Working in the kitchen is like magic. With a few ingredients, the right amount of seasonings and herbs, and some heat (or sometimes not even that), you can make a delicious dish that is much more than the sum of it’s parts. The chicken stew known as estofado de pollo in every Peruvian home, is just another example of this, turning food from simple to rewarding in just a few steps.
This recipe is also versatile enough that it can be made for lunch or dinner, served with rice or pasta, be quickly turned into a vegetarian entree, or even become an enticing sandwich in the blink of an eye. You can change the veggies to get a different dish every time (mushrooms and green beans are good choices); replace the potatoes in the stew with a side serving of mashed potatoes, or if you’re in a luxurious mood, a potato gratin makes another wonderful side dish.
I like to make this chicken stew when the day is chilly. But most of the time I serve myself only the vegetables and white, fluffy rice, covered with the stew sauce. Simply delicious! Sometimes I reserve the chicken for later, and use it to make a sandwich drenched with the tasty sauce, although I have to admit that I prefer to eat this stew as soon as it’s ready, because I don’t like the taste of refrigerated chicken. But that’s just a matter of personal taste.
A lot of people like stews even better after several hours or even the next day, and Peruvians in particular are big fans of what they call calentado. This means “heated”, and is the term used for dishes that were eaten for lunch and then reheated again for dinner.
The secret to a great estofado de pollo, is to cook the meat at a very low heat. This way it will be fork tender, and the flavors will meld together to give it its wonderful and comforting taste. You can replace the chicken with beef, duck or lamb, or as I mentioned before, turn it vegetarian / vegan by using mock meat pieces instead (see picture below).
- 4 chicken legs and thighs
- Salt and pepper
- 4 tablespoons vegetable oil
- 1 cup onion, finely diced
- 2 garlic cloves, finely diced
- 2 tablespoons tomato paste
- ½ cup sweet wine (optional)
- 2 cups chicken stock
- 1 bay leaf
- 4 medium sized yellow potatoes, peeled
- 1 cup carrots, peeled and cut in thin slices
- ½ cup green peas
- ½ cup raisins
- White fluffy rice or pasta
- Parsley sprigs
- Season the chicken with salt and pepper.
- Heat 2 tablespoons oil in a saucepan over medium heat. Sear the chicken pieces until golden, turning once. Transfer to a bowl and reserve.
- Add the remaining oil to the saucepan and when hot, add the onion and garlic. Cook at medium-high heat, stirring every few minutes, until soft, about 7 minutes. Add the tomato paste and stir, cooking for 3 minutes.
- Put the chicken back in the saucepan, add the wine, bring to a boil, and add the chicken stock and the bay leaf. Cover, lower the heat and cook for 30 minutes.
- Add the potatoes, carrots, green peas, and raisins. Continue cooking for 15 – 20 minutes or until the vegetables are soft.
- Serve with rice, or as a pasta sauce, and garnish with parsley sprigs.