This chicken stew with coconut milk is sweet and sour and very delicious

This chicken stew with coconut milk is sweet and sour and very delicious

This column comes from Eating voraciously the news. Register here Get a week’s worth of dinner recipes, tips on substitutions, techniques, and more in your inbox Monday through Thursday.

In late August, my editor, Joe Yonan, asked me if I’d like to work on a profile of cookbook author Sandra Gutierrez. “Have you seen a preview of her new cookbook, ‘Latinísimo’?” he asked, noting that recipe editor Anne Maloney also liked it. I didn’t, but my interest was piqued.

Later that week, I was leafing through a PDF of the book on my computer, my mind preoccupied with 27 other unfinished tasks, when I came across a recipe for pupusa. I’ve had it many times before, but never thought about making it myself. This was a recipe that looked easy enough to make in less than an hour. Suddenly, the scope and scale of Gutierrez’s book became apparent.

Get the recipe: Coconut chicken

Recipes—more than 300—by indigenous, Spanish, African, and contemporary chefs are categorized by ingredients. Articles have expanded on the origins of the dishes, and the confluence of historical and cultural factors that led to their creation. At first, it looked like an encyclopedia of food from all 21 countries that make up Latin America, something I haven’t seen since Maricel E.’s wonderful “Gran Cocina Latina.” Priscilla in 2012.

What makes “Latinísimo” special is that it was written by a home cook, for the home cook. At 592 pages, it could easily have read as academic, but instead it’s packed with incredibly cookable recipes—and the kind of context that will make the curious cook want to try them. Recipes like this one, for Pollo en Coco, which is made in many Latin American countries, including Honduras, Guatemala, Colombia and Nicaragua.

In September, she flew to Cary, North Carolina, to spend a few days with Gutierrez in her home kitchen. On the second day, I watched her prepare this aromatic chicken cooked in coconut gravy. As we talked, she followed her own recipe in the book. When the dish was put together, the aroma—sweet, slightly sour, and very salty—filled the room.

“The first time I had this chicken, at a friend’s house in Honduras, I served it with a lot of cilantro — more like a salad than an appetizer,” Gutierrez told me. “And now I always serve her that way.”

A Life’s Work: Celebrating the glories of Latin American home cooking

The dish originated in coastal areas where coconut trees grow. In the introduction to the recipe, Gutierrez writes that the soup’s “deep coconut flavor reminds me of Thai curry, but without the heat.”

“Pollo en coco is traditionally made with banana or sour orange vinegar, but white wine vinegar is a very good alternative,” Gutierrez explains in the book. She also points out that not all chefs add mustard powder or stock, but she likes the flavor they add. This is another thing I love about “Latinísimo” – many recipes include suggested variations or substitutions, so chefs can adapt the recipes to suit their own tastes and preferences.

The final tip from Gutierrez concerns how to serve Pollo en Coco: “I always eat this soup in deep bowls over cooked rice, with plenty of baguette to soak up the abundant sauce.” And so we ate it that day in her dining area, steps from the stove, surrounded by cookbooks, in deep conversation about her life’s work.

Get the recipe: Coconut chicken

You may also like...

Leave a Reply