If there is a recipe that is a go-to at my mom’s kitchen is this Pollo Negro. It is the meal I ask my mom to prepare for me when I am visiting, and my sisters too. My mom has been making it for years, and I was quite surprised to find out just a couple of years ago that it was unknown by almost everyone (including my mother), how this recipe made its way to our family; except for me. That’s right!
My friend Isbelia was a hair dresser and seamstress that did my hair and fixed my clothes when I was in high school, she is also a fantastic home cook. She used to make meals for me when I visited after school sometimes, we would spend the afternoon looking at fashion magazines and chatting, until it was time to make dinner, then we would go in the kitchen and the conversations would be all about food. Back then, writing a recipe wasn’t the “thing” to do, you would watch someone making something and that’s how you learned. I asked Isbelia one day to show me how to make this sweet and savory dish. I was only 15 the first time I made it at home; it didn’t turn out (I ended up burning the sugar in the pan). The next time I asked my older cousin who used to help my mom with dinners, to make the recipe and it turned out great, from there on, it was our favorite way to make chicken almost every time.
Regardless of how we all learned this recipe, there has never been a written version of it in the family and my mom makes the best one. So here I recreated my mom’s way of making this recipe with a couple of added ingredients I listed as “optional”. I hope you and your family, just like mine, find a new interesting way of making chicken.
¼ Cup brown sugar
2 Tbsp. water
1 tsp. molasses (optional)
6 pieces of chicken, skin on (for this particular dish I prefer to leave the skin, but if you prefer you can take it off)
3 cloves of garlic, minced
1 medium size onion, sliced
2 sweet peppers, sliced
3 ripe tomatoes, sliced
1 tsp. paprika
1 tsp. cumin
1 tsp. red pepper chili flakes (optional)
2 Cups of chicken broth
Salt & Pepper to taste.
Place the pieces of chicken in plastic bag with the minced garlic, salt and pepper. Massage the chicken so the garlic is distributed all over.
In a heavy bottom medium pan, add the sugar and 2 Tbsp. of water, if using molasses add as well. Turn the stove to medium and wait until the sugar starts to bubble and darkens its color, about 7 minutes. Be very careful and watch closely so the sugar doesn’t burn (remember what happened to me the first time). At that point add the chicken skin side down, let it caramelize with the sugar until the skin turns dark, almost black color, about 5 to 7 minutes. Turn it over and repeat on the other side. Take the chicken out to a plate, add a couple of splashes of the chicken broth and scratch the pan with a wooden spoon. Add the sliced onions, peppers and tomatoes, add the spices and bring the chicken back to the pan.
Add the rest of the chicken broth, cover and cooked on medium heat until the chicken is cooked through. To test the chicken, you can either use a kitchen thermometer, chicken is done when it reads 165; or you can just insert a fork closer to the bone, the chicken is done when the juices run clear.
Traditionally my mom serves this chicken with white rice, fried plantain, and shredded carrots salad. I serve it the same way and my family can’t have enough of it. Enjoy!