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Pollo a la Veracruzana – Chicken Veracruz. You may have seen this combination of tomatoes, peppers, onion, olives and capers on menus – though it’s more common as a sauce for fish, it’s a delicious dish. It’s a great companion to chicken as well. By slowly cooking the chicken in the sauce as opposed to just topping it, the meat is infused with the floral flavor of the capers, the briny assertiveness of the olives – and the acid of tomatoes and sweetness of the onions help temper it all to make a bright complex dish that’s easy to make.
The key here is layering flavors. The deep sweetness and heat of peppers and onions, cooked in the chicken fat to extract the aromatics and carmelize slightly builds a base. The acid of the tomatoes – and a touch of wine vinegar – helps to ensure the chicken is exquisitely tender and balences the sweetness of the base. Finally, the olives and capers add a bright note that makes the dish shine.
I know that not everyone has green olives and capers on hand – but they’re pretty much always in our fridge. My wife loves bright green firm Castelvetrano, so that’s what I’ve used here. And while I will claim to prefer salt packed capers – they’re harder to find and more expensive, so i’ve used easy to find capers in brine in this recipe.
I’ve added an unusual step in this recipe. While the chicken simmers away in the oven, I brush the top of the chicken pieces with a paste that’s almost a BBQ sauce. I find it adds a lot of flavor – but it’s a step you can skip if you like.
I serve this over a simple pilaf style rice, scented with cumin, lime juice, cilantro,and a scattering of sweet red pepper – but almost any plain or spanish style rice dish will work. You could even serve it with fried or roasted potato wedges for tasty but unusual (nee heretical) play on the Peruvian classic Lomo Saltado.
Pollo a la VeracruzanaCourse: MainCuisine: MexicanDifficulty: Medium
4 bone in, skin on chicken thighs
2 cups light chicken stock
1 cup cherry tomatoes
1 medium red onion
1 stalk celery
1 medium green bell pepper
2 cloves garlic
1 red chili pepper
1 cup green olives
2 tsp capers
1 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp neutral oil
2 tbsp tomato paste
Juice of one lime
1 tsp granulated sugar
1 drop liquid smoke
1 tsp Worcestershire sauce
- Peel, trim, and slice the red onion radially (end to end, not across the rings).
- Cut the green pepper into match sticks.
- Slice the red chili pepper.
- Thinly slice the celery.
- Slice the green olives into 1/8 inch rounds
- Mince the capers
- Preheat your oven to 325°F.
- Dry and seasons four chicken thighs with salt.
- Over medium heat, brown the thighs in 1 tsp neutral oil, top side first, cooking until most of the fact has rendered.
- Remove the thighs from the heat and set aside.
- Add onions, celery, chili, pepper, olives, capers, garlic, and cumin to the rendered oil. Sauté until the onion begins to look translucent.
- Add the chicken stock and nestle the chicken thighs into the mixture.
- Bring to a simmer, then transfer to the oven.
- Cook 30-45 minutes.
- Add lime juice, sugar, liquid smoke, Worcestershire and tomato paste to a non-reactive bowl and mix to combine.
- After 30-45 minutes, brush top of chicken pieces with the lime/tomato/etc. mixture. Mix the remaining mixture into the liquid in the pan.
- Return to the oven. Cook until chicken is nearly falling from the bone, an additional 30-45 minutes depending on the size of thighs.
- Remove from the oven, remove the chicken from the pan and reduce the sauce to a thick texture. Serve over cilantro lime rice, draping the sauce over the chicken.
Be sure to check out my other food project, The Weekly Menu!