Monday, March 27, 2023

I recently had the opportunity to visit friends in Panama, a welcome escape during this exceptionally cold and snowy winter. A particularly memorable lunch featured two exciting new flavors. The first was a preparation of chicken that had been slowly simmered with garlic, sweet peppers and tomatoes. Once cooked, it was deboned and returned to the aromatic cooking liquid. The second was a flavorsome rouille of charred red peppers and garlic. While the rouille was served in a bowl as a dipping sauce for some outstanding fried plantains, I found it to be a wonderful condiment on lightly toasted bread served with the succulent chicken dish. The rouille is delicious with a cioppino or other fish soup. Special thanks to that afternoon’s chef, Elvia de Gonzalez, for her tender, flavorful classically Panamanian chicken dish and to Heather Anderson-Ross, whose red pepper rouille has taken a permanent place on my list of favorites.

Here are my New York renditions of Pollo Elvia and Heather’s Rouille. Enjoy some Panamanian flavors while waiting for winter to pass!

Pollo Elvia

What You Need:

1 chicken, butterflied

Heavy skillet with tight fitting lid, wide enough to accommodate the chicken

Wooden spatula with flat top

Olive oil for skillet


Freshly ground pepper

½ C. white cooking wine

3 cloves garlic, roughly chopped

2 shallots, roughly chopped

6 tomatoes from 1 can top quality imported Italian tomatoes

2 roasted yellow peppers, about ½ cup when sliced

1 large bay leaf

1 tsp. red pepper flakes or to taste

½ tsp. sweet Andalusian paprika

2 T. chopped parsley

What You Do:

Heat the skillet and add olive oil to cover the bottom. Sprinkle salt and pepper on the butterflied chicken. Place chicken bone side down in skillet for five minutes, and then flip it over so the breast side is down. Add the white wine, deglazing the pan with the wooden spatula where necessary. Reduce heat to medium low. Add the garlic, tomatoes, bay leaf and shallots. Move the chicken around so that the aromatics go under the breast as well as across the skillet. Spoon some on top of the bone side that is up. Cover and reduce flame to low. Allow the chicken to slow cook, turning a couple of times so that the ribs are immersed in the cooking liquid for a few turns. After about 2 hours, the joints should be loosened and the meat will just begin to pull away from the bone. At that point, place the chicken on a large plate, leaving the cooking liquid in the pot. There will be several cups of fragrant stock in the pot. Raise heat and allow the stock to reduce slightly. Separate the chicken legs, thighs and breast pieces, allowing them to cool just until you can handle them without burning yourself. Pull off and discard the skin. Pull the meat from the bones and tear into large pieces going with the grain. Return the deboned chicken to the stock. Taste and adjust salt, pepper and hot pepper, then blend in the chopped parsley. Cover and allow the chicken to steep in the flavorful liquid for at least half an hour, allowing the warm chicken pieces to absorb the rich stock.

Heather’s Rouille

What You Need:

A Cuisinart

5 large roasted red peppers. Bottled will do as a substitute.

6 large cloves garlic

¼ tsp. sugar

¾ c. cubed, cooked Yukon gold potato

½ tsp. red pepper flakes

¼ tsp. salt

1 tsp. of your favorite chili powder. I use Santa Fe chili powder.

½ C. ground almonds

1 T. unfiltered apple cider vinegar

2 T. mayonnaise

3 T. chopped Italian flat leaf parsley

½ C. Olive oil

Place the first seven ingredients in the work bowl of the Cuisinart. Run until everything is pureed. Add the cider vinegar, the mayonnaise and the ground almonds. Run the Cuisinart and, through the feed tube, slowly pour the olive oil. The rouille will lighten and develop a bit of a shine. When the olive oil has been incorporated, keep running for another minute. Pulsing the machine, add the parsley. Refrigerate the rouille. It will thicken as it sits.

Serve alongside the Pollo Elvia with a crusty bread and a green salad.

Buen apetito!

By Lisa Reitman Dobi

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