After three and a half centuries of Spanish colonization, it is not surprising that we find a lot of Mediterranean-style stews in our cuisine. There are claims, however, that what we consider as Spanish-influenced dishes more closely resemble their counterparts in Mexican cuisine. Whether or not that is true is something I’ll leave to the historians. What I do know is that tomato-based stews abound in Filipino cuisine.
Though similar in appearance, kaldereta“™s sauce is thickened with mashed liver, Machado uses thick beef slices with a cube of fat inserted at the center, calls is served with olives and its sauce is sticky because of the ligaments from the beef pata, pochero is additionally served with green vegetables and is accompanied by a spicy eggplant sauce (nowadays called eggplant caviar) and menudo has cubes of pork liver and is cooked with garbanzos (chickpeas) and raisins.
This is my version of chicken afritada. Whether it is more Mexican than Spanish, I cannot say. Truth is, it might even be more akin to an Italian stew than anything else. The secret is in the slow cooking which results in a thick and rich sauce. If you happen to have a piece of ham bone then, by all means, throw it in for added flavor.
Heat the olive oil in a large thick-bottomed pot. Add the chicken pieces, in batches if necessary, and cook until lightly browned. Add the chopped onions, minced garlic, and laurel leaves, and cook, stirring, until the onion bits start to soften about three minutes. Pour in the red wine. Boil, uncovered, until the liquid is reduced to less than half. Add the diced tomatoes and oregano. Stir. Season with salt, pepper and sugar.
Add the sliced chorizo, carrot, and potato wedges. Stir. Cover the pot tightly and simmer the stew for 40 to 50 minutes. If the liquid evaporates too fast, add broth or water, no more than half a cup at a time. Toward the end of cooking time, taste the sauce and add more salt, pepper, or sugar if necessary.
Remove the laurel leaves after cooking.
For best results, allow the cooked stew to sit for a couple of hours to allow the flavors to infuse and fully develop. Reheat to serve. Note: After cooking this dish last week, I set aside one portion, cooled it then put it in the freezer. On Sunday, Sam brought that frozen portion back to the condo as one of the four dinners (only four schooldays supposedly this week) she can reheat during the week. She brought it home yesterday though — classes were suspended after two students tested positive for A(H1N1) virus.