What Dominican does not love a good pollo guisado (braised chicken)?
I am the grandchild of farmers, and so is my husband. If you can count on anything it is on farmers being sensible people. They are rarely too picky about their food, after all they know full well that pork does not come cut into slices or vacuum-packed, and that chicken is not made of thighs and breasts. Every part of the animal is of some use; nothing is wasted.
Generations later, when our child has only stepped on a farm on visits, things have changed in our family.
In my own family there are different opinions on food. Years before the term “vegan” entered my vocabulary, soy “meat” was already being consumed in my parental home, courtesy of father — who, ironically, is very carnivorous.
My siblings and I inherited my father’s adventurous approach to food. My brother, the most fearless of the three will tackle any food, even those I thumb my nose at. It’s not like my sister and I stick only to the conventional, we are open to trying new things, within reason.
How many times have I heard, between laughter and confused looks, many a foreigner who fail to comprehend why a lot of Dominicans eat chicken feet, giblets and other parts of the chicken that are discarded or used as animal food in other countries?
The truth is that it is all a matter of culture (and, to a certain extent, the person’s means), just like farmers who decades before refrigeration would slaughter the chicken they raised and could not afford to waste too much, many a Dominican has had to squeeze every penny out of their grocery budget. Every little bit counts.
Here from our perspective, removed from the reality of the farmer of yesteryear, or the poor of today, I am in no position to judge anyone’s culinary choice. Neither should you.
So what’s with the Pollo Guisado recipe?
Chicken is one of the most popular meats in the Dominican Republic and the Caribbean. One reason for this, and this is partially based on first-hand knowledge, is the fact that it is a relatively inexpensive food compared to other meats. Other reasons for its popularity include its versatility and short cooking times. But most of all, chicken has more fans than any other type of meat.
And of all the ways you can cook meat, pollo guisado (braised chicken) one is the indisputable favorite amongst Dominicans.
- 2 lbs [0.9 kg] of chicken cut into small pieces
- 2 limes cut into halves
- A pinch of oregano
- 1 small red onion chopped into fine strips or eighths
- 1/2 cup of chopped celery (optional)
- 1 teaspoon of salt (more may be necessary)
- 1/2 teaspoon of mashed garlic
- 2 tablespoons of oil (corn, canola or peanut)
- 1 teaspoon of regular white sugar
- 2 cups of water
- 4 plum tomatoes cut into quarters
- 2 green bell or cubanela (cubanelle) peppers
- 1/4 cup of seedless olives cut into halves (optional)
- 1 cup of tomato sauce
- A small bunch of fresh cilantro leaves
- 1/4 teaspoon of pepper
Cut the chicken into small pieces. Scrub with the lime, getting lime juice into all the crevices.
In a bowl mix the chicken, oregano, onion, celery, salt and garlic. Marinate for 30 minutes.
In a pot heat the oil over medium heat, add sugar and wait until it browns.
Add the chicken (reserve all the other things in the marinade) and sauté until the meat is light brown.
Add 2 tablespoons of water. Cover and simmer over medium heat for 15 minutes, stirring and adding water by the tablespoon as it becomes necessary.
Add onion, celery, tomatoes, cubanelle pepper, olives, and garlic, cover and and simmer until the vegetables are cooked through, adding water by the tablespoon and stirring as it becomes necessary.
Add the tomato sauce and half a cup of water, simmer over low heat to produce a light sauce. Add fresh cilantro. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
Originally published Feb, 2002