Oui’s Happy Autumn Stew: Chicken Afritada

November’s almost over and I’ve finally got fed up cooking and eating adobo and sinigang (courtesy of Mama Sita’s sinigang na sampalok powder mix) for a the past few weeks. Not to mention that one time, I subsisted on party leftovers for 8 days (they were tasty, but you get tired of eating the same thing day in, day out). So, when it was my turn to cook the main dish for the girls’ Sunday lunch, I decided to pull out all the stops and challenge myself in cooking a fiesta-rated dish that I haven’t had any experience preparing on my own.

Afritada. Chicken afritada.

I had all the excuses to make this dish—one, this Sunday’s the feast of Christ the King, and two, I’ve invited Adriana (my Ecuadorian friend and labmate in the drug-discovery group) over to taste the Filipino version of a Spanish dish.

(Correction: my family’s version of the Filipino version of a Spanish dish. :D)

My chicken afritada with rice

Materials (serves eight)
– approx. 1 kg of chicken parts (drumsticks / thighs)
– 1 tetra pack (500 g) of tomato sauce
– 2 cloves garlic, crushed and minced
– ½ shallot, sliced
– 3 medium new potatoes (Charlotte Ros), scraped and quartered
– 1 bottle of peeled baby carrots, rinsed and drained
– 2 bell peppers/capsicums: red and green (or you may use any color), cut into strips
– some green beans / haricot verts, trimmed
– canned/bottled white beans in tomato sauce
– salt and pepper
– flour
– ½ cube chicken bouillon

Methodology
– Rinse the chicken parts in running water, pat dry, then coat them with flour seasoned with salt and pepper. Brown the pieces in hot cooking oil, then set aside.
– In a large Dutch oven / cooking pot, heat approx. 2-3 tablespoons of oil, then saute the garlic and onions with the crushed chicken bouillon. Add the browned chicken pieces and lightly toss until coated with the oil and spices.
– Add the tomato sauce. Cover pot and wait until the mixture simmers (in medium heat). Stir the chicken and the sauce, cover and time for 20-30 minutes, stirring occasionally.
– Add the potatoes, cover pot and let everything simmer for ~10 minutes. Stir occasionally.
– Add the carrots, cover pot and simmer for 5 minutes. Again, stir once in a while to prevent the food sticking in the pot.
– Add the bell peppers and green beans, let everything cook uncovered for 3-5 minutes (or until the beans turn bright green). Add half a bottle of canned white beans in tomato sauce, stir. Taste and adjust the seasoning. Turn off heat and serve with hot, fluffy rice!

Results and Discussion
Time allotment. This is not a quick dish (i.e., this takes around at least an hour to cook everything, not to mention that it takes me around 20 minutes to prepare the meat and vegetables for cooking), so this is best done during weekends. For today’s lunch, my original plan was to divide the cooking method into two stages—cook the chicken, potatoes and carrots the night before, then reheat and add the vegetables and beans when the girls and I come back from Sunday Mass. I still followed the two-stage cooking plan, however I did not do the first part last night since I was a bit feverish—instead, I got up at around 5AM to do it!

Chicken afritada, stage 1
Cooking chicken afritada, stage 1, at 5AM

Absurdly early, I know…but I had Sunday choir-practice at 9AM, and it takes me 25-30 minutes to walk from Brusselstraat to the seminary. And with my sleep-addled (and paracetamol-stuffed) brain had to figure out what sort of cover to use for my hand-me-down Dutch oven…

My Dutch oven doesn't have its own cover, so I had to improvise...again, at 5AM.

Bottled baby carrots? Fresh carrots here are sold by the bushel, not by piece. Again, the solo-living dilemma—what am I going to do with a pile of unused vegetable since I can only eat as much? Another advantage in using bottled baby carrots is that I get to skip the trimming and scraping part—all I needed to do was to rinse the pieces thoroughly with cold water to remove the brine (wait, are bottled veggies brined anyway? I am not sure, but it pays to play it safe…and I don’t want any extra, “bottle-only” flavor to compete with my dish) and toss them into the stew. Reduces cooking time, too.

Canned/bottled white beans in tomato sauce?? Ah, I have revealed a family variation to the afritada—the canned/bottled white beans in tomato sauce (back in the Philippines, it would’ve been “canned pork & beans”) rounds up the rich flavor of this tomato-based stew.

Breading the chicken pieces. Another family variation—coating the meat pieces with seasoned flour does two things: prevents the meat from sticking to the pot, and the meat becomes pre-seasoned already. Notice that the “adjust the amount of seasoning to taste” is at the last part of the Methodology—in this attempt, I just had to add more pepper and a tiny bit of salt to complete the taste profile of the sauce, not of the meat.

Wrapping it up
For a PhD student, this is a time-intensive dish, perfect for weekends and for entertaining friends since it’s a stew rich in flavor AND ingredients—with one pot, everyone gets “stuffed to the gills” with protein and veggies. If there are leftovers, they would be greatly appreciated as afritada also ages well in the fridge. But this is definitely not a dish you’d like to whip up from scratch after a long day in the lab.

Although, I call this a “happy stew” because of the colors. Perfect for the grey autumn weather.

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