Five US Territories of New Recipe Tuesday – Week One – Puerto Rico – Asopao de Pollo

Welcome to week 1 of the Five US Territories of New Recipe Tuesday.  As you all know, I finished our adventure through the Fifty United States with Hawaii, and it was time to look for something new to do. And although I would love to start off on a new worldly culinary adventure, I felt that I was not doing our fine USA justice without a nod to our outlying land masses, otherwise known as the US Territories.

In actuality, there are 16 American territories worldwide, but only 5 of them are inhabited full time. I am going to try to discover interesting foods from these 5 for the next several weeks, and may even throw in the District of Columbia before moving along to somewhere else. What do you think? I like it, and well, it’s my blog, so that is what I am doing.

My first territory is Puerto Rico. By far the largest US territory, Puerto Rico became part of the US in 1898 with the signing of the Treaty of Paris, which ended the Spanish-American War. If it were a state, it would be 29th in population and land wise would be larger than Rhode Island and Delaware.

Early on, Puerto Rico wanted to be independent, but by the turn of the 21st century, feelings had shifted. By 2012, with many families with members that lived in the US, Puerto Rico actually indicated a desire for statehood. As of right now, there is nothing pending in Congress to allow them to prepare a state constitution and appeal for statehood, but I wouldn’t be surprised to see that happen in the next 20 years. Can you imagine the US with 51 states?

When it comes to food, Puerto Rico has a very distinct culinary identity. Influenced by Spanish and Caribbean flavors, Puerto Rico has developed many dishes that are uniquely their own. I have a brother in law, Ernesto, who is Puerto Rican, so I went to him for advice on what to make. He gave me the suggestion to make Asopao de Pollo, which translated means “Chicken Stew”. Most people think of Puerto Rico as being tropical, but there is actually a mountainous region to the island, and in the winter it can get quite cool. This is a dish that was created for the colder temps and so with fall peaking around the corner here in Philly, this is a perfect dish for this week.

asopao-de-pollo
Puerto Rican Asopao de Pollo

This is really easy to make. It comes together in about 45 minutes, including prep, and you make it all in one pot; a perfect weeknight meal. This recipe uses two ingredients that I have never had before; sofrito and sazon. Both of these are integral to Puerto Rican cooking and there really is no substitute for them. There are recipes on the web for sofroto if you feel up to making your own, but Goya makes a jar version and is readily available in the Latin foods section of most large supermarkets. It was literally right next to the Sazon!

I really liked this. It is mild in flavor yet distinct. The rice gives it a heartiness that makes this an excellent cold weather dish. My son said it needed some texture, but I am not sure what I would add to it to give it some crunch without compromising the original flavor. Maybe just a simple side salad to give it some fresh contrast.

I highly recommend you give this one a try. It is super simple and delicious. If our other four territories are like this one, I think I am going to like this extension of the Fifty States of New Recipe Tuesday.

Thanks for stopping by. See you next week in Guam!

Asopao de Pollo

Chicken and Rice Stew from Puerto Rico

Ingredients

  • 8 boneless, skinless chicken thighs, cut into rough 1-inch pieces, seasoned with salt and pepper
  • 6 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 cup sofrito (homemade or store-bought)
  • 2 envelopes Goya Sazon sin achiote (without annatto)
  • 1 cup diced tomatoes (fresh or canned)
  • 6-8 cups low sodium chicken broth
  • ½ cup tomato sauce
  • 2 teaspoons capers, chopped
  • 2 bay leaves
  • ¾ cup long-grain rice
  • ½ cup sliced pimento-stuffed green olives
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Directions

  1. In a soup pot, heat oil and brown chicken.
  2. Add the sofrito, sazon, tomato sauce, diced tomatoes, capers, bay leaf, and 6 cups of chicken broth. Bring to a low boil, then reduce heat to a simmer and cook uncovered for 15 minutes.
  3. Add rice, bring back up to a simmer, and cook for another 20 minutes or until the rice is tender.  If the stew gets too thick, add more stock.
  4. Add the olives and season with salt and pepper. Serve with cilantro.

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