Pollo Guisado: Dominican Stewed Chicken (gf)

I’ve clearly been on a Dominican cuisine kick lately. I think the cold weather is making me crave comfort food, and Dominican food is a great source of comfort to me. Physically being in the DR would also be a source of comfort, preferably on a beach with assorted rum cocktails in hand, but this dish isn’t a bad substitute (and it’s, you know, cheaper).

pollo guisado dinner

Pollo guisado is a savory stewed chicken dish that’s served over rice. As I mentioned in my first post on the cuisine of the Dominican Republic, it’s not spicy. Dominican food instead relies on aromatics like garlic, onions, mild peppers like bell peppers, cilantro, vinegar, spices like oregano, and seasonings like lime and lemon for its healthy bursts of flavor. So don’t be scurred to try it; it’s quite palatable and approachable. Also, considering the colonial history of the Dominican Republic, its food has European, African, and Taíno Indian influences, so it’s basically a trip around the world on a plate and a party in your mouth. Plantains are a staple crop, as are rice and beans. And explaining this is making me hungry, so let’s get to it. I really think you’ll love this hearty, mouth-watering dish.

POLLO GUISADO

Ingredients:

  • 6 servings white or brown rice, prepared according to package directions
  • 4-6 lbs chicken pieces, skin removed. I recommend legs and thighs for this dish.
  • 1 lime
  • 1 tbsp kosher salt
  •  1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 1 bell pepper, red or green, chopped
  • 1/2 cup cilantro, mincedrecaito
  • 1 6-oz container Goya Recaito cilantro cooking base, available at large grocery stores and international grocery stores
  • 1 tbsp oregano
  • 1 tbsp garlic powder
  • 1-2 tsp cracked black pepper
  • 1 small can tomato sauce
  • 4 cups chicken broth
  • 1/4-1/2 cup white vinegar
  • 1/2 cup green olives, drained and chopped
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 2 potatoes, peeled and cubed
  • 3 carrots, peeled and sliced

Directions:

Grab a large bowl. Cut the lime in half and rub the skinned chicken with the lime, then sprinkle with the tablespoon salt. Juice the lime and pour the juice over the chicken pieces; toss to coat and let marinate for 30 minutes. You can toss this a few times while it marinates, if you’re OCD and are deeply satisfied by evenly coated chicken, like you’re ol’ pal Lauren is. “Washing” poultry with citrus juice is a Caribbean culinary mainstay; I imagine the origins have something to do with the anti microbial properties of the juice keeping the poultry fresh, but here we’re just doing it to be tasty.

marinating

marinating

In the meantime, slice and dice your veggies (onion, pepper, cilantro, potatoes, carrots) and cook your rice. When the chicken’s ready to go, rinse the pieces with cold water and pat dry. Put on a large dish- you’ll use it again in a minute. In a large dutch oven, heat the tablespoon of oil over medium heat. Lightly brown the chicken pieces on both sides in batches, 4-5 at a time, being careful not to overcrowd the pan. Remove the chicken to the plate you so wisely left nearby.

pollo guisado

When the chicken has been browned, add the onion, green pepper, and cilantro to the pot and saute for a few minutes- you may need to add oil or lower the heat- just make sure there’s no sticking. Add the garlic powder, oregano, pepper, and recaito; cook 2-3 minutes more, stirring. Add the olives and tomato sauce, and cook for 2 more minutes.

bubbling away

bubbling away

Stir in the chicken broth and vinegar, and add the chicken back to the pot along with the potatoes and carrots. Bring to a boil, then cover and reduce heat to medium low and let simmer for 40 minutes.  Remove the lid and let simmer, lidless, filling up your home with the enticing  promise of really good food, for another 20 minutes. That’s it! Let cool 5-10 minutes on a cool burner, and serve over rice (I opted for brown, and it was delicious). Pass hot sauce around for those who like a kick. Buen provecho!

smell-o-vision

smell-o-vision

Stuff’s so good, it’ll make you want to dance:


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Phototastic Travel Post: Mangú (Dominican Mashed Plantains) (v, gf)

In October of last year, Dave and I traveled to Santo Domingo for a few days to see my amazing cousin Michelle marry the love of her life, Arturo. Stick with me here- I’ll get to food, I promise. The wedding was beautiful and we were treated like royalty by my beloved aunt, who I call Tata. Staying with Tata is unlike staying in a hotel- not only are the food and surroundings better, everything she touches is filled with unconditional love, in the way only Tata can do.

Tata's impeccable mangú

Tata’s impeccable mangú breakfast

Dominican hospitality is like nothing I’ve experienced anywhere else- friends and family members greet their company with freshly squeezed tropical fruit juices, presented on silver coasters and handmade lace doilies. There is no pointing to the cabinet of glasses, no “help yourself,” the way there is in the Cruse household (sorry, Tata). The details Dominican hostesses remember about their guests are uncanny and never forgotten- my husband, who loves desserts, was bombarded with cake and ice cream the last time we were down after only being rumored [online and a thousand miles away] to be a dessert fiend. Which is a spot-on assessment. Tata remembered from years ago that I like brown sugar more than white, and lovingly made me strong, Dominican coffee each morning with a beautiful little bowl of brown sugar next to it. Dave likes tea more than coffee, and Tata graciously made it for him each morning, served on a small silver, doily-covered tray next to my coffee. If I am someday as effortlessly gracious a hostess as Tata is, I’ll be forever happy:

coffee

One of my favorite Dominican breakfast dishes, mangú, is part of the classic, hearty, Dominican farmer’s breakfast that also includes fried cheese or salami, avocado,  and sunny-side up eggs. It’s heavy, but man… it’s GOOD.

