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EXPRESS LINE

A Faster Afritada

January 24, 1991|MINNIE BERNARDINO | TIMES STAFF WRITER

NOT THE SAME OLD CHICKEN Consomme with chives Chicken and Chayote in Fresh Tomato Sauce Hot pasta or steamed rice Crusty sourdough bread Berries and creme fraiche Afritada is a Philippine stew that requires long, slow simmering and an enormous list of ingredients. You begin with either chicken or pork, throw in bay leaves, Spanish paprika, vinegar, sweet peppers, tomatoes and (sometimes) green olives. Toward the end you fry cubes of potatoes and drop them into the stew with green peas. It's delicious--and it takes forever.

This dish, inspired by Afritada , is also delicious--and it can be cooked very quickly. To cut the cooking time, we've used boneless chicken breasts and a jar of tangy pepper salad, which includes sweet and cherry peppers in vinegar and spices.

Because there's no substitute for chopped fresh tomatoes, we have not replaced them with canned. But in place of the traditional potatoes, why not try chayote? It's that pale-green, pear-shaped squash that the Cantonese call hop jeung gua and the Cajuns call mirliton . (Chayote, halved, seeded and sliced like an avocado, can be steamed or stir-fried. Crisp, thinly slivered pieces may also be eaten raw in salads.)

In this dish, you can retain the chayote's bright-green color by zapping the wedges in the microwave for about 3 minutes with a little water and adding it to the bright red sauce at the last minute.

CHICKEN AND CHAYOTE

IN FRESH TOMATO SAUCE Staples

Salt, pepper

3 cloves garlic

1/2 onion

1 to 2 tablespoons butter

1 small jar fines herbes

Shopping List

4 boneless chicken breast halves

1 extra large tomato

1 chayote

1 (9 1/4-ounce) jar pepper salad

1. Sprinkle 4 boneless chicken breast halves with salt and pepper to taste.

2. Mince 3 cloves garlic. Slice 1/2 onion. Dice 1 extra-large tomato (about 1 1/4 cups). Peel 1 chayote, halve, remove white seed and cut flesh in thin wedges.

3. Melt 1 to 2 tablespoons butter in 10-inch skillet over medium heat. Add chicken breast halves, skin side down. Cook 5 minutes to sear, push on side of skillet.

4. Add garlic, onion, tomato and 1/2 teaspoon fines herbes, stirring. Turn chicken.

5. Stir in 1 (9 1/4-ounce) jar pepper salad. Cover and simmer 5 minutes.

6. Add chayote. Cover and simmer until chicken and chayote are tender and sauce is thicker, about 15 minutes longer. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Makes 4 servings.

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