We were guests in the home of Dominican friends. Three weeks passed without incident, until one day Mr. Rivera took ill and went to the hospital with who-knew-what stomach ailment. His wife stayed by his side morning and night, and I was thrust in the role of “Ama de Casa”.
I decided right away that cooking Dominican food would be very hard as I had no experience. My first big lunch would be a traditional New England style roast chicken with herbs, including roasted vegetables and a salad.
Things did not go right from the start. The maid found my preparations insulting, especially as I left the chicken in big pieces. The grandmother constantly checked the progress of said chicken, so I “locked” the oven, something I often do to my old oven in the States so that less heat will escape.
Little did I know that this oven had never been locked and would not unlock, either. We had to physically take the door off the oven. Also during this time, I overloaded the washing machine and it cut off. After my husband and young Dib fixed the oven, they lifted the full washing machine to flick a switch on the bottom. They laughed at me while all this was going on and, flustered, I became confused at the actual timing of the cooked chicken.
The chicken was pink in the middle. The boys not-so-secretly fed it to their dog. The vegetables were hard as rocks. The salad was more like onion and tomato soup. Amidst my tears we ordered pizza.
On a side note: Mr. Rivera had kidney stones and recovered.
Amity is a teacher from Maine. She has visiting the Dominican Republic for decades and loves Dominican food. This was chosen among several submissions from our readers about cooking disasters.
- 2 lbs of chicken gizzard
- 4 cups rice
- 7 cups water (includes the water in which you boiled the gizzards)
- 2 tablespoons oil
- 1 cup of tomato sauce
- ¼ cup green peppers, chopped
- 1 pinch oregano
- 1 teaspoon crushed garlic
- ¼ cup pitted olives of your preference
- 1 cup of auyama (West Indies pumpkin) cut into cubes
- ¼ cup celery, chopped
- 5 sprigs of thyme (optional)
- 1 teaspoon cilantro, finely chopped
- ¼ cup of green peas (optional)
- Clean the gizzards of excess fat.
- Boil with a tablespoon of salt, a pinch of pepper and a pinch of oregano until they are very tender. A pressure cooker will help speed up the process.
- Remove from the water and reserve the water in which they boiled. Pat dry with a paper.
- Heat the oil in an large deep bottomed pot. Add the gizzards, taking care with splattering oil. Brown lightly and add green peppers, oregano, peas, garlic, thyme, black pepper, olives, celery, auyama and cilantro.
- Simmer over low heat until the vegetables start to wilt.
- Add tomato sauce and stir to combine. Add water, increase heat to medium and bring to a boil.
- Season with salt to taste.
- Add the rice and stir often to avoid excessive sticking.
- Once all the water has evaporated, cover with a tight-fitting lid and simmer over very low heat.
- Wait 15 minutes, uncover and stir. Cover and wait another 5 minutes.
- Taste rice for "doneness"; it should be firm but tender inside. If necessary, cover and leave another 5 minutes over very low heat.
Unless you are a talented masticator, set aside enough time for cooking this, gizzards are the toughest muscles in poultry.