When I was growing up, my family always had dinner together. It was the one time of the day when we were all in the same place at the same time and my father insisted that we had to be there. As my brothers grew up, their social lives had to be put on hold until after dinner, despite their protestations. Sitting around the table with everyone sharing stories and laughing is one of my fondest memories.
Chicken stew is one of my favorite meals. From the simplest chicken and noodles that my grandmother used to make us to a complex two-day coq au vin, there is nothing like the flavor of chicken simmered slowly in broth. It fills the house with enticing aromas making everyone anxious to sit down at the table and share a meal – a practice that is sadly becoming a thing of the past.
Today’s recipe is an interesting combination of seasonings and flavors that I usually associate with Asian/Thai cuisine. But they are in fact found in many tropical countries around the globe. Coconuts have been used for centuries to flavor cooking foods and these days we have the convenience of canned unsweetened coconut milk. It is a wonderful addition to many dishes, both sweet and savory. Plus it is a dairy-free option for those who cannot consume lactose.
South American cuisines are delectable and if you ever have a chance to try a restaurant that specializes in one of them, don’t pass it up. Today we are taking a trip south of the border, way south … all the way to Brazil!
Brazil is a remarkable country. It is slightly smaller than the United States and filled with friendly, happy people. They enjoy a good party and the greatest of them all is the annual celebration called Carnival. Our version is called Mardi Gras and both are held in the days leading up to the beginning of Lent. It is a time for enjoying all the foods and beverages that are forbidden by the Catholic Church in the weeks before Easter Sunday. One day I hope I get to experience Carnival in Rio, dancing to the samba rhythms of their beautiful music, soaking in the bright colors, and enjoying the merriment with the nearly 5 million partygoers!
I wanted to showcase some of the ingredients that are commonly found in Brazilian foods and create a dish that, with the help of Gourmet Garden seasonings, is as easy to make on a weeknight as it is for special occasions. A little coconut milk, onions, bell peppers, lemongrass ,and cilantro and you’ve got the base for a might tasty dish.
Have you heard of cachaça? It is Brazil’s national beverage and they proudly use it in many applications, most famously in the Caipirinha cocktail. It is made with cachaça, sugar, and fresh limes muddled together and served chilled. Cachaça is made from sugar cane and distilled after the first pressing. Slightly sweet, potent and delicious, it is a wonderful sipping alcohol and one of my favorites to add flavor to cooked dishes.
Cachaça has an interesting history. Sugar cane was introduced to Brazil around 1530 by Portuguese colonizers and within a couple of years the distillation process they had learned in Portugal was utilized with the new sweet liquid extracted from the sugar cane stalks. The distillation process was originally used with molasses to make rum so it an easy conversion. Because of the similarity in process, cachaça is sometimes called Brazilian rum. Pisco is the national Peruvian brandy and a good substitute of you do not have cachaça or don’t want to buy a bottle. For future recipes, you can use cachaça any place that calls for brandy or wine or sip it while waiting for dinner to cook ;-).
This meal is chock full of vegetables simmered with the chicken until everything blends together into a mouthwatering stew. Even kids will inhale these vegetables! I chose to serve it over steamed rice, but you can also use mashed potatoes, cooked noodles, or simply serve it like a soup or stew.
As the weather gets cooler and we head into the autumn, give this recipe a try and discover a whole new family favorite!
Jane’s Tips and Hints:
For easier eating, use boneless chicken and reduce the cooking time accordingly. Timing will depend on the size and thickness of the chicken pieces you choose. If you are using skinless, boneless pieces, you only need to lightly brown the chicken because there is no fat to render or skin to crisp.
You can cut the boneless cooked chicken into bite-sized pieces to make it easier for your family and guests. When you remove the chicken from the cooking liquid and while the sauce is reducing, chop the chicken. Return it to the sauce and the reheating will be very quick with the smaller pieces.
Real cachaça is gluten-free and Brazil requires all ingredients to be listed on the labels. If you are highly reactive or Celiac, it is smart to avoid dark colored alcohols like bourbon, brandy, dark rum, etc. Many of them have had caramel coloring added for cosmetic reasons and that can contain trace amounts of gluten. It is enough to make some people sick.
Kitchen Skill: How You Cut an Onion Matters
Why does the recipe call for slicing the onion lengthwise? If you cut it crosswise (through the equator), the onion will fall apart and melt into the sauce. If you cut it lengthwise (stem to root) the pieces will hold their shape and be identifiable in the finished dish. I want this to be a chunky stew with lots of textures and colors, so I recommend you cut the onions lengthwise.
Trim the ends off the onion and peel off the dried layers. Set the onion on one of the cut ends and slice lengthwise in half. Place the halves cut-side-down. Cut the onions lengthwise, with the knife running from the stem end to the root. In this recipe make the slices fairly thick to help the onions remain recognizable when you serve it.
- 2 lb chicken, cut up (see note above if using boneless, skinless chicken)
- Kosher or sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
- Zest and juice of 1 lemon
- 1 tbsp olive oil
- 2 onions, peeled and sliced lengthwise in thick pieces
- 3 red pepper, seeded and cut into large chunks
- 3 tomatoes peeled and seeded, chopped
- 1 tbsp Gourmet Garden Garlic
- 3/4 cup chicken stock
- 1/2 cup of unsweetened coconut milk (shake well before opening can)
- 2 tbsp Brazilian cachaça, light rum, or brandy, optional
- 1-1/2 tsp ground annatto or turmeric
- 2 tbsp Gourmet Garden Lemon Grass
- 2 tsp Gourmet Garden Cilantro
- 1 to 2 tsp Gourmet Garden Chili Pepper, optional
- Steamed rice, for serving
- In a bowl, season the chicken pieces generously with salt and pepper and drizzle with the lemon zest (strained to remove seeds) and juice. Let it marinate for 10 minutes.
- In a large skillet, heat the olive oil until shimmering and add the chicken to the pan. Cook until browned on both sides. Transfer to a plate and set aside. Add the onions, peppers, and tomatoes to the hot pan and sauté until slightly softened, about 5 minutes. Stir in the garlic and cook just until fragrant, about 30 seconds.
- Pour the chicken stock, coconut milk and cachaça (if using) into the pan, stirring to blend. Nestle the chicken pieces into the sauce, skin side up and add any accumulated juices from the plate. Cover the pan, reduce the heat to medium-low and gently simmer until chicken is cooked through but still tender, about 40 to 45 minutes. The internal temperature should be 160°F on an instant read thermometer. Just be sure the probe isn’t touching any bones.
- When the chicken is done, use a slotted spoon or tongs to transfer it to a plate. Add the annatto or turmeric, lemongrass, and cilantro to the sauce in the pan. Add the chili pepper if using. Stir well to blend the seasonings into the sauce. Bring to a boil over med-high heat, reduce to medium and boil until the sauce is reduced and thickened, stirring often. Turn the heat off and return the chicken and any accumulated juices to the pan. Cover and set aside to reheat for a couple of minutes.
- Scoop rice into warmed shallow serving bowls and top with the chicken and vegetables. Pour some of the sauce over the top and serve immediately. Enjoy!
- Yield: 4 to 6 servings
Create a New Tradition Today!
Disclosure: This is a sponsored post. I received compensation and products for recipe development.
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