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Dorothy Dean presents: Fragrant Mexican chicken stew is hearty and comforting

UPDATED: Mon., March 22, 2021

By Audrey Alfaro For The Spokesman-Review

Growing up, weekends were spent visiting my grandma and catching up on her Publishers Clearing House contests and church gossip.

She was usually preparing “supper,” as she called it, and I would be right next to her, eager to learn her recipes, and she was just as eager to teach them.

However, she eyeballed everything (a skill I’ve since grasped), so translating “pinches,” “dabs” and “handfuls” into exact measurements was definitely tricky.

(I still haven’t figured out her sought-after tortilla recipe – that was the family favorite.)

I vividly remember the aromas of this particular stew filling my grandmother’s home.

She’s of Spanish descent and often cooked with spices like cumin, garlic, paprika and oregano, all of which are included in this dish, along with chicken broth, onions, peppers, stewed tomatoes, shredded chicken and rice.

With layers of flavor from tomato-y to spice, this fragrant stew is warm, hearty and delicious as it is comforting.

It’s served with a dollop of sour cream, sprinkle of cilantro and squeeze of lime, which add a coolness and bright pop of flavor to the zestiness of the stew. It also goes great with warm, buttered tortillas.

The recipe calls for cooked chicken that’s shredded. A rotisserie chicken from Costco is perfect for this, or any leftover meat can be used, including pork or beef.

Additional veggies like cabbage, potatoes or okra can be added to the stew, as well.

And don’t skip on toasting the rice. It adds a subtle nuttiness and prevents your rice from being mushy. We want fluffy, individual grains, not clumps. (This is also a key step when making Spanish rice.)

Mexican Chicken Stew

2 tablespoons olive oil

½ onion, chopped

1 green bell pepper, chopped

4 large garlic cloves, minced

1 jalapeño, seeded and diced

2 (14-ounce) cans Mexican stewed tomatoes

3-4 cups shredded cooked chicken

4 ½ cups chicken stock

1 ½ tablespoons dried oregano

1 ½ teaspoons dried cumin

1 teaspoon garlic powder

½ teaspoon paprika to taste

Kosher salt and pepper

1 tablespoon butter

½ cup uncooked white rice

For serving:

Sour cream, cilantro and lime wedges

Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the onion and bell pepper and sauté for 1 to 2 minutes. Stir in the garlic and jalapeno and cook until softened.

Add in the stewed tomatoes, cooked chicken, chicken stock, oregano, cumin and garlic powder. Stir and season to taste with the salt and pepper.

In another pan, melt the butter over medium high heat. Add the rice to the melted butter and cook, stirring frequently, until lightly brown and toasted.

Add the toasted rice into the stew mixture and stir to combine. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat to low, cover and simmer until the rice is tender, about 15 minutes.

Ladle into bowls and serve with sour cream, cilantro and lime wedges.

Audrey Alfaro can be reached at spoonandswallow@yahoo.com.

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