This chicken stew is a dish that I’ve been making for years without following a recipe, just the way I grew up cooking it. Just add a little bit of this, a pinch of that, and taste to check if it needs something else. It is so versatile and at the same time so forgiving, because you can add other vegetables, and even though you don’t have all the seasonings, the stew will come out wonderful. I call it Veracruz Style because the basic ingredients are similar to those of the Red Snapper Veracruz Style Stew, but using chicken instead of fish. But many know this dish as “Chicken Stew” (estofado de pollo) or “chicken in tomato sauce”, and it is also similar to other recipes from Europe like chicken fricassee and chicken marengo. Veracruz is a state whose gastronomy is influenced by Spain, the many other European and African foreigners that arrived in Colonial times, and the Gulf of Mexico. This complex mix rendered one of the richest cuisines in the country, where the local cooks combine all that historical background into their dishes, creating mouth-watering meals like this chicken stew.
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- Salt and pepper to taste
- 6 bone in, skin-on chicken thighs or breasts (about 2 pounds)
- 1/2 medium white onion, finely chopped
- 4 garlic cloves, finely chopped
- 2 carrots, diced (about 1 1/4 cup when diced)
- 1 large potato, diced (about 1 1/4 cup when diced)
- 1 lb. tomato, chopped (about 3 cups when chopped)*
- 1 cup water
- 1 bay leave
- 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme or small branch if fresh
- 1/2 teaspoon marjoram (optional)
- 1/3 cup pimiento stuffed olives, sliced
- 1/4 cup raisins
- 2 teaspoons capers
In the winter time I make this stew using canned tomatoes instead of fresh. Or, if I’m using fresh tomatoes and they don’t have much juice, I simply add a few teaspoons of tomato paste to the sauce.
I know there are many ingredients in this stew, but all of them add up to the richness of its flavor. Some people eliminate the carrots and potatoes, while others add the vegetables available by region or season of the year. Sometimes I even add a little bit of wine and sweet peas too. It is simply a matter of taste.
1. Heat the oil in a large frying pan over medium high heat. Season chicken with salt and pepper.
2. Add the chicken to frying pan to sear for about 7-8 minutes per side. Once chicken is browned remove from pan and keep warm.
3. Add onion and cook for about 2 minutes. Stir in the garlic and carrots and cook for 5 minutes before adding the potatoes.
5. Place chopped tomatoes and cup of water into a blender and process until smooth. Pour tomato mixture to the frying pan using a colander or sieve.
6. Add the chicken; bring to a boil and then lower the heat to simmer. Add bay leave, thyme, marjoram, olives, raisins and capers. Season with salt and pepper and cover. Simmer until chicken and vegetables are cooked (about 10-12 minutes). The cooking time will vary depending of the size and type of chicken pieces.