Popular in the Caribbean islands, especially Puerto Rico and Cuba, Pollo en Fricase is really just a fancy name for chicken casserole. But not just any casserole, mind you - succulent chicken pairs with an exotic blend of herbs, garlic (gaaaaaaaaaaaaarlic!) and a few choice veggies in this Caribbean classic.
My mom used to be ((well actually still is) a big fan of chicken casseroles - after all, what is easier than popping a few chicken pieces in the oven for supper? - and I remember one of her stock standards was made by layering chicken pieces, bacon and peas on a bed of rice and baking the whole thing in the oven with a bit of chicken stock. One of those low fuss winners that kept my dad and us kids coming back for more each time. Ooooh those bacon bits...
This reminds me of mom's stock standard, but with a few extra additions ("But if you phone now, there's more!") - chopped tomatoes, plump raisins and lemony green olives, not to mention the bright colours of bellpepper and peas. Many Puerto Rican dishes shares this same base of garlic, onions, bellpeppers and tomatoes and it's easy to see why - it's a killer combo!
Now that I'm becoming older my mom's habits are starting to make a lot of sense to me and I'm also growing more and more fond of dishes where you can just bang everything in the oven, put your feet up with a glass of wine or perhaps a tot of ice-cold limoncello, chat with TheHusband and just generally wind down after a long day at work. Oh and the best part of course - return to the kitchen an hour or so later, remove the insanely delectable looking chicken from the oven and present it to your adoring public (erm, yes that'd be you TheHusband and kitties) with great fanfare. Clever? You betcha.
Pollo en Fricasé
Adapted from Whats4EatsServes 4 - 6
The recipe traditionally calls for long slow simmering on the stovetop, but I find it easiest to just brown the chicken on the stovetop then stick everything in the oven for an hour until succulent. Some recipes also include potatoes, which I think would be a splendid addition and of course then you don't need to make a starch to go with it. In the absence of potatoes I like to serve it with samp for an uniquely South African twist.
1 tbsp olive oil1kg (2.2 lbs) chicken pieces, skin on (thigh, leg etc)salt and pepper to taste1 small onion, chopped
1 tsp turmeric (optional)1 tbsp minced garlic1 yellow bell pepper, cut into strips2 tins (400g/16 oz each) chopped tomatoes1 tbsp red wine vinegar1 tsp sugar1/4 cup raisins100g green olives
handful fresh oregano, chopped
handful fresh coriander (cilantro), chopped3 - 4 bay leaves1 cup peas (frozen is okay)
1. Heat oil in a large frying pan and brown chicken pieces in batches. Season with salt and pepper, then transfer to a casserole dish.
2. Quite a bit of the fat from the chicken will have cooked down - leave this in the pan and saute the onion, turmeric, garlic and bellpepper in it, until the onion is translucent.
3. Add tomatoes, vinegar and sugar and cook over medium-heat for 10 minutes.
4. Stir raisins, olives, oregano and coriander through the tomato mixture, then pour evenly over the chicken pieces in the casserole dish. Insert bay leaves amongst the chicken pieces, then bake at 180C (350F) for 50 minutes.
5. Scatter peas over the top, then return to the oven for another 10 - 15 minutes.
You can also add some chopped up ham to this dish or even a spicy chorizo. Substitute the yellow bellpepper for a red or even green one if you like, but the olives must be green!