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Estofado de pollo is a hearty chicken stew. The recipe is simple but takes a bit of time, so pick an afternoon that you aren't busy so you can enjoy the process. If you'd like, you can use blanched almonds and skip Step 2. Serve with a side of rice and beans.

EatingWell.com, October 2022


Recipe Summary

1 hr 15 mins
1 hr 45 mins

My mother-in-law, Liz, is a very particular eater. She does not eat beef, pork, cheese, dairy, cooked carrots, bread or greasy things. She doesn't mind if you eat these things—in fact, she might even cook them for you. But if she does, she will cook her own food on the side.

When I met my in-laws, my mission was to impress them with food. I've been known to rely on my charms and good looks in winning people over; my in-laws, however, are a different breed. They are cool New Englanders with an intellectual default, and my warm bubbly Mexican charm often falls flat with them. In order to win them over, I was going to have to pull out all the stops. I decided to cook for them one of my grandmother's signature dishes. 

Abuelita Emma's estofado de pollo is different. I'm not even sure if it is an estofado or a guisado, both of which are Spanish words for stew. I've tried to find out if it does have a commonly known name, but I cannot find this recipe anywhere in the public domain. My grandmother was the only person I've ever known to make it this way. 

When I think about what makes this recipe so delicious, it's one of the things that makes Mexico such an interesting place; it is a mix of many different cultures. You can see the layers of the history of Mexico in the ingredients of this dish—sweet plantains, raisins, almonds, olives, capers, bay leaf, cinnamon, jalapeños and chicken in a tomato-based stew. 

This combination of flavors reflects the complex history of Veracruz, the state of my familial roots. The direct translation of Veracruz is "true cross," which was the name bestowed by Hernán Cortés and the Spanish and Portuguese explorers that arrived on Good Friday. Their ships carried not just European colonizers, but also conversos (the secret Sephardic Jews escaping persecution) and enslaved people from Africa. They landed in the tropical area of Veracruz that was home to the Olmec, Totonac, Mayan and Huastec peoples. These European travelers brought almonds from Iran; olives, capers and raisins from the Mediterranean; plantains from Africa and cinnamon from Asia. All of these imports mix with the native tomatoes and jalapeños in this chicken stew. Together these ingredients remind me of just how diverse we all really are. 

Cooking my abuelita's recipe in my mother-in-law's kitchen would be a test in and of itself. A person that is particular about her eating would also be particular about her cookware. She did not have the same kitchen devices that I have at home; instead of a blender I used her food processor. Luckily I was able to find all of the ingredients at the local supermarket. 

I gave myself a long time to prepare dinner since it would take a couple of hours to make the stew along with beans and rice to serve with it. When I started cooking I had to ask Liz which pan I could use for what and she directed me to the correct cutting board. She was surprised to see how dark the plantains were. I explained to her that we used them when they had lots of dark spots. This is how to get a sweet fried plantain. She was pleased to learn something new. She left me alone most of the time but she did pepper me with more questions while I cooked.

Before I ladled the stew into bowls, I told everyone about the history of this dish. How my abuelita was the only person I'd ever known that made it, and how special both she and it were to me. I served everyone the stew along with a plate of rice and beans and some warm corn tortillas. I did not take a bite until everyone else had tried the food. I held my breath as I watched them eat. First there was a chorus of mmm's. Then my mother-in-law said, "This is delicious! You have to give me the recipe!" My heart swelled with pride and relief. She liked my food. My abuelita would have been proud.


Ingredient Checklist


Instructions Checklist
  • Combine water, 1/2 onion, 4 garlic cloves, bay leaves and salt in a large pot. Cover and bring to a boil over high heat. Add chicken and reduce heat to medium. Cook, uncovered, until an instant-read thermometer inserted in the thickest part of a piece of chicken without touching bone registers 165°F, about 20 minutes.

  • Meanwhile, bring a small saucepan of water to a boil over high heat. Add almonds; cook for 5 minutes. Drain and rinse with cold water. When cool enough to handle, peel the almonds by squeezing the skin between your fingertips (careful, the almonds will fly out). Set aside.

  • Combine tomatoes and the remaining onion half and 6 garlic cloves in a blender; puree until smooth, about 1 minute. Set aside.

  • Heat oil in a large pot over medium heat until shimmering. Cook plantains in 2 batches, turning halfway, until golden, about 2 minutes per side. Transfer to a paper-towel-lined plate with a slotted spoon. Add the almonds to the pot; cook, stirring frequently, until golden, 1 to 2 minutes. Transfer to the plate with the plantains with a slotted spoon. Add raisins to the pot; cook, stirring, for 30 seconds. Transfer to the plate with the plantains with a slotted spoon. 

  • Add the tomato mixture to the pot. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the mixture turns a deeper shade of red, 5 to 10 minutes. 

  • Remove the chicken from the broth to a plate. Strain the broth (discard the solids).

  • Add olives, capers, jalapeños, cinnamon stick and 6 cups of the broth to the pot with the tomato mixture. Cook, stirring occasionally, for 20 minutes. Stir in the raisins, almonds, plantains and chicken. Discard the cinnamon stick and jalapeños. Serve the stew with tortillas, if desired.

Nutrition Facts

1 piece chicken & 2 cups stew
465 calories; protein 24g; carbohydrates 23g; dietary fiber 3g; sugars 12g; fat 32g; saturated fat 3g; mono fat 15g; poly fat 7g; cholesterol 65mg; vitamin a iu 978IU; vitamin b3 niacin 8mg; vitamin c 21mg; vitamin d iu 4IU; vitamin e iu 7IU; folate 26mg; vitamin k 23mg; sodium 715mg; calcium 48mg; iron 2mg; magnesium 48mg; phosphorus 185mg; potassium 592mg; zinc 2mg; omega 3 fatty acid 2g; omega 6 fatty acid 5g; niacin equivalents 12mg; selenium 18mcg.