Thursday, March 25, 2010

Mi Fricase de Pollo (My Version of Chicken Fricassee)

There are tons of versions of Cuban "Chicken Fricassee" in Cuban cooking a chicken "fricassee" is basically a tomato based chicken stew that includes wine and sometimes a combination of olives, capers and raisins which gives a "sweet and sour" taste created from the sweetness of raisins and acidity of capers and olives. Or some people just use olives which is slightly sour or pungent. Often times it includes potatoes :)

Personally I've tried so many versions of Chicken Fricassee... (including my grandmother's which I have on my blog)...

BUT I genuinely prefer this version which is very smokey and earthy, the smokiness and earthiness comes from smokey cumin, and black peppercorns in combination with the browning the meat in thundering high heat with no oil or very little oil which creates a smokey caramelized browned layer in the pan (in french they call this a "fond" which my grandma uses for some of her best stews especially her Carne Con Papa, Rabo Encendido and Fricase de Pavo), simmered in a rich wine and tomato based sauce with potatoes and carrots. I love the carrots in this because it lends a hint of sweetness and marries well with potatoes. You may add some whole or sliced pimiento stuffed olives to it towards the end if you'd like :)

I use the same method my grandmother uses for her stews I mentioned above just applied it to chicken and I just love it done this way :)

Serve this with some fluffy white rice preferably steamed with a bit of salt and some generous drizzles of olive oil and you have a very comforting meal.

-1 whole chicken 3-4 lbs cut into 8 segments or more (cleaned and washed, you could also use drum sticks and thighs)
-1 large green bell pepper minced
-1 large onion minced
-1/2- 1 head garlic peeled mashed to a paste
-1 can 8 oz. tomato sauce
-1 1/2-2 cups red wine
-3 cups water (depends how thick or thin you want your sauce)
-1 teaspoon ground cumin
-1 teaspoon whole black peppercorns
-2-3 bay leaves
-salt to taste (at least 1 1/2 teaspoon )
-4 potatoes peeled and halved
-8 carrots cut into large chunks peeled or 1 large jumbo carrot (about 1 pound)
-1/2 a bunch of washed clean minced cilantro or parsley (about 1 cup after minced)
-about 2-3 tablespoons oil that can stand high smoking point to brown meat (like canola or other vegetable oil although traditionally lard would be used I assume I just used canola but next time I'll use lard ;) olive oil would smoke and get it's flavor destroyed, eh I'm not sure my grandmother just does it like this, or does it without oil if the meat has fat
-extra-virgin olive oil about 1/2 cup?

(1)Wash and clean the chicken meat. Pat dry. Season with salt. Heat on very high heat the pan until it's really hot, add oil (not the olive oil just an oil that can stand high heat like canola, or other vegetable oil or lard) it will quickly heat to almost a smoking point, add meat and brown on all sides (about 4 minutes on each side or longer but be careful don't turn the bottom of the pan completely black just let it brown and a little black is not bad you will need the drippings to form the sauce and deglaze if it's all black then you ruined your sauce)
(2) Set chicken aside in a separate plate, now lower heat to medium and add extra-virgin oil, add minced onion and bell pepper, stir well scraping the bottom, let it cook down at least 5-7 minutes. Make some space pour more olive oil and sautee garlic with onion and bell pepper about 3-4 minutes. Now add ground cumin, black peppercorns and bay leaves and sautee another minute.
(3) Add red wine and crank up heat so it bubbles and deglaze the pan when the wine reduces somewhat add tomato sauce and cook down the tomato sauce for about 5-6 minutes on medium high stiring occasionally.
(4) Add water now and bring to a rolling boil, add chicken meat, carrots and potatoes along with any oil and drippings it released, spoon sauce over it and coat well. Cover and well and cook for about 30-45 minutes or until chicken, potatoes and carrot are tender
(5) When done turn off heat and add minced cilantro or parsley for color. Serve with lots of white rice to soak up the sauce this dish
Some story:
So if you noticed that's some gigantic carrot I have there in the picture, they are called "Jumbo Carrots" it's a very large variety (each one weighs in at around 1 lbs.) I've seen these at Asian stores and I went to "Seafood City" (a Supermarket chain of Filipino stores) they were 4 lbs. for 1 dollar and I was like, "These be wonderful in a stew with potatoes and meat" and heck even for a nice cream soup or something, and I just loved using them they looked so hearty in the stew and pretty :) here's some pictures so you get an idea how large it was:

I was going to add it to the stew cut this way but decided to halve those rounds of large carrot