If you’ve been reading the blog or getting the weekly recipes sent to you directly you’ll know that I’ve been tagging some recipes as being “Ultimate” (Ultimate Curry Goat | Ultimate Curry Chicken), so today I’ll like to add another classic dish to the “Ultimate” series.
I think it was about 4 years ago and we were on the French side of St Maarten for the day. We had booked an all-day beach getaway with a brief tour of the island. It was about 11 am and we had already done the island tour and we had a 1 hr break in Marigot at one of the craft markets before heading off to the beach to spend the day. Our daughters were already getting bored (they hate tourist traps) and according to them..STARVING! As we walked around looking for something for them to eat, they noticed one of the restaurants had a huge sign up with their daily specials and a stew chicken platter was one of the featured items. Yup! They had found their own little shangrila! They were soon very disappointed and mad at me (don’t ask me why), as it turned out that the restaurant was only just serving breakfast and the lunch dinner menu would not be open until another couple hours. If only steupes (kiss teeth) could kill, that poor girl who told them that, would be dead on the spot. You couldn’t even force feed our daughters croissants even if their lives depended on it. Yea, that was a pretty grumpy day after that. I think their taste buds had already made reservations only to be canceled by the talk of breakfast and croissants.
In this “stew” we’ll be trying to only use fresh ingredients to truly get that “ultimate” taste at the end, so you’ll notice that I didn’t opt to use some of my already prepared green seasoning mix.
4-5 lbs chicken – cubed into serving size pieces
3/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon worcestershire sauce
1 tablespoon ketchup
2 cloves of garlic – thinly sliced or crushed
1 teaspoon fresh ginger – crushed/sliced
2 tablespoon vegetable oil (one that can withstand high heat)
1 medium onion – chopped
1 medium tomato – chopped
3 tablespoon cilantro (or shado beni) chopped
1 tablespoon brown sugar
1 1/2 cups water
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1/4 hot pepper (only if you like your food spicy)
1 green onion or chive (scallion) – chopped
2 sprigs of fresh thyme (1 teaspoon dried)
1 lime or lemon or 3 tablespoons of vinegar
1 small shallot
* If you can get Spanish Thyme (aka podina), use 1-2 medium leaves finely chopped with the seasoning of the chicken.
* CHICKEN – I used a whole chicken that I divided into servings size pieces. I like the mixture of dark and white meat, but if you prefer you can use chicken parts such as legs and/or thighs and if you only eat chicken breast (or chicken chest as it’s commonly called on the islands) as one of my good friends does.. basically it’s your choice. If using chicken breast, it’s important that you allow the seasoned meat to marinate at least 2hours to really infuse the meat and to help prevent it being overly dry when cooked.
TIP : Leave the ginger in large pieces if you’d like to fish out when the dish is done.
Since I don’t have a separate cutting board for meat and vegetables I usually prepare my seasonings first before getting the chicken all over the board. This simply means chopping the onion, pepper,thyme, shallot, cilantro, tomato, garlic and scallion.
The next step is to cut, wash and season the chicken. If you’re lucky enough to have drum sticks and thighs there’s no need for cutting the meat into serving size pieces. In a future video I’ll show you how to divide and part-off a whole chicken. Put the pieces of chicken in a large bowl, squeeze the lime or lemon juice (or vinegar) on it , then add a couple cups of water and wash. Try to remove as much fat and skin as you can. Rinse with a new batch of water and drain. * The water used in washing the chicken pieces is NOT mentioned in the ingredients list.
Now season by adding everything except the sugar, oil and water mentioned in the ingredients list. Mix thoroughly and allow to marinate for a couple hours in the fridge. For best results, marinate overnight.
As we’ve done with other “stew” recipes, it’s now time to brown the meat and not only give it a rich brown colour, but give it it’s truly unique taste. If you use the search box above (providing you’re not reading this from an rss feed) and search for “stew” you’ll find the other recipes. On a medium to high heat, put the oil in a heavy and deep pan to heat. Then add the sugar.. move it around until it starts going liquid. Please have the seasoned meat very close and I recommend you use a long handle spoon to avoid getting burn by the splattering oil when you add the seasoned meat. This is all about timing… if the sugar is “burned” it will give it a bit of a bitter taste. What you’re looking for is small bubbles, which will then start going a bit frothy and go from light to golden/dark brown (see pics below). As soon as you see this happens (refer to pic) start adding the seasoned chicken a few pieces at a time. Remember to stir constantly to ensure all the pieces gets coated evenly.
After you’ve added all the seasoned meat to the pot, turn down the heat to medium/low, cover and allow to simmer for about 15 minutes. You’ll notice that it will spring some of it’s own natural juices. While this cooks, add the 1 1/2 cups of water to the bowl you had the chicken marinating in. Swish it around to pick up any of the marinade that may be stuck to the bowl. We’ll be using this shortly. Remember to stir the pot every 5 minutes or so.
After about 15 minutes, remove the lid and turn up the heat as it’s time to cook-off all the liquid in the pot and to give the chicken it’s final “brown” colour. This can take about 5 minutes and it’s important that you stir constantly so it does stick to the bottom of the pot. When all the liquid is gone, add the water we’ve had sitting in the bowl. Stir and cook on medium heat for another 20-25 minutes (depending on how thick your pieces of chicken is).
I like my stew chicken with a bit of gravy to pour over rice, but I hate it being to thin. So if after cooking for 2o minutes I find it a bit too runny, I remove the lid and turn up the heat to get it to the consistency I like (basically you’re reducing the liquid by about 75%). Remember to check for salt at the end, in the event you’d like to add a bit more.
And here it is with some brown rice and the water cress salad I shared with you a few days ago.
So there you go, the Ultimate Stew Chicken recipe. Now I’m sure many of you may have your own unique way of preparing this dish, so I’d love for you to share your tips in the comment box below. This serves about 5-6 people as a side dish to rice, macaroni pie, roti, ground provisions, macaroni and cheese and even mashed potatoes. Besides rice, I love my with the prepackaged (white) mac and cheese. Trust me on this one.