Chicken with Cuban-Style Picadillo

Ah, Miami…where everyone either drives like a bat out of hell or is way past retirement age and drives 45 mph in the fast lane on the interstate.  The best thing about south Florida (other than the Everglades) is the abundance of seafood and Cuban food.  The best flan I’ve ever had was at La Carreta on Southwest 8th Street and their vaca frita was mighty tasty too.  My husband and I really enjoyed our meal even though we only know a few words of Spanish and the waitress only knew few words in English.  When all else fails, smile and point.  Our trip to Miami really opened up a new culinary world for me and in the last couple of years I have occasionally tried out a few Cuban recipes on my willing guinea pig of a husband. Yay for being married to someone who is not a picky eater!

This Cuban-style picadillo recipe came out of a Fine Cooking magazine.  Therefore,  I cannot vouch for any sort of authenticity in the ingredients nor do I know if chicken would ever truly be served with picadillo.  What I do know is that this is one terrific recipe.  The combination of spices melding together with the tomatoes, the salty olives and capers makes flavorful sauce reminiscent not only of the Caribbean but also of Spain.  Don’t let the long list of ingredients scare you off, everything should be a pantry staple, which makes this an ideal recipe for throwing together any night of the week. 

1 pound boneless, skinless chicken breasts
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground cayenne
pinch of ground allspice
pinch of ground nutmeg
1 large garlic clove, minced
2 tablespoons olive oil
1/3 cup finely diced onion
1 tablespoon tomato paste
1/3 cup dry red wine
1 (14.5-ounce) can diced tomatoes, with juice
1/2 tablespoon (1 1/2 teaspoons) brown sugar, light or dark
20 pimento stuffed olives, sliced crosswise into thirds
1 tablespoon capers, drained and rinsed
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon chopped fresh cilantro or parsley

Trim any visible fat from the chicken and slice each breast at an angle into 3/4-inch thick pieces.  Set aside.  In a small bowl, combine together the cumin, oregano, cinnamon, cayenne, allspice, nutmeg and garlic.

In a 10-inch straight-sided sauté pan, heat 1 tablespoon of olive oil over medium heat until it is shimmery.  Add the chicken and sauté until no longer pink, 4-5 minutes.  Transfer to a plate.

Keep the pan over medium heat and add the remaining 1 tablespoon of olive oil and the onion.  Sauté, stirring constantly, until the onion is softened and light brown, 2-3 minutes.  Add the spices and cook, stirring constantly, for about 20 seconds.  Add the tomato paste, smear it around the pan, stirring for about 30 seconds.  Add the wine and stir to loosen the brown bits on the bottom of the pan.  Simmer 1-2 minutes until it looks like a coarse, wet paste.

Stir in the tomatoes with their juices, the brown sugar and salt.  Cover and simmer 5 minutes.  Stir in the olives, capers and chicken.  Simmer, uncovered, for 5-6 minutes until the sauce is lightly thickened and the chicken is cooked through.  Serve over rice and garnish with chopped cilantro or parsley.

serves 2-3

adapted from The Best of Fine Cooking: Chicken 2012

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