African-American Southern dishes are my soul and Latin-American cuisine is my heart. I grew up with the guacamole, tortilla chips, salt-rimmed margaritas, rice and beans, refried beans, tacos, tamales and more. However, as I learn more about authentic Latin-American food, my excitement is similar to a kid discovering an adult menu of larger and more flavorful dishes and ingredients.
When Bren of FlanboyantEats.com invited me to share a recipe representing a Latin-American country in her annual Hispanic Heritage Month series, I was cautious. Demonstrating another culture’s gastronomic pleasures—especially when I love Latin-american cuisine—is intimidating. Since there was leftover hominy corn from another recipe, I chose Ecuador because of its pozole stews. Learning more about Ecuadorian cuisine, achiote paste aroused my curiosity.
Finding the achiote paste was a difficult. Initially, an organic blend was purchased online from Teeny Tiny Spice Company of Vermont. As the package was tracked online, I learned the post office closed early on the day it was scheduled for delivery. The next business day’s delivery was scheduled for the following Monday–a day after my Sunday planned meal of serving Ecuadorian-Inspired Chicken Stew. Irritated, I rearranged my weekend schedule for a trip to purchase the spice blend from Kalustyan’s, one of New York City’s various “Little India” neighborhoods.
The following day, a large pot of Ecuadorian-Inspired Chicken Stew with Cilantro and Green Pea Rice was served. The stew’s achiote paste didn’t have a prominent chili flavor, and it gave the chicken stew a soulful and rich flavor. The paste is usually a reddish spice blend of annatto seeds, achiote seeds, garlic, cumin, cinnamon, cloves, oregano and salt. If I’m missing a spice or if you want to share a story about Ecuador’s achiote paste, please leave a comment in the section below the recipe.
The stew was a comforting meal made with different ingredients from what I’ve previously known about Latin-American cuisine. This may not be an authentic Ecuadorian dish, but the achiote paste and the sweet earthy hominy corn in the chicken stew continued to capture my heart as this Latin American-inspired meal moved my Southern African-American soul.
For more Latin-American recipes, visit FlanboyantEats.com’s Hispanic Heritage Month series.
Ecuadorian-Inspired Chicken Stew with Cilantro and Green Pea Rice
- 3 lb. bone-in, chicken parts with skin (thighs, bones, etc. )
- 2 tbsp. achiote paste; plus more for seasoning chicken*
- 1 tsp. sea salt; more or less to taste
- 1 tsp. fresh black pepper; more or less to taste
- 4 tbsp. olive, safflower or sunflower oil
- 1 red onion; finely diced
- 1 red bell pepper; finely diced
- A pinch of crushed red pepper; more or less to taste
- 5 garlic cloves; minced
- 1 tbsp. ground cumin
- 2 heaping tbsp. tomato paste
- 1 tsp. smoked paprika
- ¼ cup red wine
- 1 quart of low-sodium chicken stock; more or less
- 2 bay leaves
- 1 small bunch of fresh thyme; tied with twine (or use fresh oregano)
- 1 pint of halved cherry or grape sized tomatoes, 3 finely diced plum tomatoes or 1-14 oz. can of plain chopped tomatoes**
- 3 large potatoes; cut into 1 inch pieces
- 3 carrots; cut into 1 inch pieces
- 2 cup of fresh and cooked hominy corn (or 1-14 oz. canned)***
- 3 cups cooked white/brown rice or quinoa
- 1 bunch of fresh cilantro; finely minced
- 1 cup peas; blanched
- After thoroughly cleaning and patting dry the chicken pieces, season both sides with a little oil, garlic powder, sea salt, fresh black pepper and a little achiote paste. Set aside to marinade for at least an hour.
- In a large pot, warm two tablespoons of oil over high heat. Sear chicken pieces on both sides until golden brown. Remove chicken pieces onto a paper-towel lined plate. Repeat this step with the other chicken pieces. Do not crowd the pan, or the chicken pieces will steam in liquid instead of searing the skin to a slightly crispy texture. Place chicken pieces aside.
- Leave about two tablespoons of oil in the pot, but get rid of the excess. Reduce the temperature to medium heat. When the pot returns to being hot, add onion and bell pepper. Season with salt, black pepper and crushed red pepper. Stir until the vegetables are translucent, about 5 minutes. Stir in two tablespoons achiote paste, garlic, cumin, tomato paste and smoked paprika for about 3 minutes. Stir in the red wine.
- When the wine slightly reduces, return chicken pieces to the pot with the chicken stock, bay leaves, fresh thyme, potatoes and carrots. Cover and return pot to a boil. Reduce heat to about a medium-low or temperature that allows the soup to simmer for about 40 minutes to one hour. While the stew is cooking, occasionally stir and adjust seasoning as necessary.
- About 15 minutes before the stew is ready to be served, stir in the hominy corn. Adjust seasoning if necessary.
- Meanwhile make the Cilantro and Green Pea Rice: Cook the rice according to the manufacturer’s directions. When the rice is cooked and fluffed with a fork, toss with a quarter cup of minced cilantro and green peas. Place rice aside.
- When the soup is ready, stir in a half cup of fresh cilantro. Let simmer for about three minutes.
- Ladle soup over individual bowls filled with Cilantro and Green Pea Rice.
*New York City residents can find achiote paste (or recado rojo) at Kalustyan’s. Alternatively, order an organic spice blend from Teeny Tiny Spice Company of Vermont.
**Use fresh tomatoes during the summer, and use canned tomatoes during the winter.
***If using dried hominy corn, soak them in water overnight. Rinse and drain hominy. Place in a slow cooker and fill with filtered water until the hominy corn is completely submerged in at least 1 inch of water. Season the water with 2 bay leaves, a couple minced garlic cloves, sea salt and black pepper, Cook on high for at least four hours. Let cool. Strain and use in soups, scrambled eggs, salads or freeze for a later recipe.
Prep time is about 1 hour and 30 minutes (includes time spent cleaning chicken and disinfecting the area). Total prep, cooking and cleaning time is about 3 hours.
Copyright 2009-2018, Recipes by Sanura Weathers of MyLifeRunsOnFood.com by Sanura Weathers. All rights reserved.