Seco de pollo or chicken stew is another delicious recipe from Ecuador. It is one of dishes that you crave on a day when you want a nice home cooked meal that not only satisfies your stomach, but also gives you that overall happy feeling. This dish is also known as seco de gallina criolla. If it is made with a young chicken it is called seco de pollo, and if it is made with an older hen it is called seco de gallina criolla. Traditionally it was a way to cook those older tougher hens and soften the meat by cooking it slowly in a sauce of onions, garlic, peppers, tomatoes, herbs and spices.
Seco de pollo or seco de gallina is an Ecuadorian chicken stew cooked slowly in a sauce of beer (or chicha), naranjilla juice, onions, garlic, peppers, tomatoes, herbs and spices.
- 4 to 5 lbs of assorted chicken pieces
- 2 teaspoons of ground cumin
- 2 tsp ground achiote or annatto, can also use paprika (if you can’t find ground achiote you can use the seeds, they will need to be simmered in the oil until they release their color)
- 2 to 3 tablespoons of oil
- 1 onion, cut into chunks
- 6 to 8 garlic cloves
- 1 to 2 cups of beer (or chicken broth/wine/chicha)
- 1 cup of naranjilla (lulo) juice, can use the frozen concentrate (can be replaced with fresh orange juice as an alternative)
- 4- 6 tomatoes (1 pound), quartered
- 2 bell peppers, seeds removed and cut into chunks
- Optional: 1 aji or hot pepper (jalapeno or serrano), can also use chili powder
- 1 bunch cilantro, reserve some to chop finely to add at the end
- 1 bunch parsley, leaves only, reserve some to chop finely and add at the end
- 2 tsp dry oregano or 2-3 fresh oregano sprigs
- Juice of 1 orange (optional)
- Salt and pepper to taste
- Arroz amarillo or yellow achiote rice recipe
- Fried ripe plantains recipe
- Avocado slices
- Small side salad
- Rub the chicken pieces with the ground achiote, cumin, salt and pepper.
- Blend the beer and the naranjilla juice with the onion chunks, whole garlic cloves, tomatoes, bell peppers, hot pepper, cilantro, parsley, oregano to obtain a smooth sauce or puree.
- Heat the oil and brown the chicken pieces.
- Pour the blended beer vegetable mix over the chicken. Bring to a boil.
- Reduce the heat and cook on low for about an hour (if you were using an old hen it would take longer, but most supermarket chicken will be tender in an hour or less).
- If the chicken is tender, but sauce isn't thick yet, then remove the cooked chicken pieces, turn up the heat and cook the sauce until it's nice and thick, about 10 to 15 minutes. At this point I also like to taste the sauce and adjust salt/spices, if the flavor is slightly bitter from the beer you can neutralize it by adding some freshly squeezed orange juice/lemon juice. Once the sauce has thickened add the chicken pieces back to the pot and mix in the remaining chopped cilantro and parsley.
- Serve with arroz amarillo or yellow rice and fried ripe plantains. Can also be served with avocado and a small salad.
The traditional preparation also uses chicha – a fermented corn drink – instead of beer, though most people today prepare it with beer because it is much easier to find and tastes great. Sometimes naranjilla juice is also added. I recommend using a light and mild flavored beer, if not the flavor might be on the bitter side. If that happens, you can offset the bitterness by adding some citrus (orange, sour orange, lemon/lime, naranjilla/lulo juice) until you have the right balance. You can also use a mix of beer and citrus juice, like naranjilla or lulo juice. Other options for the liquid include a mix of half white wine and half orange juice. I find the flavor of chicha similar to a semi-dry apple cider, so apple cider is also another alternative to beer for this recipe.
Seco de pollo is an easy recipe to make, but it can be time consuming if you are cooking a hen or gallina, since you have to wait for the chicken meat to get very tender – about 2 to 2 1/2 hours. A regular pollo or young chicken will cook much quicker, but the sauce might need more time to thicken. In that case, I recommend removing the chicken pieces and increasing the heat to thicken the sauce quicker. Seco de pollo is usually served with arroz amarillo or yellow rice -just add some achiote to the rice preparation -and fried ripe plantains. Those are the two must have sides. I like to also serve it with avocado slices, a small salad, and in this case some whole potatoes sauteed in butter.
Side dish recipes:
Preparation photos for Ecuadorian seco de pollo chicken stew: