Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Belizean Chicken

This past Sunday I used the special Belizean spice mix from our recent vacation to cook up the last of the roosters we had in the fridge.

Rooster meat is rather stringy, so a nice long stewing process helps tenderize the meat. The secret Belizean spice mix is called ricardo. It contains annatto, and results in a dish that's mildly spicy and fragrant in a paprika sort of way.

This post on a Savannah News food blog gives a nice description of making the recipe.

The chicken is chopped up into ten to fourteen pieces. You then wash the meat in lime juice and water to clean it, and rinse well. I used white vinegar instead of lime juice.

According to the recipe we were given with the spices, here is the marinade for the meat:

- One onion
- Two "shilling-size" balls of the ricardo spice
- A teaspoon of soy sauce
- Three "plugs" of garlic

(Can you tell that Belize was formerly known as British Honduras?)

The marinade also called for Season-All and a sweet pepper, but I didn't add those because I didn't have any. The Savannah News recipe linked to above adds a little vinegar and lime juice to the marinade. So play around! I think the ricardo spice is the most essential part.

Another secret step to this recipe: the sauce begins by browning sugar in oil. Yum.

As soon as the sugar begins to turn dark and bubble, coat the chicken in the browning sugar. Brown chicken on all sides.

Once the chicken is brown, add the leftover marinade and turn the heat to low. I think I added a dash of water since the marinade seemed pretty dry. Simmer everything down until the chicken is tender (I think I did mine for half an hour, but for more stewed chicken maybe an hour? Experiment.)

The chicken didn't turn out quite as "stewed" and tender as what we had in Belize, but it was still good. I think I'm going to try cooking on even lower heat for a longer period of time, and maybe adding a little lime juice to the pan to add moisture.

In addition to rice and beans, I also made a simple and healthy coleslaw side dish:

There was a lot of stewed meat and rice and beans in Belize. It was yummy, but I really craved some vegetables!

I wanted the cabbage to retain its fresh crunch but not be completely raw. You can heat the vinegar dressing up, pour over the sliced cabbage, and let it sit so it barely wilts. Or if you prefer the slaw more well done you could always simmer it for a minute or two in the dressing.

For one head of cabbage:

- 1/2 cup of rice vinegar
- 1/4 cup of water
- 1 tablespoon yellow mustard seeds
- 1 tablespoon black mustard seeds
- 1 teaspoon of salt
- 1 tablespoon of sugar

Mix ingredients together and simmer until bubbles just begin to form. Pour over sliced cabbage and let sit for 20 minutes.

A great warm weather barbeque food, or a good way to pretend you're in the tropics on a cold day!

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