Molly Feliciano knew little Spanish, and her mother-in-law, Cielo Rodriguez Feliciano, spoke little English. So Molly's foray into Puerto Rican cuisine began by shadowing her in the kitchen. "She didn't measure anything, and there were no recipes," says Molly, who grew up eating the basic meat-and-potatoes dishes of her Irish-American and German roots. "I had to learn how to use a Spanish-English dictionary." She was particularly intrigued by her mother-in-law's chicken fricasse stew served over white rice. "This was a staple in her house," Molly says. "All ingredients were fresh. There were no cans, boxes or instant this or that." What makes this dish particularly flavorful is the sofrito — a blend of cilantro, onion, tomatoes, garlic and green pepper. But Molly's iteration has evolved. "I've taken shortcuts," she says. "My mother-in-law wouldn't have used Sazon Goya [a seasoning blend]. Despite the changes, I'm certain she would be happily enjoying this meal."
For a healthier alternative to this recipe passed down from Molly, Kelly uses boneless, skinless chicken and coconut oil instead of olive oil when cooking with her husband, Jose Feliciano Jr. "We like it spicy, too, so we'll add in some finely chopped serrano or habanero peppers," she says. "The kitchen smells amazing, and it tastes so flavorful. It's the perfect winter comfort food."
- 3 pounds bone-in, skinless chicken thighs
- 1 tablespoon Goya adobo seasoning
- 5 tablespoons olive oil, set aside 2
- 1 teaspoon whole dried oregano
- 1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
- 3 tablespoons garlic, mashed with a mortar and pestle or side of knife
- 1 medium onion, diced
- 1/2 green pepper, diced
- 1/2 cup cilantro, chopped
- 1 14-ounce can diced tomatoes
- 12-15 small green pimiento-stuffed olives
- 1 tablespoon capers (optional)
- 2 bay leaves
- 1 envelope Sazon Goya sin achiote*
- 2 tablespoons tomato paste
- 1 cup dry red wine
- 3/4 cup chicken stock
- 1 pound petite gold potatoes, halved or quartered
- Kosher salt to taste
Combine the first six ingredients together in a bowl and set aside in the refrigerator.
In a caldero (large, heavy-bottomed pot), heat the additional 2 tablespoons of olive oil and add the diced onion, green pepper and cilantro. Saute until translucent and lightly season with salt.
Add the canned tomatoes, olives, optional capers, bay leaves and Sazon. Cook for 8-10 minutes.
Add the chicken mix, tomato paste, chicken stock and red wine. Bring to a boil and then lower heat.
Cover and simmer and braise for about 30 minutes.
Add potatoes, bring to a boil, cover and reduce heat. Cook for an additional 20-25 minutes.
Serve over white rice.