Rosalina Rios is a confident, humorous, fast-talking woman who moved here from Villa Guerrero, Mexico, 20 years ago. For the past year and a half, Rosie has worked as a live-in housekeeper/cook for TV actor Alan Thicke and his two teen-age sons in their big Spanish-style Toluca Lake home.
While making her popular stir-fry chicken dish in the neat, airy kitchen, Rios talks about herself and her job.
"They think I'm the best nanny, the best cook, the best housekeeper and a driver too. I'm happy here."
Rios says that the Thickes are hospitable people. "The house is always running with friends." On a normal evening there are six to eight people; when there are guests, "15 to 20."
"They always ask: 'How come you don't make more so we can have more the next day?' " Rios says. Alan Thicke likes leftovers. "He's always looking for a bite to eat. Now I've learned to always add some, particularly when I make pork chops and barbecue chicken. But nothing lasts."
Rios is quick to point out that she is not a chef. "I like to do simple foods. I don't have time to make complicated things, with all the work in the house. I never measure anything. Very rarely do I look at books." She laughs and adds: "It has to taste good because I always end up eating with them. So I cook to my taste."
Before Rios came to work here, she worked on a computer, in accounts payable. "Then I hurt my back and I couldn't work in the office any more." It turned out to be a lucky injury. "I make more money than any office girl I know--and I save more money living here. I get medical insurance, retirement benefits." She flashes one of her quick smiles and adds: "I like helping people. I need to give my attention and love to someone else."
"This isn't true Chinese or Mexican," says Rios. "But I call it drunken chicken or pollo borracho. It's a very colorful stir-fry dish that I serve with rice. Lots of times I just add whatever vegetables I have in the refrigerator."
ROSIE'S CHINESE POLLO BORRACHO
4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cubed
Freshly ground pepper
2 tablespoons white wine or to taste
3 tablespoons soy sauce
2 tablespoons peanut oil
1 teaspoon butter
1 teaspoon garlic salt or minced garlic
1 (1-inch) piece ginger root, peeled and crushed
1 1/2 tablespoons paprika
2 carrots, peeled and diagonally sliced
1 sweet red pepper, cut in strips
1 1/2 tablespoons cornstarch
1/2 cup water
2 tablespoons teriyaki sauce
1 large onion, sliced
2 cups Chinese pea pods
1/2 head napa cabbage, cut in chunks, optional
1 large tomato, cut in wedges
Hot cooked rice
Marinate chicken in pepper, white wine and 2 tablespoons soy sauce 10 to 15 minutes.
Heat oil and butter in wok over medium-high heat. Add chicken, garlic salt, ginger and paprika and saute 3 to 5 minutes. Add carrots and red pepper and stir-fry 3 minutes.
Stir cornstarch and water until smooth. Add to wok with remaining 1 tablespoon soy sauce and teriyaki sauce. Allow to boil gently, stirring until thickened. Add onion, Chinese pea pods and napa cabbage. Stir-fry 1 to 2 minutes or until pea pods are tender-crisp. Adjust seasonings to taste. Gently mix in tomato wedges. Heat briefly and serve immediately with rice. Makes 4 to 6 servings.