Friday, September 17, 2010

Dominican Republic

The Dominican Republic is located in the Caribbean, on the same island as Haiti. Culinary influences include the Spanish (it used to be a Spanish colony), indigenous Taino, and African (Africans were brought by the Spanish to be slaves), and is most similar to Cuba and Puerto Rico. Common dishes include rice and beans, pork, other stewed meat, and seafood (for coastal residents). Dominican food tends to be less spicy than most other Caribbean food, and dominant seasonings are garlic, onion, cilantro, and oregano. I've also heard that chicken bouillon cubes contribute to a uniquely Dominican flavor.

I came across the recipe for the chicken nuggets online and decided that anything marinated in rum was all right with me. Usually chicharrones are made with pork rind, but chicken is apparently the Dominican way. I used chicken thighs and marinated them overnight in a ziplock bag. The frying process was surprisingly painless and the nuggets were flavorful but not actually spicy. My friend Ben said that he'd only had them with pork before, but that these tasted just about right. My only regrets were that I could have fried a few of them longer and that I didn't have any lime wedges!

My friend Ashley spent some time in the Dominican Republic and told me that I couldn't skip rice and red beans. She was kind enough to pass along her recipe and some tips, and it was delicious! I used basmati rice, since it was what I had around. Next time I might chop the onion a bit smaller (the recipe calls for quarters), but it was surprisingly tasty and sweet. I'll definitely make this again! Maybe I'll even have it for breakfast topped with a fried egg.

Chicharrones de Pollo (spicy chicken nuggets)
1/4 cup dark rum
1/4 cup lime juice
1/4 cup soy sauce
1 tbsp sugar
1.5 lbs boneless skinless chicken breasts or thighs
1/2 cup flour
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp paprika (I used sweet)
oil for frying

Slice the chicken into small chunks (1 1/2 inches or so) and marinate in the rum, lime juice, soy sauce, and sugar for at least 30 minutes at room temperature (can be longer in the refrigerator, but must sit 30 minutes at room temperature). Dry the chicken on paper towels, dredge in a flour/salt/paprika mixture, and fry in oil until golden brown. Serve with lime wedges and/or hot sauce.

Stewed Red Beans
1 15 oz can red kidney beans
1 cup water
1/2 cup of chopped celery
1 small red onion chopped into four quarters
1 cube chicken bouillon
1/2 tsp chopped cilantro
1/2 tsp thyme leaves
1 tbsp tomato paste
1 tbsp oil
1/2 tsp mashed garlic
pinch of orgegano

In a pot heat the oil. Add oregano, onion, garlic, tomato paste, celery and herbs. Stir and add two tablespoons of water. Add the beans and simmer. When the water has almost evaporated add the chicken bouillon and two more tablespoons of water, stir. Add the remaining water mashing the beans over heat. Boil at medium heat until it reaches a creamy consistency. Adjust salt to taste. Serve with rice.

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