Friday, December 25, 2009

Afritada..Or is it Caldereta?

Can someone tell me what Afritada is? How different is it from Caldereta? Some meat stew made with tomato sauce, but Caldereta seems to be more associated with beef or chevon (goat meat) while Afritada is more chicken and pork. Is that the only difference?

Anyway, I love anything in tomato sauce, with tomato sauce or just tomato sauce or plain tomato. I love tomato soup (I'll feature the best tomato soup I've had so far in the next post) and tomato salads. I love it sliced for pizza topping or for braising meats. It's very versatile, and what more, it's very cheap.

And who can resist tomato with salted egg? With or without the tinapa, this combo has saved me from many nights of starvation, especially if I'm only cooking for one (Allan on the nightshift).

But let's go back to Afritada. Or Caldereta. This for me is something made only during fiestas or special occasions. I find that weird because chicken is pretty cheap and so are the other ingredients, but I guess the special-ness of the entire thing is reserved for special times only. So whenever I prepare this dish, I go all out, not only in the prep (whole block of cheese, carrot flowers) but with time. I use a slow cooker for this and cook it for 2-3 hours on low, just to allow the chicken to soften and release it's juices. By the time I serve it, the potatoes and the chicken will be tender, and the sauce thick and delicious. Never had complaints so far.


Now remember, I always cook only for one or two, so this recipe will only serve that many people. Maybe even three, if you keep the portions smaller. But you can easily double the recipe.

500g chicken (I usually use the thigh/leg part with the bone in, breast is blah tasting)
~300mL tomato sauce
1 block of cheese, grated (Some use cheez whiz, I find that gross. Just sayin')
200g baby potatoes (You can cut them in half if they're bigger than bite size. Or you can cube regular sized potatoes)
1 carrot, cut into florets (you can cube them, haha)
1-2 cups peas (As much as possible, buy them fresh and shuck them yourself. Tastes MUCH better than frozen or, dear me, canned)
the garlic-onion sautee combo
2 bay leaves
cooking oil

Let's do it!

1. Season chicken with salt and pepper and sear on high heat for two minutes. This part gives the chicken a nice caramelized crust and also preserves the juices within.
2. In the same pan, sautee garlic and onion, add the baby potatoes and carrots. Add the tomato sauce.
3. Put chicken back in and stir until chicken is covered in tomato sauce. Add bay leaves.
4. Transfer to slow cooker, cook on low for 2-3 hours. Alternatively, you can choose not to transfer to a slow cooker and just simmer it in the pan for about 45 minutes. After half the time (1.5 hours on slow cooker, around 20 minutes in stove top) add ALL the grated cheese. The sauce will lighten in color.
5. Season to taste. You may not need to add any more salt, but that's up to you. Leave to simmer for the remaining time.

While the chicken is cooking, let's sit down and let me tell you about my slow cooker. I bought it in a Japanese surplus shop for, like, Php500 and it can cook enough for ten people. It's really a great addition to my kitchen arsenal. I love those little surplus shops. Next I'm eyeing a nice electric griddle/pan/teppanyaki plate where I can grill stuff. Only around php400 I think. And it's teflon!

So, enjoy your chicken dinner. Don't forget the rice.

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