Sunday, May 18, 2008

Dominican chicken

I've got a couple go-to meals, the ones I hand out when friends who don't cook ask me for recipes. They never fail, they come together easily, and everyone loves them. Bonus points for make ahead and leftovers.

Dominican chicken is one of those. It's a versitile basic, more an ingredient than a dinner in itself, so leftovers can be tarted up and feel new again. Most of the accompaniments are staples in our house, where simple burritos or tacos are popular microwaved lunches.

It goes together fast and then cooks by itself for a good long time--while I do the baby bedtime routine or do other necessities outside of the kitchen. The proportions are loose, so you can add more chicken or more onions and still come up with something nice. I don't measure at all--just a couple glugs of olive oil into the pan, some oregano rubbed between palms, a tinge of cayenne...

And you can use still-frozen chicken breasts--no defrosting, no chicken contamination all over the kitchen.

The long cooking melts the onions and chicken together into a rich, shreddy mess that drips from the bottom of a burrito or the fold of taco or down the chin. It's still good warmed over the next day and probably freezes well, although I haven't tried it. No matter how much I make, it always seems to be gobbled up for lunch the next day.I've been making the recipe since I was 18 and got it from my mom. It's based on a recipe from somewhere, but the source has been since lost. I have a feeling it's not actually Dominican.

Dominican Chicken

5-6 chicken breasts, fresh or frozen
4 large onions, thinly sliced
4 peeled garlic cloves
1 bay leaf
1 t. dried oregano
a dash of cayenne pepper (or more if you like it spicy)
salt & pepper
1/4 c. olive oil
2 T. white wine vinegar

If you are using fresh or defrosted chicken, pat dry and cut into 2-inch pieces.

In a heavy casserole dish or pot, combine everything but oil and vinegar. Frozen chicken is easy--just toss it right in--but it will take longer to cook. Pour oil and vinegar over.

Cover and simmer gently until chicken is tender, stirring a couple times to prevent stickage. Fresh chicken takes about 45 minutes; frozen, at least twice that. Uncover in the last 15 minutes or so of cooking if it is too juicy.

Shred the meat with two forks and serve in burritos, tacos, or tostadas with any or all of the following: refried beans, cotija cheese (or whatever you have on hand), radishes, fresh onions, avocado, shredded lettuce, pumpkin seeds, cilantro, salsa...

On this night, we had tostadas, which I make myself (rubbing corn tortillas with olive oil and sprinkling with salt, popping into a 350-degree or so oven until brown). The packages of tostadas from Mexico are good too, but not as healthy or budget-friendly.

No comments: