Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Mancha Manteles (Spicy Chicken Stew with Fruit)

Now that it's the New Year, all the grocery stores are featuring a main display of some type of cleanse: everywhere I go bottles of lemon juice, maple syrup, and cayenne pepper teeter in a corner, challenging us to get moving on those pesky resolutions we so adamantly declared last week. Here's the thing though. A cold spell is fast descending on the Northeast, and as flurries whirl for the first time this season, it truly feels like winter. And despite how unwaveringly you committed to losing those extra lbs in 2015, a thin lemon juice for dinner is the last thing you want in the face of these subfreezing temps. You're basically asking for a cold! So let's stick to the weight-loss goals, but ditch the cold press for healthy via whole. First thing that comes to mind? Warm-me-up soups and stews.

Do I have a great one for you. This recipe for Spicy Chicken Stew with Fruit, or Mancha Manteles, translates to "table-cloth stainers"; aptly named for it's chili and tomato based rich red tones. If you're me, you can expand the list of items stained from table-cloth to the entire kitchen, because I lazily used an immersion blender in my shallow skillet instead of a blender, causing a 360 degree whiplash effect of tomato drops on the wall, counter, and stove. (Oy, my new kitchen!)

However, it's the blended part of this recipe that elevates the stew to it's superior class. Yes, the tomatoey, cinnamon and chili spiced sweet potato, chicken, pineapple, apple, and banana concoction would be tasty enough on its own—kind of like a sweeter chili variation. But its the pureeing of onion, red pepper, and toasted almonds that deepens the flavor and texture palate significantly, adding a nutty, Romesco taste and substantive consistency for a truly phenomenal winter main.

The stew takes some effort to make—not a ton, but it isn't something you can just throw in the pot and come back a few ours later and it's done—but lends itself perfectly to that big batch cooking style worth the time commitment. Feel free to eat it for the week, serve a crowd, or freeze for later. Each ingredients offers a cold-repellent health benefit, from the nutrient-rich fruits to the superfood sweet potatoes; it's not calories here that will fill you up quickly, but rather the plethora of fiber-rich ingredients. This is hearty and healthy at it's finest—with each bowlful heat curls into the air, radiating spice and relish—and I promise you this is the best way to dive into winter's weather woes while feeling powerfully health-charged for the New Year.

Spicy Chicken Stew with Fruit (Mancha Manteles)
Originally from Betty Crocker International; courtesy of My Mama
Serves 4 to 6

·      2 tablespoons vegetable oil
·      2 pounds chicken legs and thighs (can substitute breasts)
·      1 medium onion, chopped
·      1 green or red pepper, chopped (I recommend red)
·      ¼ cup whole almonds
·      1 can (8 oz) low sodium tomato sauce
·      1 can (8 ½ oz) sliced pineapple, drained (reserve ¼ cup syrup)
·      ½ cup water (more may be needed to increase liquid)
·      2 teaspoons chili powder
·      1 teaspoon salt
·      ½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
·      2 sweet potatoes, cut into 1-inch pieces
·      2 apples, sliced
·      2 bananas, sliced
·      Parsley or cilantro
·      1 ½ cup whole-wheat couscous


  1. Heat oil in Dutch oven or 12-inch skillet until hot. Cook chicken over medium heat until brown on all sides, about 15 minutes. (If using breasts, this will take about 7 minutes.) Set chicken aside.
  2. Cook and stir onion, pepper, and almonds until onion is tender. Place onion, pepper, almonds and tomato sauce in blender. Cover and blender until of uniform consistency. (You can use an immersion blender, but be warned of the splatter!)
  3. If using dark meat, drain fat from Dutch oven. Mix tomato mixture, reserved pineapple syrup, the water, chili powder, salt and cinnamon in Dutch oven/skillet. Add chicken and sweet potatoes.
  4. Heat to boiling; reduce heat. Cover and simmer until sweet potatoes are tender, 20 to 30 minutes. Add more water if necessary—the sweet potatoes and chicken should be mostly covered in liquid.
  5. Cut pineapple slices into halves; add pineapple and apples to chicken mixture. Cover and simmer until apples are tender, about 10 minutes. 
  6. Prepare couscous according to package directions.
  7. Add bananas to stew. Serve in soup bowls on top of couscous; garnish with parsley or cilantro.

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