Take me back to the Dominican: Pollo guisado y arroz con habichuelas

Coming back to reality after two weeks of vacation at all-inclusive resorts in the Dominican Republic has been difficult. I’m back at work, traffic sucks, I have to plan my meals and wash my own dishes, it’s freezing outside, and it’s always dark.

I know the holidays are upon us, which offers a different kind of warmth than a sunny, tropical paradise, and that I do look forward to. I enjoy the things at home during the holidays that make me feel warm and fuzzy–like being cozy next to the fireplace, staring at the Christmas tree lights, drinking hot chocolate, listening to happy Christmas songs, spending time with family and friends and eating comfort food. Oh, comfort food! Nothing feels more warm and fuzzy than comfort food.

For dinner last night, I decided to make a dish that brought me back to the Dominican Republic, but also made me feel comforted and warm–so warm in fact, that I had to remove layers and turn off the fireplace.

Pollo Guisado is a traditional Dominican dish, one that I ate several times during my visit. It’s like a chicken stew with vegetables and served with arroz con habichuelas, or rice and beans.  I found many variations of the Pollo Guisado recipe, which is also a Puerto Rican dish–some using adobo, some not. Since I like to “healthify” my food, and all of the recipes I found call for “sazon” seasoning and chicken bouillion cubes containing MSG, I decided not to use it. I realize this may have changed the true flavor of the dish and eliminated its secret ingredient. But in the name of health, I think it was worth it, and it still tasted great. (Next time I’ll experiment, using the adobo other recipes called for. )

This is a stick-to-your ribs kind of meal that can make you feel one of two ways:

1. You might want to go put on some stretchy pants to lay down and nap for a few hours.

2. You might want to wait an hour to digest then run 20 miles from the carb and protein punch.

Either way, this meal doesn’t fool around.

The following recipe is adapted from thatsdominican.com. Visit the following link if you want to follow the exact recipe: http://www.thatsdominican.com/dr/our-food/pollo-guisado-stewed-chicken.

Ingredients for Pollo Guisado

1 pound chicken thighs or legs (I used boneless chicken thighs, but bone-in is the traditional way)

2 tablespoons of vegetable oil

1 can low-sodium chicken broth

1 tablespoon tomato paste

1 teaspoon ground cumin

1 teaspoon chili powder

1 teaspoon garlic powder

1/2 teaspoon oregano

juice of 2 lemons

1 green bell pepper, chopped

1 small red onion chopped into fine strips or rings

1 teaspoon of mashed garlic

4 plum tomatoes cut into quarters (I used a can of diced tomatoes)

2 medium potatoes, cubed

4 tablespoons manzanilla olives, cut in half

1 Large carrot, chopped

chopped cilantro, to garnish (optional)


In a bowl mix the chicken, oregano, onion, lemon juice, chili powder, garlic powder and cumin. Marinate for at least 30 minutes.

In a pot, heat up the oil over medium-high heat, and brown the chicken. Add onions and saute for a few minutes. Add tomato paste and mix in well. Add the remaining ingredients, making sure that there is enough liquid to cover the chicken and potatoes so they will cook completely. If you need more liquid, add more chicken broth. Cover with a lid, and bring to a boil for about 5 minutes. Turn down heat and simmer for at least 30 minutes, up to two hours. The longer cooking time really allows all the flavors to come out. This tastes even better the next day! Add salt and pepper to taste. Mix in chopped cilantro if you would like. Serve with arroz con habichuelas and sliced avocados with lemon juice.

Ingredients for Arroz con Habichuelas

About 1-2 cups dried red beans or kidney beans (although any bean would taste great)

1 onion, finely diced

1 small can tomato sauce

3-4 strips bacon, finely chopped

2 cans of chicken broth

1 green bell pepper, finely chopped

2 cloves garlic

1 tsp chili powder

2-3 T manzanilla olives, chopped

1 T white vinegar

salt and pepper to taste

fresh cilantro (optional)

cooked rice (To serve beans over. I used brown rice because it’s healthier)

Cook bacon in a pan and saute with onions until the bacon starts to crisp. Throw all ingredients (except salt) in a slow cooker and cook on low until beans are soft (I let mine cook while I was at work all day). Before serving, take a potato masher and mash the beans until they are thick and creamy, with chunks still left in it. Add salt to taste. Stir in some chopped cilantro, and serve beans over rice.

Buen provecho!

Mountain of habichuelas

My first taste of pollo guisado.

See why I'm so torn about being back from vacation?

See? Seeeeee? The water! The sun!

Although...it's just not the same standing in front of a Christmas tree in shorts and flip flops.

Take me baaaaaack! OK I'm done.


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