When I was a kid, my mom made Puerto Rican-style chicken stew all the time. It would have manzanilla olives (green olives stuffed with pimiento peppers), potatoes and carrots and a tomato-based sauce that was really more like a gravy, served over white rice. There was always hot sauce on the table to go with this dish, and I remember loving it extra spicy. This was a warm, comforting dish that in my own cooking I have never quite duplicated. Partly this is because my mom still makes this dish and I eat it at her house, and partly because I made my chicken stew my own dish (still rebelling against mom a little even now!).
This is a straightforward dish to make, and it’s the kind that gets better after a day or two as the flavors come together. Once the chicken is sauteed, everything else gets added to the pot and simmered, and you’re done. We ate this with bread rather than rice, but I stuck to the hot sauce tradition: the spicier the better. You can use any kind of chicken you want, but I recommend using bone-in, skin-on pieces, because this will give you the richest flavor. You could use bone-in breasts, but my preference is dark meat for this kind of dish; we used chicken legs this time around. This dish can be altered to taste very easily, depending on what you’re feeling like. If you add tomatoes and peppers, the dish changes significantly (and becomes much more like mom’s!). I used a touch of zaatar spice, which gives the stew a nice lemony kick. If you want a thicker gravy, you can add a tiny bit of flour or cornstarch; but if you make this a day or two before you’re ready to eat it, the sauce will thicken on its own.
Ingredients (2 people with leftovers)
4 – 6 chicken legs or thighs, preferably bone-in, skin-on. (You could also use wings.)
1 bunch carrots, sliced
2 – 3 small potatoes, cubed into large-ish pieces
1 small onion
1 cup of peas
Garlic cloves, smashed
1 bay leaf
1/4 – 1/2 tsp zaatar spice (optional)
Salt and pepper
Vegetable stock, chicken stock, or water (you can mix stock and water)
1/4 cup white wine (optional)
- Saute chicken parts in a large heavy pot in olive oil until nicely browned (though not fully cooked through). Remove chicken to a plate.
- In the same pot, saute onions and garlic until turning translucent.
- Add carrots and potatoes and spices, stirring well to coat. If using wine, add now.
- Allow vegetables to soften a bit, then return chicken to pot.
- Add enough stock or water to just barely cover the ingredients (unless you want to turn this into soup, in which case add more water).
- Allow to come almost to a boil, then lower heat, cover, and cook until chicken is cooked through.
- About 10 minutes before serving, add peas to simmering pot.