorporate.
- Add meat and stir.
- Taste mixture and season with salt and pepper as needed.
- Cover and drop temperature to simmer.
- Cook pasta according to directions and please, PLEASE salt your water well!!
- When pasta is tender drain and mix with meat mixture.
- Serve in individual bowls with crumbled feta scattered on top.