Latin Cuisine: Five Ingredient, One Pot, 30-Minute Colombian Chicken Stew
Editor's Note: A few weeks back, you, the Serious Eats Community mentioned in a Talk thread that you wanted to see some more coverage of Latin cuisines from the Americas South of Mexico. Well you spoke, and we listened. Check back each week for recipes from Colombia, Venezuela, Argentina, Nicaragua, Peru, and beyond.
This is the first—and probably tastiest—dish that my wife ever taught me how to cook from her home in Bogotá, high in the mountains of Colombia. The Capital city of 10 million people sits in a valley at over 8,000 feet above sea level, which means that the pressure cooker is a staple in pretty much every kitchen. Not only does it make it possible to cook beans (at that altitude it can take hours and hours of cooking at a full boil to get them to soften properly—a pressure cooker reduces this time to about an hour), it also helps to produce the rib-sticking soups and stews that form the backbone of mountain cuisine.
This one is about as simple as they come, combining just five ingredients: chicken (I use legs and thighs, though you can use a whole chicken cut into pieces), potatoes (russets work well, as do Yukon Golds), fresh tomatoes, onion, and a bay leaf.
No stock, no water, no nothing except a bit of salt and pepper. Everything gets tossed raw into the pressure cooker, the lid gets snapped on, and then the lot gets cooked at high pressure for half an hour.
What emerges is nothing short of miraculous. As there's no added liquid, all the soupy broth you'll find in the pot is taken directly from the tomatoes, potatoes, onion, and chicken, giving it an intense flavor. Without even reducing it, it has that rich, sticky-lip-inducing quality that you get from the finest demi-glace. You'll want to drink it all with a spoon (or directly out of the pot) before you even get to the other ingredients.
Over the course of its brief, high temperature, high pressure cook time, the tomatoes and onions will have nearly completely broken down, melting into the stew. Meanwhile, the potatoes get infused all the way to their core with flavorful chicken juices. They're arguably better than the chicken itself, which come out buttery and tender, literally falling off the bone at the slightest touch. It's pretty easily alterable to suit your own taste. Prefer yuca to potato? Go ahead. Like the flavor of cilantro or parsley? Stir some in at the end. Olives, capers, orange zest? Be my guest. The basic technique is the same.
Fans of crisp skin won't get any of that here, but truth be told, I'm willing to give up some skin for the ridiculously tender meat. It's that good.
Oh, and did I mention that the whole dish takes one pot, no bowls, no measuring, and only five ingredients? I did? Well let me reiterate: One pot. No measuring. Five ingredients. 30 minutes. How's that for easy?
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About the author: J. Kenji Lopez-Alt is the Chief Creative Officer of Serious Eats where he likes to explore the science of home cooking in his weekly column The Food Lab. You can follow him at @thefoodlab on Twitter, or at The Food Lab on Facebook.