Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Stew chicken and pigeon peas over brown rice with green salads

Stew chicken is, I believe, my death row meal. Lobster? I mean, it's good, but I don't yearn for it... Steak? I can take or leave it, honestly. Stew chicken, particularly if made by a Trini like my Mom? Hell. Yes. This is just my very easy version, no hard-to-find island ingredients like "green seasoning". Speaking of hard to find ingredients, these are pigeon peas.

And they are awesome. Uniquely soft and creamy and savory. You can often find them in the Hispanic section of your grocery store, but I've made this with regular old black beans in a pinch when I couldn't find them. I'll definitely try it with my own fresh blackeyed peas, too, although I suspect I'll always like the pigeon peas best.

These are hardly the most captivating salads on earth, but I am trying to wait patiently for my own cucumbers and not buy any in the interim. I had an apple I could have sliced in, but no appropriate cheese to crumble atop (no Gorgonzola, Stilton, feta, goat, nothing. Depression. Need to go cheese shopping). Sigh. But you know what we discovered? Lettuce from your own garden has a heck of a lot more flavor than lettuce from Albertsons, so it was actually a pretty good salad after all!

~2 tbsp vegetable oil (not olive - it'll scorch)
~2 tbsp plain old white sugar
2 boneless skinless chicken breasts, cubed, or 4 thighs cut into pieces, or a couple of pieces of quartered chicken on the bone, whatever
1/2 a large yellow onion, sliced thinly
3 cloves garlic, minced
1-2 tbsp tomato paste
2 cups low sodium chicken stock or water
dash of Kitchen Bouquet, optional (but authentic)
1 can pigeon peas, or black beans if you can't find them, drained and rinsed

1 package instant brown rice (I like the Success brand ones)

lovely mixed lettuce leaves, preferably from your garden, maybe even with a cucumber one day

Begin with the stew. Season your chicken with kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper. In a large heavy-bottomed pot or Dutch oven, combine your oil and sugar on medium heat. Burning your sugar properly is absolutely critical to the foundation of this dish. If you don't burn it enough, it's going to taste like, well, sugar. And sugary chicken stew is not good eats. You really need to burn the shit out of it. It's going to look like this at first. Sugar in oil, weird, right?

Here it's just starting to caramelize, after 2 or 3 minutes...

But you really need to burn the shit out of it. Note the smoke - please turn on your vent, unless you enjoy being screamed at by your smoke detector. It'll take anywhere from 5 to 10 minutes.

At this point, add your chicken. That sugar is approximately the temperature of the sun, so be careful - add it gently and away from you, don't just fling it in. Stir to get it all coated and cover for a minute. Then add your onions and garlic, stir well, and cover for another minute or two. Add your chicken broth or water and tomato paste, cover again, and let cook for 10 minutes or so. [This is a good time to start water boiling for your rice.] Now make sure you taste it - odds are you're going to need to add salt. Here's where I add a dash of Kitchen Bouquet, too. Stir in your pigeon peas, cover and just let it lightly simmer over a low flame. By the time your rice and salads are ready, your stew chicken will be too. If you're using chicken on the bone it will take longer to cook through, which is why I like boneless breasts for the weeknight.

Cook your rice according to the package directions.

While that's happening, rinse well and spin dry your lettuce leaves. Don't have a salad spinner? You should really get one. I use mine daily. No more soggy salads. Anyway, rip up the leaves, place into bowls and serve with the dressing of your choice. I like a good pungent apple cider vinaigrette. Allan likes Season-All. Vive la difference!

Spoon your rice into shallow bowls and ladle your stew chicken over it. 

Serves 2, takes under 40 minutes. Consume with peppersauce.


  1. That looks amazing. You didn't say how much/many pigeon peas you need. Also, are they dried or canned? Never cooked with them before.

  2. Oh, my bad. 1 can, I'll amend the recipe. I knew I was forgetting something.

  3. Nice, I'm going to try this one. PS what the hell is Kitchen Bouquet and peppersauce?

  4. Kitchen Bouquet is kind of a seasoning sauce / gravy base. They'll have it in the grocery store. I just use a little dash to darken things up, like a teaspoon or two.

    Peppersauce in Trinidad is made from scotch bonnet peppers - some seriously hot stuff. I usually get homemade either from my mom or stuffed in someone's suitcase from Trinidad. It just tastes good with some heat - if I didn't have peppersauce I'd probably add red chili flakes while it cooks.

    Can't wait to hear how it turns out!! My mom adds cubed pumpkin sometimes, making it a total one-bowl meal. Mmm.