I’d never given much thought to Cuban cuisine until a friend of mine pulled a recipe for this Cuban-style Chicken Stew and said here, make this for me sometime. I studied the ingredients and agreed yes, this looks pretty darn tasty. I decided to do some research on the history of Cuban food and learned that it fuses the flavors of Spanish, African and Caribbean cuisines. This results in a unique, intriguing and flavorful blend of the several different cultural influences, with strong similarities with cuisine from the neighboring Domincan Republic and Puerto Rico.
What makes Cuban-cuisine interesting is the use of citrus, onion, tomato, garlic, peppers, white wine or beer, raisins and olives/capers to flavor almost every dish. This combination often results in complex flavors with sweet, salty and acidic components.
Combine in a large mixing bowl the salt, pepper, cumin, oregano, and herbes de provence. Toss with the chicken, rubbing the mixture into the skin.
In a small bowl, combine the chopped garlic and bay leaf with the citrus juice and white wine. Pour over the chicken and mix well. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least an hour or as long as overnight.
Heat 3 Tbsp olive oil in a skillet over medium-low heat. Add onions and bell peppers and cook until tender, turning often for 6-8 minutes. Remove the onions and peppers to a plate.
Remove the chicken from marinade, pat dry with paper towels and reserve the marinade.
Add the remaining oil to the skillet and heat the oil. Working in batches so not to overload the skillet, brown the chicken on all sides for about 10 minutes per batch. Remove each batch and place in a cast iron oven, until all the chicken is browned. Once all the chicken is in the cast iron oven, place the sauteed peppers and onions on top of the chicken.
Add the marinade to the skillet bringing to a simmer and scraping up browned bits from the bottom of the skillet. Add the bay leaf, simmer and reduce by half, 7-10 minutes. Add the tomato paste and mix thoroughly and pour over the chicken in the cast iron oven. Stir in the raisins olives and capers. Pour enough chicken stock over to cover, start with 2 cups, you can always add more later if the mixture becomes too thick.
Cover and simmer for 45 minutes over medium-low heat at a low simmer.
Add the carrots, potatoes and frozen peas making sure the veggies are covered with chicken stock. Additional stock if necessary. Cover and cook for another 30 minutes until the carrots and potatoes are tender.
Serve over fluffy white rice or just by itself.
Did you know the French also had great influence on the cuisine of various Latin American countries, particularly in Cuba? It's no wonder why my palate immediately fell in love with this amazing dish!
The influence can actually be traced back to the late 18th century on a neighboring Caribbean island, then known as Hispaniola—today known as Haiti. At the time a French colony, Haiti’s economy depended greatly on slave labor. But by the 1790s, a slave revolt had toppled French power, and thousands of the colonizers fled the island for nearby Cuba.
Like any other immigrants, the French brought with them their food traditions, from a unique approach to growing and brewing coffee to classic bread making techniques. Today’s recipe is fricasé—basically means a stew—is derived from the French friccassee, which refers to a method of cooking in which meat is cut up, sauteéd and then braised most classically in a white sauce.
But in the hands of Caribbean cooks, the friccassee is given a Latin twist: white sauce is replaced with—what else?—a sofrito, you've seen this word before when I introduced you to my paella recipe. In this fricasé, the typical French thyme and tarragon flavorings are substituted with the classic sweet-savory Spanish combination of olives, capers and raisins. And just like that, the fricasé as we now know it in Cuban cuisine was born.
This is an absolutely wonderful dish, traditional Latin comfort food. Enjoy!