After watching Tata make mangú a few times and finding an international grocery store in Saint Louis that sells green plantains, I started making it at home. Plantains are a nutrient-dense, starchy food that look like bananas but aren’t sweet (though they can be, if ripe, and when prepared other ways). They’re comparable to a very tasty potato, so don’t be misled by their banana-like shape. When not paired with salami or cheese, this is a very healthy breakfast dish.

MANGU

Ingredients:

  •  2-3 green plantains, unripe, peeled and cut into chunks
  • salt
  • olive oil
  • 1 clove garlic, halved
  • 1 tbsp white vinegar
  • a few rings of red onion, sliced
  • boiling, salted water, 1 cup reserved
  • avocado, sliced (optional)

Directions:

The easiest way to peel and chop the plantains, I find, is to cut slits down the sides of the peel lengthwise, and remove the peel from the ends. You may want to wet your hands while peeling if you don’t like starchy digits. Cut the plantains into chunks and toss them, along with the garlic clove, into the boiling, salted water. Boil until very tender, about 20 minutes.

Meanwhile, heat the vinegar in a small saucepan and add the red onion, cooking until fragrant and tender. These are a traditional mangú topping, but are optional. But, come on, you’ve already purchased unripe plantains from your local international grocery store, you may as well go whole-hog…

cooking, cooking away

cooking, cooking away

When they’re very tender, remove  the plantains and garlic to a large mixing bowl and add 1/4 cup of the cooking liquid, 2 tbsp olive oil, and the teaspoon of kosher salt. Mash!! You can do this with a potato masher or a fork- I prefer a fork. If you’d like, you could also toss the mixture into your food processor in lieu of mashing. Now, here’s where your chef’s intuition comes in- depending on the size of the plantains you used and the consistency you like, add more cooking liquid by the 1/4 cup and olive oil by the tablespoon. I add a few more tablespoons of water and 1-2 more of olive oil. Taste as you go. You’ll notice that Tata’s mangu was thicker than mine- it’s all about preference.

And your taste-testing abilities will now be rewarded…. YOU MAY EAT!! Put the mangú in a serving bowl, top with onions (strained from vinegar) and serve! I really enjoy this dish with sliced avocado and a fried egg on top. Makes a great and complete breakfast or lunch. Just don’t take it personally when you get the side-eyes from your coworkers as they eat their canned soup.

this earned me a few confused lunchtime stares

this earned me more than a few confused lunchtime stares

If you’re reading this on a wintry, January day, which is the kind of day I’m writing on, enjoy these photos of Tata’s kitchen and amazing tropical produce and some shots of the city… ah, the comforts of home-away-from home:

view of  Zona Colonial as you leave the city

view of Zona Colonial as you leave the city

DADS HOUSE

the row home where my Dad grew up

cocina dominicana 1 cocina dominicana 2


Camarofongo and Dominican Food

ca-ma-ro-fon-go

Last November, Dave and I made our first joint trip to Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic, my Dad’s hometown. We had an unforgettable time with my family, and every meal was special. I’m thrilled to have a family who is as equally food and cooking obsessed as I am, and chock-full of skilled home chefs.

A standout on this trip was lunch on an overcast day, watching the clouds roll in over the ocean. My cousin Michelle took us to Adrian Tropical, a famed mofongo spot on Avenida George Washington in S.D. for, you guessed it, mofongo (and fresh-squeezed tropical fruit juices).

Mofongo is a traditional Dominican dish of stuffed, mashed plaintains. The plaintains are fried and mashed with garlic, herbs and spices, and pork rinds, and served heaped onto a traditional wooden mortar. The dish is an incredibly flavorful indulgence, in an umami way; its sum is much greater than its parts.

On this visit, I tried a garlicky, brothy new spin on mofongo: camarofongo- mofongo with shrimp! Even though that meal is approaching, you know, 4 months in the past, I crave it daily- ha!! I thought the next best thing to having it flown in or drooling over the picture on my phone any more would be writing about mofongo, and my beloved camarofongo.

Note on La Comida Dominicana: contrary to popular belief, Dominican food is not spicy, nor does it involve tortillas (that’s Mexico, folks). Picture a lot of rice, beans, poultry, seafood, platano (plaintains), and bright, savory flavors, served family-style.* If you’re interested in Dominican food and cooking, Aunt Clara’s Dominican Cooking is a great site to visit. Clara is great at not only creating very easy-to-follow recipes, but explaining the significance of each dish and adding cooking tips. She mentions this very camarofongo dish on her website, too- the girl has great taste!!

Buen provecho!!!! 

*my mouth is watering right now……