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Asopao de Pollo

  • SERVINGS: 6-8

Puerto Rico's island culinary heritage is a wonderful mix of Spanish, African, Taino and more—all of which have a role in asopao de pollo, a chicken stew that's a country cousin of Spain's paella. Asopao can be as basic as the rural "three can" variation, in which chicken and rice are fancied up with a can of green peas, a can of pimientos and a can of asparagus tips, or it can be a sublime dish that brings out the flavors of the freshest of ingredients.

  1. 1 teaspoon oregano
  2. 1 garlic clove, minced
  3. Salt
  4. 3-to-4-pound chicken, cut into 10 pieces
  5. 2 thick slices bacon
  6. 1 1/2 ounces smoked ham, coarsely chopped
  7. 2 medium tomatoes, finely chopped
  8. 1 medium onion, finely chopped
  9. 1 medium green bell pepper, finely chopped
  10. 1 tablespoon drained capers
  11. 1/4 cup diced, pimiento-stuffed olives
  12. 2 cups medium-grain rice (about 12 ounces), such as Valencia
  13. 1 cup fresh or frozen green peas
  14. 4 pimientos, thinly sliced
  15. 1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
  1. In a small bowl, combine the oregano, garlic and salt. Rub the seasonings on the chicken pieces.
  2. In a large enameled cast-iron casserole, cook the bacon over moderately low heat until the fat is rendered. Remove the bacon and reserve for another use. Add half the chicken and cook over moderately high heat, turning, until browned all over, about 7 minutes. Transfer to a plate and brown the remaining chicken. Return all the chicken to the pan and add the ham, tomatoes, onion and green pepper. Cover and simmer over low heat until the chicken is cooked through, about 25 minutes. Let cool.
  3. Remove the chicken meat from the bones. Discard the skin and bones and return the meat to the pan. Add 6 1/2 cups of water and the capers and olives and simmer for 5 minutes. Stir in the rice and 1 teaspoon salt and simmer until the rice is tender, about 15 minutes.
  4. Meanwhile, in a small saucepan of boiling salted water, cook the peas until tender, about 1 minute for frozen and 4 minutes for fresh.
  5. Season the asopao with salt. Garnish with the peas and pimientos and sprinkle with the Parmesan. Serve at once; otherwise it will lose its characteristic soupiness.
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