To call estofado a “stew” would be like calling Carmen Solis merely a “cook.” She is an artisan in the kitchen – in fact, two kitchens, for Carmen has a modern indoor kitchen as well as the traditional outdoor kitchen, where she prepares many dishes, including beans, over a wood fire. Just as her kitchens and techniques work together to combine the best of pre-Hispanic and European-influenced flavors, so does her estofado. The olives, almonds and raisins brought from Spain form an exquisite sauce when cooked with the New World natives, tomatoes. Onions, garlic and spices add other layers of flavor. Carmen, who has lived all her life in the Etla valley of Oaxaca, created this version of estofado herself and it is the best I have ever tasted.
- 3 chicken breasts, halved or quartered according to preference
- 4 chicken thigh-leg combos, separated
- garlic salt
- 1/3 cup vegetable oil
- 1 medium white onion, peeled and sliced
- ½ head garlic (about 5-6 large cloves) peeled and chopped
- 2 pounds roma or plum tomatoes, sliced
- 2 tablespoons broken cinnamon (do not use powder)
- 1½ tablespoons dried thyme leaves
- ¾ cup pitted green olives
- ¾ cup almonds, boiled 15 minutes and skins removed
- ¾ cup raisins
- 1-2 cups chicken broth, preferably homemade, as needed
- 1-2 sprigs parsley
- 1 bay leaf
- 100 grams (1/2 can) jalapeños or serranos en escabeche
- salt to taste
Remove the skin from the chicken pieces. Rub them with garlic salt and marinate in the refrigerator several hours or overnight.
Using half the vegetable oil, sauté the chicken pieces in a large skillet. Breast meat will require a shorter cooking time than the legs and thighs. Turn to brown on all sides and cook until just done. Do not overcook, as the chicken will cook further in the sauce.
Heat the remaining oil in a large cazuela or Dutch oven and sauté the onion and garlic until the onion has wilted. Add the tomatoes, cinnamon, thyme, olives, almonds, raisins and salt to taste. Cook until the tomatoes have thoroughly softened and rendered their juice.
Puree the tomato mixture in a blender, adding broth as necessary to move the blades. This will have to be done in two batches.
Put puree through a food mill or push through a strainer to achieve a smooth consistency. Return the sauce to the cazuela or Dutch oven, adding the chicken pieces, parsley and bay leaf. The sauce should coat a spoon. If it is too thick, add chicken broth as necessary. Taste for salt. When chicken is heated through, add jalapenos or serranos with their escabeche (vinaigrette in which they are packed.)
Serve immediately, garnishing with additional olives, almonds and raisins if desired.